South Africa’s legal system and customary laws have historically been an impediment to land and property ownership for women. Today, in a democratic South Africa, the legal landscape has changed, and the biggest obstacle women face in getting onto the property ladder is the gender pay disparity.
“Earning less than their male counterparts, combined with time off for motherhood, and women naturally becoming the primary caregiver to their children means that their future earning capacity is often further reduced has resulted in women having to be twice as savvy as men when it comes to investing in property,” says Andrea Tucker, Director of MortgageMe.
But investing, they are. In their numbers. Reports indicate that single women in the 31–35-year-old age bracket represent a large percentage of the total home buyers in the South African market, outnumbering even couples buying properties jointly.
“The age range suggests that women are possibly delaying having children, in favour of building their careers and investing extra cash through less risky saving mechanisms,” says Tucker. “Buying property is seen as a safe and secure investment and is more tangible and easily accessible than complex money markets, stocks and shares,” she adds.
Women should play to their strengths
Whilst women are outstripping men in the homeownership stakes, they continue to show more caution when it comes to spending money and creating wealth, taking a longer-term approach to their house purchases.
“This is further evidence that women are increasingly aware of their limited earning capacity. With higher salaries, men have more disposable income after the initial outlay of buying a property. They can afford to fix it up and renovate with a view to ‘flipping’ the purchase for a quick sale with a good profit. Women don’t always have that ability and so need to learn to play to their strengths,” says Tucker.
If you have no DIY skills or lack the confidence to deal with male builders and contractors, women must use the skills they have to optimise the value of their property investment.
Being admin orientated, a strong communicator, and a good negotiator all add up to the attributes of an excellent landlord. If you can navigate the rental/tenant market with confidence, buying to rent is definitely an option worth looking at for women and can create a solid income stream to supplement a salary.
“Once a woman has made her first house purchase, she can use this to leverage further acquisitions and slowly build a property portfolio. In so doing, she is securing her future and building wealth for herself and future generations,” says Tucker. “Financial independence in a historically patriarchal society is a critical factor for women’s success in life,” she adds.
Take a bold approach to financial freedom
During this Women’s Month, be bold and take the first step towards financial freedom. Do your sums, create an income and expenditure spreadsheet and allocate an amount towards savings each month for a deposit on a house or apartment. If you already have some money set aside, calculate how much you can afford to spend on a property. Shop around – for both the home and the best terms and interest rates on a mortgage that you can get.
“You create your own financial success. Investing in property – or properties – can accelerate that success and propel you into a financially secure future, faster,” says Tucker.