how to . . .
get in synch with solo buyers
Not Going It Alone
Single clients often depend on practitioners for emotional support
as well as transaction knowledge.
For Marianne Guenther Bornhoft, GREEN, SRES, working with single women— 40 percent of her clientele—was a natural fit. “I’ve learned that it’s easy to work with people you can
identify with and who can identify with you,” says Bornhoft, a
sales agent with Windermere Real Estate in Spokane, Wash. “I
bought a house on my own when I was divorced, so I know that
Nationally, 25 percent of buyers are single, according to
the latest Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers from the National
Association of REALTORS®, with nearly twice as many single
women as men ( 16 percent vs. 9 percent) purchasing homes.
Though the share of homes bought by singles has been stifled
in recent years, first by the recession and then by tight lending
conditions, many practitioners are finding success serving
single clients, regardless of their own marital status. The bond
between those real estate pros and their single clients can be
especially strong. “Buying and selling real estate and moving is
already a highly emotional process. If you’re doing it alone, it can
be scary and stressful,” says Tiffany Stevens, GRI, sales agent
with Phyllis Browning Co. in San Antonio. “I keep that in mind
when working with my single clientele, so that they never feel
like they are completely alone in the process,” she says.
Unmarried people may, in fact, have more frequent real
estate needs than couples and families because they tend to be
more mobile. Between 2012 and 2013, 12 million never-married
and 3 million divorced people moved homes compared with
9. 9 million marrieds, according to Census Bureau data. Christopher Mills, sales agent with Keller Williams Capital Properties
in Washington, D.C., says many singles who buy homes in the
District’s hot H Street Corridor change jobs or need to move
within five years. For them, the issue is finding a home that can
transition to a rental property easily.
Rising Purchasing Power
The rising purchasing power of single women suggests they’ll
be an important demographic for decades to come. Currently,
six out of 10 college graduates (whose incomes are typically far
higher than those of high school grads) are female, according to
the U.S. Department of Education. Income parity is also improv-
ing: Among workers ages 25 to 35, women’s hourly wages in
2012 were 93 percent those of men, compared to 84 percent for
women of all ages, according to a Pew Research Center study.
To reach single women, community involvement is key, ac-
cording to Bornhoft, who has worked with more than two dozen
nonprofits in her area. She serves on the board of Visit Spokane,
a local visitors’ bureau, and targets her advertising within the
tourism industry, where a lot of women happen to work. “I’ve
sold a lot of properties to single clients who are successful
professional women,” Bornhoft says. Many of her clients end up
being lifelong friends as well as repeat customers—in fact, one
client has purchased seven homes from her. “You have to be a
confidant, a financial adviser, sometimes a parent, and a friend.”
Social media can play a powerful role in strengthening
contacts. Stevens reaches singles on Fridays by posting local
events on Facebook. “Someone who’s single is likely trying to
get out there and meet friends,” she says “[My posts] can make
them feel I’m more connected and really know the community.”
She has found single women to be a powerful referral sources.
“If you’re really there for them, they rave about you to everyone
they talk to. You didn’t just get their house sold; you took care of
them,” Stevens says. “They won’t forget that.” Conversely, if the
customer is unhappy, her friends will likely know that as well.
By Lynn Olson