News & Research

Recent surge in property prices may have widened gender wealth gap

CoreLogic’s 2022 Women & Property report suggests women continue to have less overall share of property ownership than men, making them potentially disadvantaged by recent wealth gains from real estate.

Surging home values caused by a global environment of low interest rates, tight supply and strong buyer demand may have widened the wealth gap between those that own housing, and those that don’t, amplifying the need to understand trends around women and home ownership.

CoreLogic’s 2022 Women & Property report for Australia and New Zealand, released on International Women’s Day, suggests women continue to have less overall share of property ownership than men, making them potentially disadvantaged by recent wealth gains from real estate.

In January 2022 in Australia, 26.6% of residential property had female ownership, compared to 29.9% male ownership. In the 12 months to January, CoreLogic estimates the total value of Australia’s residential market surged from just over $7 trillion to $9.7 trillion, with dwelling values rising 22.4%, or $130,000 at the median value level over the same period.

Milena Malev, CoreLogic International’s GM Financial Services & Insurance Solutions, says property price increases may have further exacerbated the gender wealth gap in property ownership.

“Given there’s a high level of equity held in real estate, if you don’t own property, that’s a big source of household wealth and security you don’t have access to. Property price growth has also vastly outpaced income growth over this time, with the gender pay gap widening in parallel, too,” says Ms Malev.

The gender pay gap in full time ordinary earnings rose from 13.4% at November 2020, to 13.8% in November 2021, according to ABS data.

Ms Malev says a key implication of this for property ownership is that men can save a home deposit much faster on average than women.

“The current discrepancy in incomes between men and women would see men save a 20% deposit for the current median dwelling value around a year faster than women. That means men are not only accumulating greater wealth from a higher proportion of existing property ownership, but they’re also able to get into the market sooner than women and start that wealth accumulation in a growth market.

“When you delve into the data at a more granular level, such as the proportion of ownership by property or ownership type, some startling new insights have been revealed in this year’s report,” says Ms Malev.

Australian men are more likely to own houses and women to own units

CoreLogic’s 2022 Women & Property Report found men own 28.5% of all the houses analysed versus women’s share at 24.0%, while women have a higher incidence of unit ownership at 35.2% versus men’s 34.7% share.

Eliza Owen, CoreLogic Australia’s Head of Research and report author, says this finding has greater implications for the gender wealth gap between men and women.

“Detached houses generally accumulate more value over time than units, with CoreLogic’s Hedonic Home Value Index as of January 2022 showing 10 year annualised growth rates in Australian house values was 6.2% per annum, compared with 4.1% per annum for units,” says Ms Owen.

“What this means is that house owners accrue a lot more value over time compared to unit owners. The nominal gains in the median Australian house value over the past decade totalled around $340,000, compared with $197,000 for the median unit gain.”

Portion of purchases by males, females and mixed ownership - Australia

The report found male ownership is generally higher in markets dominated by detached house stock, such as in resource-based markets like Perth. This also has implications for wealth gains, because resource-based markets have seen more aggressive fluctuations in value, and generally less value than cities like Sydney and Melbourne. However, even in markets with more gender parity, such as Greater Melbourne, men still owned a higher portion of houses (29.9%) than women (25.7%).

Investment properties account for most of the gender wealth gap in real estate

Men own 36.4% of all investment properties analysed while women own 29.1%. This disparity amounted to approximately 105,500 additional investment properties owned by men than women in Australia.

“Our data suggests that around 70% of the discrepancy between male and female residential property ownership in Australia is accounted for by ownership of investment properties,” Ms Owen says.

“The portion of investment properties owned by men was also higher than the rate of joint male and female ownership of investment properties (34.5%). While it is hard to say what drives this discrepancy, it is notable that men have higher representation in property as an investment. We don’t know whether this is a reflection of multiple property ownership being more common among men, or if it’s a response to affordability constraints (such a rent-vesting strategy), but this seems to drive most of the gap in residential property ownership.”

Share of residential purchases by women are gradually rising over time

Australian women are narrowing the property gender gap, with a time series of purchase date by gender showing the share of female purchase of property is rising over time.

In 2021, 28.3% of property purchases made were by female owners, up from 27.4% in 2020 and 27.3% in 2019. Over the same period, the portion of male purchases declined, from 29.6% in 2020 to 28.7% of purchases in 2021. The past decade has seen an average of 42.9% of joint male and female purchases, down slightly from the previous decade average of 43.5%.

Ms Owen says “Australia shows a really interesting trend where there’s a marginal shift, year by year, of women purchasing a slightly higher portion of properties, and men purchasing a slightly lower portion. Joint purchases have remained steady over time, but did see a dip in 2009 that may have been associated with a surge in first home buyer activity. This positive trend may start to reflect greater gender parity in home ownership over time.”

Australian women have higher rates of home ownership in more expensive markets

As noted in the inaugural Women & Property report in 2021, in Australia there is a more defined relationship between dwelling values and the rates of female ownership than there is between male rates of ownership and values.

Rates of female home ownership were highest in Greater Sydney (31.9%), including the Sydney SA4 submarkets of Eastern Suburbs (37.1%), North Sydney and Hornsby (37.0%) and City and Inner South (36.2%).

Comparatively, rates of female home ownership are lowest in Regional WA (21.7%) and Greater Darwin (24.0%).

Ms Owen says “There are higher rates of female ownership in what may be considered ‘blue chip’ markets, while low rates of female ownership tend to be concentrated in lower value and resource-based markets.”

Meanwhile, the smallest differences in rates of home ownership were across Regional Victoria (where the rate of male home ownership was 1 percentage point higher than female ownership) and Greater Sydney (where the difference was 1.3 percentage points).

Comparison with New Zealand

  • New Zealand shows a smaller difference in the rate of male and female ownership than in Australia. In New Zealand, 23.5% of property was owned by females, and 24.2% was owned by males, a difference of around 7,600 properties.
  • Further, joint male and female ownership was higher in New Zealand, resulting in a higher overall proportion of New Zealand women with at least partial property ownership.
  • Investment property accounts fully for the discrepancy between male and female ownership in New Zealand. In New Zealand, women owned 23.6% of investment properties, while males owned 28.4%, an estimated 10,500 properties.
  • Kiwi women were found to have slightly higher ownership of owner occupied properties then men (23.5% compared to 23.2% owned by men).
  • The relationship between female ownership rates and typical dwelling values is a little less clear in New Zealand than in Australia. Quite unlike the Australian case, it is joint owners that have a higher propensity for property ownership in more expensive housing markets.

What the findings mean for Australian and New Zealand institutions

The findings from the report suggest that there is a notable gap in male and female property ownership, that does not match the broader population. Significant gains in property prices are good for wealth accumulation, but without parity of ownership across different cohorts, this can also widen inequality, and those with a lower incidence of home ownership may need additional support in retirement.

The findings from CoreLogic show that in Australia, there has been increasing parity in property purchases among men and women, though it is interesting so much of the existing disparity in ownership reflects a higher ownership of investment property among men.

Ms Malev says “This may reflect a legacy of less financial literacy among women historically, and the importance of helping to promote financial literacy, particularly the role of housing in long term financial stability, among women.”

The discrepancy in house and unit ownership is also an important finding, given that houses have generally accumulated more value than units over time. This could warrant further research into why women have a higher incidence of unit ownership. It would be useful to discern whether this comes back to affordability constraints, where the gender pay gap and differences in workforce participation between men and women also play a role.

A full summary of ownership by gender across the analysed Australian SA4 regions and New Zealand TA regions can be found in the report, free to download here.

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CoreLogic Australia

CoreLogic Australia

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