More Chinese women are buying homes than ever before — report

Society & Culture

Whether by saving or getting help from their parents, more and more young Chinese women are ensuring their future independence by buying their own homes.

More Chinese women are buying homes than ever before

The gender gap is alive and well in China! But at least in the Chinese real estate market, it is starting to work in women’s favor. According to online property brokerage platform Beike Zhaofang 贝壳找房, Chinese women are purchasing homes at a higher rate than their male counterparts, at least in some parts of the country. 

This is not the first time a rise in female home purchasing has been documented: Beike Zaofang first documented the trend in 2019. The trend continued last year: In its annual report (in Chinese) on female homeownership in China, based on data from its platform and an internet survey of more than 2,500 women on the internet, Beike Zhaofang concludes that in 2020, Chinese women accounted for 47.54% of home purchases in 30 key cities, including Beijing and Shanghai. That’s a minor increase from the previous year and a super-steep increase from 2016, when roughly only 14.7% of women in urban areas had properties under their names.

Other findings from the report include:

  • Women above the age of 50 are still the biggest force in home buying because of the wealth they have accumulated over time. Women under 30 are feeling increasingly confident about buying their own places, often with a certain degree of financial support from their parents.
  • Cities with the highest ratios of female home buyers were Changsha and Zhengzhou, where women surpassed men in purchases last year.
  • In cases where couples purchased houses together, over 60% of women said they “played a key role” in the buying process. And interestingly, the weight of their opinions was in correlation to their levels of educational attainment. About 66.4% of those who held master’s or doctoral degrees said they were the decision makers, whereas the majority of those who didn’t go to college said that their male partners took the lead.
  • 37.49% of the women who took the survey said they co-owned their first home with their partner, and 31.9% of them said that their parents financed their home purchases.
  • Traditionally speaking, home ownership is a precondition for marriage in China, and men are expected to bear the cost. But the report found that this was changing as 58.03% of women said they would be willing to contribute to a downpayment on a mortgage, and to repay the loan with their partners. 

To contextualize the numbers, Tencent News interviewed (in Chinese) five young female homeowners, asking them why they decided to buy a home before marriage and what changes homeownership had brought to their life. There were a handful of reasons:

  • A woman working in Beijing said she started saving aggressively in 2017 and finally was able to afford the downpayment for an apartment in her home city of Ningbo last year. According to her, despite the obvious investment opportunity, she wanted to buy her own place because she wanted to prove to her parents that she had achieved financial independence, which would make her feel more confident in standing up for herself when facing family pressure to get married.
  • She mentioned that her colleagues had cautioned her that owning a home might put her “at a disadvantage” on the marriage market because men were intimidated by successful women. But she did it anyway. 
  • Two of the women said they had some bad rental situations, and had sat down and done the math, which made them realize that purchasing a home made more sense than giving their hard-earned money to terrible landlords.

As encouraging as the report seems, in general, it’s still not as easy for a Chinese woman to buy a home as it is for a couple — or for a man, given that China has yet to make serious headway in reducing the gender pay gap. And for daughters in families with multiple children, financial support from parents is not something they can count on when it comes to home buying. Worse, in some families with strong male preferences, older sisters are expected to shell out for their younger brothers’ marriage before fulfilling their personal needs. Remember this absurd story?