For the past five years, Paige Tacey has dutifully made her rent payments, most recently $795 a month. But in April, the 27-year-old was able to kiss renting goodbye, maybe for good. She purchased a $126,000 two-bedroom row home in Pittsburgh’s Greenfield neighborhood—a nice place with a lower monthly nut than she was forking over to her landlord.
And here’s the thing: She did it solo.
“I decided I was going to be in Pittsburgh for the foreseeable future. So it seemed like a good time to buy a home,” says Tacey, who works in adoption recruitment. “Rent just keeps going up. This just felt like the right decision.”
Tacey isn’t alone. As more Americans are waiting longer to couple up, finding themselves divorced or widowed, or just skipping the prospect of connubial bliss altogether, the number of single home buyers is on the rise.
The numbers help tell the tale: In 1960, one-person households made up 13% of U.S. households; by 1990 that figure was 24.6%, and hit 27.9% as of last year. (The actual number of singles is higher, since these figures don’t include single parents with kids.)
Americans are simply putting off tying the knot later. In 2017, women were a median 27.4 years old when they said “I do,” according to recent U.S. Census Bureau data; those ages have gone up 2 years over the past decade.
But beware, singletons: Buying a home on your own is easier said than done. Lofty down payments and list prices make it a challenge on one income. So realtor.com® figured out the best places for the unattached to become homeowners, calculating the markets with high rates of solo buyers and single populations—and that have plenty of fun things going on.
We analyzed a variety of data in the 100 largest metropolitan areas,* measuring the following:
- The share of mortgages taken out by home buyers who aren’t married over the past 12 months, according to mortgage processor Ellie Mae.
- The share of one-person (single) households, according to Nielsen.
- And fun stuff: The number of social clubs, dance clubs, sports bars, gay clubs, karaoke bars, nightlife venues, adult sports teams, hiking businesses, and gyms per capita, according to Yelp.com.
OK? So ditch the married friends (for now), and let’s take a grand tour of the best places for going at it alone!
But after the downturn of a decade ago, a number of these places were left vacant due to foreclosures. To keep the market from spiraling down, down, down, the city introduced programs to help both married and single home buyers.
Buy Springfield Now lowers closing costs for home buyers in the region. And the City of Springfield Office of Housing has a down payment assistance program for first-time buyers. Solo buyers can qualify if their income is below $45,200.
That’s a boon for single, 20-somethings who move to Springfield to work at big companies such as Mass Mutual and Baystate Health.
These folks often wind up buying three-bedroom Colonial and Cape Cod homes in the suburbs once they realize they can get them for between $150,000 and $180,000, says Tracy Viola, a broker at Thompson Real Estate Group. Some employers in the region even offer employees 0% interest loans for down payment and closing costs.
“You can get a good-sized house with some land for an amazing price in Springfield,” Viola says.
Singles scoop: Those looking for some adrenalized thrills along with their ardor can take their dates to Six Flags New England. And if you hit up Nathan Bill’s Bar & Restaurant’s trivia night, remember that children’s book author Dr. Seuss was born and raised in Springfield. (It’ll come up, trust us.)
The family-oriented Midwest isn’t the first place that comes to mind for singles. But Cleveland bucks the trend, with nearly 50% of mortgages going to the unattached. And the city responds in kind, offering everything from gay happy hours to an array of speed dating options.
When it comes to real estate, buyers can qualify for a home with even a modest salary. Home prices are far below the national median of $299,000, according to recent realtor.com data. One-bedroom condos in prime downtown areas are in the $150,000 ballpark. Just check out this one-bedroom condo in the Stonebridge Plaza priced at $164,900.
Singles scoop: If your date is a music lover, you can’t go wrong with a trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (unless you’re a Radiohead fan—still not inducted!). Or take in a show at the Agora Theatre & Ballroom, where recent headliners include The Flaming Lips and Cat Power.
As the home of Yale University, New Haven has a mix of college students, research fellows, and academic types who contribute to the ever-shifting population. And it explains why there are so many bars, restaurants, and nightlife options in this small city.
It also helps clarify why so many folks here are unattached. When it comes to home buying, these folks have plenty of options, including Colonials for under $150,000 right in the city, and 1,000-square-foot condos for around $100,000.
“The great thing about New Haven is that it’s centrally located along the shoreline. You can get anywhere in the state in an hour and half,” says Ronnie Ann Ryan, dating coach at Never Too Late for Love. And “there’s an endless variety of things you can do for dates.”
Singles scoop: Still, those looking for a cheap date may want to head to the New Haven Ninth Square District. The historic part of downtown is great for a scenic stroll through buildings and top-notch people watching.
4. Buffalo, NY
Buffalo has seen a resurgence of sorts after decades of manufacturing job and population losses. But that spate of recent development, which includes $24 million in planned improvements by the waterfront, haven’t resulted in pricey homes.
At least not yet.
“The main reason people are [buying] solo is they realize it’s a good economic move,” says Ryan Connolly, an associate broker with Re/Max North in the Buffalo region. Perennial NFL woes aside, Buffalo believers contend that there’s a big future for their city.
