Alex Huntley on the rise of women in property
Just 150 years ago, married women could not own their own property. In fact in the eyes of the law, your great grandmother would have been considered the ‘property’ of her husband.
In 1882, the Married Women in Property Act finally allowed wives to control their own property. But nearly 100 years later - as late as 1970 - women could STILL be refused a mortgage unless they had a male guarantor.
To put that in perspective, it means your mum might well have needed a husband or father to sign off the papers allowing her to own her own home in her own right.
By today’s standards that inequality and injustice seems both pretty stark and pretty shocking.
Yet to this day, when we think of property investment, we often still think of it as a man’s game. Men are our stereotypical builders, risk takers, investors, players, and entrepreneurs.
But buying, selling, renovating, and renting property is definitely not just for the boys - and those old stereotypes are increasingly out of date. Women have steadily been gaining ground over the last 50 years. And sisters are now finally doing property for themselves - with women now making up around 40% of UK landlords.
That’s why at Simple Landlords Insurance we decided to find out more about them, what makes them tick, what makes them such great landlords, and if there are any discernable difference between male and female landlords. You can take a look at the full results in our Women in Property report here.
Shattering glass ceilings
What particularly interested me about this project was just how successful women are in this sector. Of course in the last two generations we’ve seen the rise of women across industry - but quite clearly there are still glass ceilings to be shattered, and women are still underrepresented on boards, in senior management, and in traditionally male-dominated sectors and disciplines.
By comparison, women are making huge strides towards equality in property. If you consider that women account for only 17% of business owners, and take up only 5.4% of CEO roles in Fortune 500 companies, the fact that 2 in 5 landlords are female is pretty remarkable. This is one industry where equality is almost within our reach.
Male vs female landlords
For the most part, I’m pleased to say we found that men and women gave very similar and very equal answers to our questions. But there were still some variations to explore.
For instance, it turns out women often have slightly different motivations than men going into property investment. We found women are more likely than their male counterparts to fall into the role of landlord by accident - for instance when inheriting property, or renting out a property after moving in with a partner. (Only 48% of women were deliberate investors - compared to 61% of men). They are also more likely to have different business goals - and are often more interested than men in the monthly yield rather than long term capital gain.
Whatever their investment rationale, female landlords share a willingness to roll up their sleeves and get things done. 64% of female landlords manage the property themselves without going through an agency - and they are more likely than male landlords to invest in property they would live in themselves (47% vs 39%).
This pride in the property and personal touch is reflected in the positive feedback from tenants - who found women to be more approachable and more sensitive to personal circumstances.
Indeed, women are generally more open to renting their properties to different types of tenants - with 35% saying they would consider renting to tenants in receipt of housing benefit, compared with 25% of men.
That social conscience and focus on relationships and communication were themes which consistently came up in our conversations with female landlords, and were in fact identified as key strengths. If there was a downside - from an insurance perspective - it was that women seemed to be slightly less likely than men to inspect their properties, sometimes relying on the quality of their tenant relationships rather than formal visits.
From property to property investment
The fact remains that two generations ago, women WERE property. Now we can see that they own it, buy it, sell it, manage it - and make money from it.
There are still a few areas where we haven’t quite achieved property parity just yet. We found in talking to tenants some lingering gender bias, including a perception that male landlords have more practical skills than females and are more likely to fix issues quickly - possibly by taking matters into their own hands.
Women also tend to have smaller portfolios than men, and anecdotally we’ve found they are far less likely to undertake big renovation projects - where the returns on investments might ultimately prove to be bigger.
But despite this, the picture is overwhelmingly positive. Indeed, against a backdrop of Brexit uncertainty, women in property are still confident about the future. I think we will see women grow their portfolios over the coming years, with more big female investors coming through - building on the rise of women in property over the last 50-150 years. I also believe we can support women in property by assisting them to manage risks - for instance through the right insurance.
We can also help dispel any lingering myths around female landlords by showcasing real life examples and experiences. So throughout the report you will find quotes and case studies from successful female landlords - who will hopefully inspire other women on their own investment journey.
Women in property have come a long way. And I can’t wait to see what they make happen in - and for - the next generation.
Head of Operations
Simple Landlords Insurance