They say opposites attract. But how do opposites shop – particularly when it comes to home buying? Experts insist and research shows that men and women often differ significantly in terms of their approach to purchasing a home.

For example, results of a recent survey conducted by Countrywide Home Loans reveal that only 23 percent of men said they spent too much time shopping for a new home, compared to 43 percent of women.

The reasons for contrasts like this have a lot to do with fundamental emotional and personality differences between the genders, says Peggy Spiro, a broker for RE/MAX Alliance, Louisville, Colo. “Men seem to be more bottom-line and pragmatic, while women seem to be emotional and ‘fall in love’ with things like the colors and the fireplace. Women want to feel an emotional connection to the house and figure out how they are going to make it a home. Women also seem to second-guess their decisions, while men don’t,” says Spiro.

“In general, men seem to look more at a home’s structural integrity, functionality and specifics, such as if a home has three bedrooms, a garage and a large yard,” says Angela Wyatt, a broker with RE/MAX Signature Properties in Portland. “Women look at the layout, the charm and the details.”

Lorraine Denham, an agent with Coldwell Banker, Chicago, says in her experience with couples purchasing together, “the husband is concerned about things like good energy efficiency, having a great place to relax and low maintenance. The wife is concerned about how the house works for the family, the flow of meals, the placement of dining rooms and eat-in areas, and safety.”

Men, says Denham, have an idea about what they want and will not budge on their needs. “Women have an idea about what they want, but are more spontaneous and willing to bend for others. They are more aesthetics-oriented and will ask questions like, ‘How attractive are the finishes? Is the house impressive? How do the colors work with my furniture?’” she says.

This yin and yang of varying sensibilities and priorities among couples actually creates a healthy, balanced dynamic, says Denham.

“In general, women tend to be very intuitive and sensitive to environments,” Denham says. “They have an easier time imagining a vacant property with furniture, which makes sense being that they are generally the decorator of the household. Men are usually not as in-tune to their environment, but feel good in a space that reflects well on them; they look better because of this or that house. They are very concerned about the logistics of the house – where is the parking, the placement of electronic systems, etc.”

Additionally, men are more willing to forgive a house’s imperfections. “So a wall has to be moved? That’s no big deal, they’ll say. For some women, that could be a deal killer,” says Denham.

One major factor accounting for why women may take longer to shop for a home than men is financial disparity. A recent poll by The American Association of University Women Educational Foundation indicates that women in the same occupation and major earn only 80 percent as much as men one year after graduation from college.

Despite these hurdles, Spiro says that women are becoming independent and want to know they can afford a home in all economies – particularly single and divorced women, who are growing into an even larger segment of the real estate market, statistics show. According to the National Association of Realtors, in 2005 single women comprised 21 percent of all home purchasers – up from 16 percent in 1993 – and were the second-largest group of homebuyers.

Single women, however, “end up taking a lot longer to decide, often second-guessing themselves,” says Wyatt. “They often go back a second time to a home with a male friend and try hard to educate themselves more than the average buyer.”

As far as touring homes for sale, the outcome is predictable, at least in Spiro’s market.

“Women work as the scout and will come to an open house during the week, while they hunt together with a man over the weekends,” she says. “Think about it. How many men love to shop? Women do it to relax and connect, while men seem to have a purpose and a goal.”
When it comes down to bargaining, Spiro finds that men seem less likely to compromise on the fundamentals like number of bedrooms and baths, size of the garage, storage space and overall condition of the home. “The woman doesn’t want to compromise on schools, closets, kitchen, play areas – more family-oriented items. I’d say women are a harder sell on the house itself, while men are tougher on the price negotiations.”

For the most part, Denham agrees.

“Women are much more likely to take the whole negotiating personally, while men tend to stay detached,” she says. “Men come to the negotiating table with their gloves on ready to spar. They expect a counter and don’t mind haggling. It’s almost a game to them. Women, on the other hand, want to start the negotiating on the right foot. They want to make sure the other party knows they are fair and careful about not insulting the seller. The truth is that while negotiating, both strategies can work beautifully and both can backfire.”

In the end, the woman in the relationship almost always has the final say to move forward and write an offer, says Denham. “Men just want to feel they’ve done their research, they’ve looked at the properties, they’ve been educated about what offer is fair. But the answer to ‘Will this house make you happy?’ is generally decided by the wife. I think men win the small battles, but women win the war.”

© CTW Features