Sexism is alive and well and living among real estate professionals. It is hard to believe, but they still act the way that was reported in The Boston Globe recently.

Real estate paperwork is marriage-based. Deeds refer to marital status because marriage confers rights to both parties on that deed. However, the language “as husband and wife” prevails, not “wife and wife” or more neutrally, “as a married couple.”

Mortgage applications put the spouse who earns the most or has the best credit score in the “husband” slot, regardless of her gender.

The Boston Globe story describes a woman selling a house; she owns it, not she and her husband. The buyer is a woman who was buying it with her own mortgage, not with her husband. The men in the room were the ones receiving professional attention while the women signed closing documents.

This is so common, that it showed up in a TV show. 

I looked up the Sex In the City episode where Miranda buys an apartment in Manhattan by herself. She runs into an ongoing trope of “just you?” Is the apartment for just her, is the mortgage in just her name, is the down payment from her father… no “just me”.  That episode aired in 1999. 1999.

I disagree entirely with what the character Charlotte York says about single women who buy property. She says that men are emasculated if a woman owns her own place and the man rents. In the metro Boston area, I have worked with women buying on their own more often than men buying on their own. Those women do not seem to have a truncated love life. Instead, I suspect that their dating life is enhanced by their independence. In purely sexist terms, partners appreciate that their prospective partners can stand on their own two financial feet.

Basic real estate fact: single women buy houses and condos. 

Women buying on their own receive these benefits (Hint: they are the same as the benefits for people who buy with someone else):

Economic stability: If you buy a property, you stabilize your housing costs in terms of housing price inflation. Unless there is some devastating economic disaster, houses and condos will continue to appreciate. Once an owner has 10% appreciation, they profit from any sale of the property. That’s profit beyond the money they did not pay for rent during those years.

In uncertain times, housing prices drop some. Locally, they recover in about 5-7 years. The people who lose in real estate are people who cannot continue to pay their mortgage through the down times in the market. Well-employed professional people are in a good position to avoid that peril.

Personal stability: The rental market in metro Boston is generally owner-favoring. When a landlord increases the rent for the next rental cycle, a tenant’s only recourse is to move or pay the new price. There is a low vacancy rate in our area, because of high demand. Rental prices dropped during the pandemic, when vacancy rates were higher. They are poised to go roaring up again in the next rental cycle.

Along with the stability of owning is the autonomy of being free to decorate or modify the property, which one cannot do in a rental

Some history of sexism

The nonsense shown in The Boston Globe story is a remnant of the way economic rights were denied to women until recent history. The idea that a woman doesn’t earn and save enough to buy a house or condo is something out of the 1950s or 1960s. By the 1970s, women were entering the professional labor force in higher numbers and taking their place in the economic life of the country. With that earning power, they won the right to manage their own credit and take out their own mortgages.

Until 1974, women could not apply for a credit card without a male co-signer.

Until 1978, a woman could be fired for being pregnant.

Until 1980, men had unilateral say on mortgaging the family home.

Modern women are often well employed, especially in the metro Boston area. Although the pay gap persists – women earn 19% less than men – there are many women qualified to get a mortgage and purchase a home. They are buying. People in the real estate industry need to grow beyond their Father Knows Best mentality.