John Burns: Women and the Future of Housing Decisions

As I head to Urban Land Institute’s Fall Meeting today, ready to present at four councils tomorrow, I ponder the rise of women in the working world. The ULI Councils, which are some of the most prestigious real estate industry organizations, are dominated by gray-haired men like myself, even years after passing a rule that women “won’t count” against the limit, in an attempt to recruit more women. Interestingly, the leadership of 3 of the 4 councils are now dominated by women. At the last ULI, the Young Leaders presentation at one of the Councils was 100% women. Hmm.

I am going to bet that the makeup of real estate industry leadership will become increasingly female over the next few decades, not because of affirmative action efforts, but purely because women are getting ahead. Consider these four trends:

37% of women graduate from college vs. 31% of men.

38% of women earn more than their husband, up from 24% in 1987.

Since 1973, real female incomes are up 34%, and real male incomes are down 5%.

21% of non-working dads aged 35–44 cite child care as the primary reason, up from 2% 20 years ago.

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I am also interested, obviously, in what this means for home buying decisions. For years, home builders have told us that the woman is the primary home buying decision maker. Does the career woman want a different floor plan than what exists in the resale market? Does the stay-at-home dad want a different floor plan? Is a career woman a driving factor in the preference to live urban or in suburbs close to work? Our team members have been noticing shifts throughout the country, and we look forward to discussing these trends with you at ULI and elsewhere.

West Coast Commercial Real Estate News