As noted in the BetterBond newsletter, families are not the same now as they used to be. Many are blended or multi-generational for example, while others encompass a host of other variations on the traditional nuclear unit of mom, dad and 2,4 children.
But the changes don’t stop there, and agents – who have by and large been really good at dealing with all sorts of families – now also have to get to grips with the fact that a very large percentage of home buyers (and sellers) these days are not families at all, but single people, whose circumstances are just as varied.
Some have not married yet, some intend to stay single, some are divorced, some are widowed, some have children in their care, some don’t, but there is no arguing the fact that they are an important demographic in the market.
The latest US statistics show that at least 25% of new home purchases are being made by single people (two-thirds of them single women) and in SA, where 48% of households are headed by women, indications are that single buyers currently account for more than a third of all home purchases.
Consequently, we thought agents might like some pointers on how to serve such buyers better:
- Don’t question their status. There is a real temptation in our society to regard adults who are not paired off as “strange” or to feel sorry for them. But people often have very good reasons for being and staying single – and they are none of your business. You should just ask your client about his or her goals for finding a home in the same way you would anyone else.
- Don’t make assumptions about your clients’ lifestyle or property needs. The single person you might think of as the perfect buyer for a townhouse or an inner city loft might actually be pining for a big old house and a spacious garden. Instead just ask if there is any particular area they would prefer to live in, what type of home they have in mind, whether they need space for entertaining or for children, whether they would like a home office or a hobby room, and if there are any other special features on their wish-list –the same as you would anyone else.
- Don’t automatically conclude they will need financial help because they only have one income coming in. Many young single buyers are helped by their parents and others may well have an existing property to sell (through you, hopefully) or a private or investment income that has nothing to do with their salary. Rather put the prospective single buyer together with your mortgage originator as soon as possible and let them work out what sort of bond the buyer is likely to qualify for, and what price range of properties he or she can afford.
- Be kind. Bear in mind that moving from an apartment to a house, for example, is as big a lifestyle change for a single buyer as it is for a family. Others may just be getting used to living on their own, for the first time or perhaps after being divorced or widowed. So offer some practical help, like a list of reliable people they can call for repairs, insurance, and other home-related services, and an “area” guide to local shops, sports facilities, entertainment venues, places of worship and medical centres – just like you would to anyone else who bought a property through you.