News & Research

Recent surge in property prices may have widened gender wealth gap

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 New Zealand and Australia, 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 the 12 months to January 2022, CoreLogic estimates the total value of New Zealand's residential real estate surged from $1.3 trillion to $1.7 trillion, with property values rising 27.5% or an average price increase of $222,000 over the same period.

Simone Moors, CoreLogic NZ Country Manager, says the recent surge in property prices may have further exacerbated the gender wealth gap in property ownership.

"There's so much equity held in real estate, so if you don't own property, that's a big source of household wealth and security you don't have access to now and for your future and retirement. Income growth has also lagged property price rises over this time, putting that dream of home ownership further out of reach for many,” Ms Moors said.

However, the report found the property gender gap in New Zealand is smaller than in Australia. In New Zealand, women exclusively own 23.5% of property versus 24.2% owned by men, a difference of around 7,600 properties. In Australia, 26.6% of property had exclusively female ownership, compared to 29.9% male ownership.

It is important to note these percentages refer to ‘exclusively female' or ‘exclusively male' owned property. The proportion of women who owned property jointly with men was also higher among New Zealand females than Australian females, resulting in a higher overall proportion of Kiwi women with at least partial property ownership.

Portion of ownership by gender, Australia vs NZ

"While at the headline level the situation might not seem that dire, when you delve into the data at a more granular level, such as the proportion of owner occupied versus investment property ownership, some startling new insights into rates of female property ownership are revealed,” says Ms Moors.

Investment properties account for all of the gender property gap in NZ

The report found women in New Zealand owned 23.6% of investment properties analysed, while men owned 28.4%.

Kelvin Davidson, CoreLogic's Chief Property Economist and report supporting author, says investment property plays a significant role in the discrepancy in ownership between men and women in New Zealand.

"Based on the analysis, it is estimated that men own an additional 10,500 investment properties relative to women, while women own about 2,900 more owner occupied properties than men (23.5% versus 23.2%).

"It's notable that men have higher representation in property as an investment, however we don't know for sure from this research what's driving this. The gender income gap, with women on average earning less than men, surely has a role to play. Various studies through the years have also shown women can be more risk-averse – or alternatively a little less risk-indifferent – so this attitude to investing amongst women could also be a factor.

"At the same time, it's also worth noting that women in fact had a slightly higher rate than men for owner occupied properties – 23.5% compared to 23.2% (with the remaining 53.3% of owner occupied stock held by mixed genders).”

Women's share is gradually rising over time, but men still outpace

Looking at a time series of gendered property ownership by purchase date shows the share of female property purchases rising over time, however men are increasing their share at a faster pace, while joint ownership declines. In Australia, women are slowing narrowing the property gender gap by growing their share of purchases faster than men.

In New Zealand over 2021, 23.0% of purchases were made by women, up from 22.4% in 2020 and 22.2% in 2019. However, men also saw a higher portion of purchases in these years, up from 23.6% in 2020 to 24.9% in 2021. Meanwhile joint property purchases among men and women declined, from 54.1% of properties transacted in 2020, to 52.1% in 2021.

Ms Moors says "New Zealand shows a really interesting trend where there's a shift, year by year, of women and men purchasing a slightly higher portion of properties, while joint purchases decline. It will be interesting to see how this develops over the coming years.”

Kiwi women have lower rates of home ownership in more expensive markets

While the relationship between female ownership rates and typical dwelling values is a little less clear in New Zealand than in Australia, however quite unlike the Australian case, it is joint owners that have a higher propensity for property ownership in more expensive housing markets.

Mr Davidson says "Joint male and female ownership is highest in Tasman/Nelson, Otago, and Bay of Plenty. Within these areas are very expensive towns and cities, including popular ‘retirement' areas such as Nelson, Queenstown and Tauranga. High joint ownership rates may represent wealthier, retiring couples moving to these areas.”

Rates of female ownership ranged from a high of 28.3% in Gisborne, to 21.5% in the Tasman Nelson Marlborough region.

The report identifies some exceptions to this relationship, which more closely mirror the Australian case. High-density metropolitan markets, like Auckland, tend to have a higher incidence of female ownership, despite traditionally being an expensive housing market.

Of the female-owned properties identified in the Auckland City TA region, 45% were apartments, which is far higher than the average recorded across TA regions of 13%.

Mr Davidson says "This mirrors the pattern in female-owned properties in Australia, where the prevalence of female ownership in traditionally more ‘expensive' markets could be a reflection of units providing a more affordable entry point.”

Another notable exception is the relatively low rates of female home ownership in the West Coast region of New Zealand, where homes tend to be more ‘affordable', but has a low female ownership rate. This disparity could be a reflection of property type, such as more standalone dwellings (the opposite of Auckland), as well as a reflection of the dominant industries in these areas, such as farming and mining, which tend to be more male oriented jobs.

Ms Moors adds "The findings reflect the importance of duel ownership when it comes to attaining home ownership in more expensive markets, reflecting high price growth and affordability challenges existing in the NZ market.”

Comparison with Australia

  • Australia shows a larger difference in the rate of male and female ownership than in New Zealand; 26.6% had female ownership, compared to 29.9% male ownership.
  • Investment property accounted for some, but not all, the discrepancy between male and female ownership in Australia. In Australia, men owned 36.4% of all investment properties analysed while women owned 29.1%; an estimated 105,500 investment properties.
  • Australian men are more likely to own houses and women to own units. 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 of the properties analysed at 35.2% versus men's 34.7%.

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.

Ms Moors says "Capital gains in residential property is good for wealth accumulation, but without parity of ownership across different genders and other demographics, this can also widen inequality, and those with a lower incidence of home ownership may need additional support in retirement.

"It is interesting so much of the existing disparity in ownership is due to a higher level of property investment by men compared with women, which may reflect differences in risk profile or the gender pay gap.”

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

Notes to Editors:

  • In this new kind of research from CoreLogic, further layers of intersectionality are outside the scope of this report beyond identifying male and female ownership. However, in highlighting that income could be an important factor, we recognise there are implications for other groups, and there is more work to be done in understanding access to home ownership.
  • The methodology used is simple classification and profiling, to evaluate the rates of property ownership by gender across regions of Australia and New Zealand. CoreLogic has an extensive database of properties across Australia and New Zealand. However, CoreLogic does not hold data on the gender of property owners. This had to be inferred. In order to infer the gender of a property owner, owner first names were used, where available. Name matching for the purpose of inferring gender and culture, or providing mass formatting and parsing, is accepted practice in industry and academia. This has been done using API services and name matching with baby name lists, and is a technique we have applied to our property universe.
  • The data is the portion of properties observed that were owned by women, men or had joint ownership between men and women. The following rates of ownership are considered: exclusively female ownership, exclusively male ownership, sole female ownership, sole male ownership, property owned jointly by males and females.
  • The study is subject to the parameters identified in the report, and the reader should refer to pages 7-10 of the report for the full methodology.

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