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.

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.“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.

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

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, 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, however there was a decline 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

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%).

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.”

What does this mean?

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.