Love, Marriage & Homeownership

by on February 12, 2013Andy Fulton

In honor of Valentine’s Day, the RealEstate.com team looked at how romantic attachments influence home buying. We found some interesting facts when we looked at the statistics for the married vs. single populations of U.S. cities.

Single Homebuyer Trends

The U.S. demographics have changed, and for the first time more households are unmarried. Fifty-one percent of households are headed by an unmarried person. With more single people, we wanted to know if more single people are buying homes. According to the Wall Street Journal, men are buying homes at approximately the same rate as the 1980s; about 10 percent of homebuyers are single men. Single women, however, are buying more homes. In the 1980s single men and women bought homes at similar rates, but in the 2000s approximately 20 percent of homebuyers are single women, compared to single men representing 10 percent of homebuyers.

Married People are Homeowners

The cities with a high percentage of married people have a high percentage of homeowners. In cities with more than 30 percent married, we find that, on average, 50 percent of homes are occupied by homeowners. In comparison, cities with larger single populations, less than 30 percent married, only 39 percent of homes are occupied by homeowners.

So, married people are more likely to buy homes – this is hardly surprising. There is a reason they refer to getting married as settling down. When saving up for a down payment, it’s also easier to buy a home with dual income. The pros of renting – greater mobility, low maintenance costs and less responsibility – appeal to the single population.

While the percentage of the population that is married is correlated with homeownership, the prices of homes for sale in the city are not. Comparing median home listing prices and percentage of homeownership, we found little relationship between these figures.
A Valentine's Day themed infographic discussing the best cities for singles and married couples to live in.


Top Five Cities for Singles

1. Washington, D.C. – 80% single

The nation’s capital attracts singles from around the country thanks to its universities, vibrant urban culture, and plethora of political jobs. Thanks to its density and the quality of its public transportation, Washington, D.C. is pedestrian friendly and can easily be navigated without cars. This is an attractive feature for young professionals keen on avoiding the added expense of owning a car.

High-quality restaurants are everywhere, and there are limitless culinary options; Washington, D.C. reputedly hosts the country’s best Spanish and Indian eateries, among other cuisines. Don’t make the mistake of thinking “D.C.” is a straight-laced town, either; neighborhoods like Georgetown and Dupont Circle host superb bars and nightclubs.

2. Atlanta, Ga. – 80% single

Atlanta is one of the South’s economic and cultural hubs, and hosts a surprisingly large number of singles. This is partially due to the plethora of colleges and universities located there, but the strong regional economy is perhaps the primary driver. “The City in a Forest” is one of America’s major commercial centers; it has one of the largest economies of any city in the world and hosts many Fortune 500 companies. Job-hunters – from both the U.S. and abroad – are attracted to the city’s inexpensive real estate; the median home price in Atlanta is around 27 percent less than the national median home price.

3. Saint Louis, Mo. – 78% single

“Culture” is perhaps not the first word that comes to mind when you think of St. Louis, but it is something that the “Gateway to the West” has plenty of. St. Louis hosts five major art museums, three history museums, a zoo, a science center, and several large performance venues. Music plays a big role in this city’s culture. Nightlife is augmented by St. Louis’ strong affinity with blues, ragtime, and jazz music, and the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra has received no less than six Grammy Awards and been nominated 56 other times.

Valentine's Day infographic - St. Louis is one of the best places for singles to live in the U.S.There are strong financial incentives to move to St. Louis. Economic opportunities abound thanks to the presence of more than two dozen large corporations, including nine Fortune 500 companies. St. Louis is also a remarkably inexpensive place to live; its tantalizingly low real estate prices and cost of living propelled it to first place in a list of “Top Cities for Cheapskates.”

4. Boston, Mass. – 77% single

If smart is sexy, Boston is the sexiest city of them all. It hosts a whopping 31 higher education institutions, and an additional 24, including the prestigious universities Harvard and Tufts, are located close by. The thousands of college students living in and around its city limits (a little less than 240,000 in total) means Boston is a very young – and very single – city.

