Friday 7 November 2014

Women have the final call when it comes to buying Ireland's homes

When it comes to a couple's ultimate decision about whether or not to buy a home, who really makes the final call - the man or the woman?
In the UK, the last survey on the subject was conducted by the FindaProperty portal, which determined that women make that vital decision - by a majority of almost two-thirds (63pc) to one-third (37pc) to the men.
The data would not surprise Irish estate agents who have always maintained women are in the driving seat when it comes to the final say on buying a home.
But to what extent?
Independent Property commissioned theReal Estate Alliance - a network of established estate agency businesses with bases in all 26 counties - to survey their members with the following questions:
* In the case of couples buying homes, which partner's opinions carry the most weight in achieving the final decision to purchase?
*For women, what are the most important factors in choosing a home?
*What are the deal breakers for women?
In the latter case we threw in some examples (location, price, space) and we included one stereotypical red herring - "too dirty" - to make things interesting.
* We then asked their members if they had any general observations to make about men and women and how they behaved in the house buying process.
The results, compiled from the views of the 35 estate agency firms around the country who responded, very conclusively show that Irish women are even more dominant as final decision makers in the house buying process than their UK counterparts.
As compared with 63pc in the UK, amongst Irish home-buying couples, the REA firms estimated a phenomenal 97pc of final decision making was made by the woman - compared with a minuscule 3pc for men.
And despite the stereotype women were not as focused on the cost of property as their men, the resulting REA survey demonstrates clearly the cost of the property and the mortgage repayments ahead are firmly on the woman's agenda - along with her children's education.
Price and schools were tied (41pc) as the two items most commonly included in the top three most important factors REA agents said were vital for the female half of the buying couples they dealt with.
Next up came decor - with 37pc citing it came in women's top three. Next came the quality and size of the kitchen (19pc had it in their top three women's priorities).
The next most common top-three priority was the garden at 16pc and finally, and perhaps surprisingly, came the home's overall layout at just 6pc.
But the adage location, location, location has not been forgotten - it ranks as the biggest deal-breaker for women according to the 35 REA firms who responded - on a "deal-breaker factor" of 1 to 5, with five being most vital, location ranked 3.3 just ahead of "not enough space" at 2.9, price as a deal-breaker came third at 2.94 but, perhaps surprisingly, "too dirty" was afforded a deal-breaker factor of 2.53 out of five.
Closer inspection shows that only 9pc of agents surveyed said that dirt was "not important" to women buyers. In fact 47pc said dirt was "important" with 26pc stressing this issue as "very important" and 18pc rating this factor as "essential". This statistic suggests almost one in five women might not buy a house because it is dirty.
Louth-based estate agent Darina Collins sees no surprises in the survey results after more than 20 years selling houses. Collins is the joint owner of the REA Collins O'Brien estate agency in Drogheda along with partner Gabriel O'Brien. Their clients are a mix of city commuters and town and rural based clients. In her view the survey largely reflects her experiences.
"We have an in joke in estate agency that if she hates it and he likes it there's no chance of a sale, but if he hates it and she likes it there's always a chance.
"By and large, even in a modern society where women work, they will tend to have more invested in a home thanks to their children. So it is natural that women tend to make the most important of decisions.
"What we tend to see is she does all the running in the home hunting, she makes first contact and at a viewing, she leads the questions while he goes around banging on walls and turning on the taps.
"While the men are looking under sinks, she is looking in the wardrobes to see if they are deep enough. And even if he's the one who leads the viewing and asks all the questions - men normally ask about practical issues like BER ratings and structural stuff like whether the house is timber frame - then she's still likely to be the one who will make that decision.
"What I always see is that women buy from the heart whereas men tend to be caught between stools - between the practical and the heart. In complete contrast, if either are buying an investment property then both will behave totally differently, they will be cold, practical and calculating."
So what about the surprisingly high ranking of dirt as a deal-breaker - isn't that reinforcing a sexist cliché?
"Well, undeniably there's the 'yeuch' factor but I also believe this is based on a solid foundation - on the idea that if this home has not been properly cleaned for a viewing then it's likely it hasn't been taken care of in general. Men think that as well."
So for those selling their homes today, what can they learn from this survey - other than that it is safe to assume that understanding their core market must mean appealing to women?
"If your house has a structural problem, then the buyer's surveyor is going to find this anyway, so there's no point in trying to hide it. However, it strongly suggests that when it comes to presentation, you must liven up the grout in your bathroom and ensure it is clean, you must make sure the house is presented as best you can.
"It's a cliche to suggest presenting the house well is important, but it's really surprising how many don't. The smallest things can put people off. If you forget to put a vacuum cleaner away for example and it's out in the open, then people will assume that there is no storage space to put it in - otherwise it would be in there.
"I recently sold an impeccably turned out house - the presentation added 17pc to the asking price. Had it been badly turned out, as many houses are, then we would have struggled to achieve the asking. It's as big a difference as that."

What the agents said: Men vs Women in house buying

* "Women get more emotionally attached to properties."
* "Women buy with their heart, men buy with their head."
* "The women are dominant in making the decisions, the men carry these out."
* "The woman's decision is final."
* "Men are easier pleased."
*"If she wants it, she gets it!"
* "Females are more practical."
* "Men buy for the present, women buy for the future."
* "The first point of contact is generally made by women (especially by phone) - 80pc of first viewings are arranged by women."