Many of these buyers are getting older homes that need a bit of work in walkable neighborhoods like Elmwood Village and North Buffalo, which boast lots of restaurants and shops. Savvy buyers are scoring abodes in these communities in the $200,000 to $300,000 range and then renting out bedrooms to friends to help cover their mortgages. If they get hitched, they sell the homes for a profit or use it as a rental home, Connolly says.
There aren’t just a lot of millennial buyers in Albuquerque. There are also quite a few members of Generation Z, born in 1997 or later, who are snapping up homes. (Feel old yet?) About 10% of real estate agent John Lopez‘s clients are under the age of 25. Those are some real estate–savvy whipper snappers!
“Albuquerque is so affordable you can buy a three-bedroom, two-bathroom [home] with a two-car garage and large backyard in the middle of town for $185,000,” says Lopez, who’s with Coldwell Banker Legacy. “And the house will be less than 15 years old.”
Lopez also works with a lot of folks in their mid-30s who have been recently divorced. They typically want homes in master-planned communities that come with their own schools and parks. These homes tend to go for between $180,000 and $230,000.
Singles scoop: Could anything be more romantic than a “Breaking Bad” tour? Check out some of the Albuquerque-based show’s more distinctive locales, from Jesse Pinkham’s house to the original Los Pollos Hermanos (it’s actually a fast-food joint called Twisters—sorry).
6. Detroit, MI
A revitalized downtown and a host of new employers moving in have encouraged lots of folks who grew up in Detroit to move back. Their return has added a spark to the singles scene—and housing market—of Motor City.
Many of these one-income buyers are interested in the former industrial buildings that are being converted into surprisingly chic condos and lofts. They typically run around $300,000 and often boast features like high ceilings and granite countertops.
This increase in demand has led to a number of new condos popping up in downtown. For example, the Selden is a 12-unit condo building that opened last year. It offers two-bedroom units costing around $450,000.
Singles scoop: The culinary-inclined can impress their dates with a cooking class at the Cornwall Bakery, where you can learn to make pastries and pizza, or the Mirepoix Cooking School where you can go nuts with heirloom tomatoes.
Many of the single buyers in Rhode Island’s capital are graduate and medical students at local institutions like Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design. They’ve found that, in some cases, homeowning just makes more financial sense.
“They [plan to] sell afterward,” once they have their degrees, says local real estate agent Robert Rutley of Mott & Chace Sotheby’s International Realty. “But some become so enthralled with Providence they end up staying.”
He has other buyers who buy in Providence and commute to work during the week in much-pricier Boston. An Acela train between the cities is only about a half-hour. The median list price in the Boston metro area is $519,950—about $170,000 more than in Providence!
Condos are particularly high in demand for single buyers in their 20s and 30s. A slew of historic buildings have been transformed and subdivided into the popular units.
Singles scoop: Altruistic singles can sign up for dog-walking volunteer shifts at the Providence Animal Rescue League. You’ll be guaranteed some smooches—even if your puppy love comes from an actual puppy.
An influx of tech jobs from companies such as Uber and Amazon have brought lots of singles to the region from exorbitant places like San Francisco and Washington, DC. Once they arrive, they are met with sticker shock (the good type), spurring many to buy homes in historic neighborhoods on the upswing.
Brighton Heights, which is around 15 minutes from downtown, has a number of inexpensive three- and four-bedroom homes, which have been remodeled in recent years, says Bobby West, a real estate agent at Coldwell Banker in Pittsburgh.
“A lot of people in the tech industry and students who finished up graduate school at colleges in Pittsburgh are buying up homes here,” West says. “Many are shocked when I tell them their monthly [mortgage] payment will be lower than their rent.”
In the Bluegrass State, nothing says romance more than taking your date to the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, and watching horses race while donning your most obnoxious floppy hat. And regardless of what you may have heard, mint juleps are delicious.
But Louisville singles don’t have to win a trifecta to afford a roof over their heads. The market here is packed with homes priced between $150,000 to $250,000. There are even down payment assistance programs for those making under $40,050 a year.
Singles can nab three-bedroom, two-bath homes in subdivisions or historic homes in walkable neighborhoods like Germantown.
Singles scoop: Watch what you say—the fastest way to end a date here is finding out your would-be love connection is on the wrong side of the fevered University of Kentucky versus University of Louisville basketball rivalry. (Go, Wildcats!)
10. Milwaukee, WI
Social worker Ann Bausch, 36, was tired of being at the mercy of her landlord’s rent hikes. So in July she bought a one-bedroom, loft-style condo in a renovated former shoe factory for $146,500. Located in the Riverwest neighborhood, the condo is also within walking distance of great breweries and brunch spots.
“If you want a home, you don’t have to wait on a man,” says Bausch. “Don’t worry about the next thing on your list.”
“A lot of single women I work with are buying in the city,” says Jaworski, who’s with Shorewest Realtors. “They want to be near downtown where the action is. Or [they’re] buying in the nearby suburbs where they can have a yard for their dog.”
* A metropolitan statistical area is a designation that includes the urban core of a city and surrounding smaller towns and cities.
Clare Trapasso contributed to this report.
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