Boston is the vibrant capital of New England culture. Boston’s attractions range from the stately – like its many operas, ballets, and symphonies – to the energetic, with its active nightlife and many professional sports teams. Centuries-old historic sites can also be found throughout this storied city, including the Old State House where the infamous Boston Massacre took place.

The industries found in Boston, particularly those in the finance, research, and biotechnology fields, draw many professionals into the city. The high salaries these jobs pay are large enough to overcome the city’s high cost of living and real estate prices.

5. Burlington, Vt. – 75% single

Burlington, the metropolitan hub of Vermont, attracts single people with relatively low home prices, a strong economy, and low unemployment rates. Like Boston and Atlanta, Burlington is a college town; the University of Vermont and several small colleges are located in the city limits and have a combined enrollment of more than 14,000 students. Opportunities for outdoor adventures abound in and around Burlington. Swimming, sailing, and kayaking can all be pursued in Lake Champlain, the large freshwater lake on which Burlington is situated on, and dozens of state parks and forests can be found nearby.

Top Five Cities for Married Couples

1. Anchorage, Alaska – 40% married

The RealEstate.com team wishes we knew why such a high proportion of Anchorage’s population is married. It may be due to the cold, proximity to wild animals, or some unknown, mysterious effects caused by the aurora borealis. We just don’t know.

What we do know is Anchorage – out of the U.S. major cities – had the highest proportion of married people. Regardless of the reasons, please give Anchorage a polar-bear-sized round of applause for being the marriage capital of America!

2. Las Vegas, Nev. – 39% married

Valentine's Day infographic - Vegas hosts one of highest proportions of married couples of any U.S. city“Sin City” has another, lesser-known nickname: “The Marriage Capital of the World.” This is unsurprising given the fact that, according to ABC, Las Vegas has 50 wedding chapels on the world-famous Strip and hosts 100,000 marriages every year. These, combined with services like drive-through wedding chapels and bridal gown rental services, make the process of becoming married quick, inexpensive, and easy for both tourists and locals.

3. Honolulu, Hawaii – 38% married

Perhaps the best explanation for Honolulu’s high proportion of married couples is its status as a retirement destination. Warm weather, an island culture that emphasizes respect for elders, and amazing health care make growing old in Honolulu’s tropical, albeit expensive, climate very attractive.

4. Phoenix, Ariz. – 36% married

Phoenix, and Maricopa county as a whole, is a popular place for older, married Americans from cooler climes to retire or buy second homes. This trend is inspired by low living expenses and real estate prices (the median sale price was $96,000 for Phoenix homes in 2012), not to mention the warm and dry climate of the Sonora desert.

5. Raleigh, N.C. – 36% married

It is difficult to pinpoint why so many people in Raleigh are married. Raleigh, like several other cities on this list, is located in a warm climate and has relatively low real estate prices. However, there are few other similarities between Raleigh and the other top cities for married couples.

Raleigh is the focal point of the world-renowned Research Triangle, a metropolitan area of three cities that hosts an equal number of large, prestigious research universities. The typical correlation between being a college town and having low numbers of married couples somehow does not exist in Raleigh. In Raleigh, the median age (a metric which is usually inversely proportional to the amount of married couples) is low, and is exactly 10 years younger than the median age of North Carolina as a whole. The tech industry, a magnet for young, unmarried professionals, is also booming there.

So, despite the odds, Raleigh has managed to make it near the top of a list it doesn’t really belong on (something that can also be said about the Wake Forest University’s men’s basketball team, which is located nearby).

Happy Valentine’s Day from the RealEstate.com team!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

White Rock Real Estate Agent February 14, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Love the article… will be sharing on my blog. Happy Valentines Day!

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Andy Fulton February 14, 2013 at 6:35 pm

Thank you, we’re glad you enjoyed it! Hope you have a happy Valentine’s Day as well.

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