When you think of the characteristics of home buyers, your first impression may be that of a married couple—and rightly so. According to the 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers from the National Association of Realtors, 65% of recent buyers were married couples. There is, however, a more surprising trend that you may not have noticed yet.
18% of recent buyers were single females. On its own, that number doesn’t seem too impressive. However, if you compare it to how many single males have recently purchased homes—only 7%—one starts to pay attention a little more. And that number of single females has been steadily climbing; in 2016, it was 17% and in 2015 it was 15%.
These single female homeowners aren’t just buying homes to have places to live, either. Some are viewing their houses as opportunities to join the growing global sharing economy and make some money on Airbnb.
The Global Impact of Female Airbnb Hosts
In 2017, Airbnb published a report in which they specifically looked at women and the integral role they play within the company. The study found that:
• An estimated one million women host on Airbnb
• Women make up 55% of the global host community
• While women participate in the general workforce at 68% of the rate that men participate, women host on Airbnb at 120% of the rate of men
• Since 2008, women have earned $10 billion by hosting
• Female hosts in the U.S. earned an average of $6,600 per year
• 50,000 women use their Airbnb money to fund businesses or invest in entrepreneurial pursuits
Women everywhere are benefitting from listing their properties on Airbnb—even in the Indian countryside and tiny Japanese villages. The Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA)—an organization in the western Indian state of Gujarat—teamed up with Airbnb to train rural women to be hosts and list their homes on the site. SEWA has about two million members, mostly in villages, and after one year, the number of women earning money from home sharing has doubled.
“At first we weren’t sure how the women would fare and if people would respond to homestays in these areas,” said Reema Nanavaty, a director at SEWA, speaking with VOA News.
“But once they began getting guests, the women invested in upgrading their homes and started using Google Translate to communicate with guests. It has become a significant source of income for them.”
How a Single Mom Uses Airbnb to Live Comfortably
Of course, you don’t have to live in a remote village to reap the benefits of hosting on Airbnb. Dani Braun, a divorced mother of two children living in Rhode Island, has been renting her home out in one way or another over the last 10 years; she’s been an Airbnb host for four years.
She started small by just renting her home out for two weeks every year when they’d go on vacation to visit grandma. The next year, they tried a month. After the third or fourth year, she decided to take a big bonus check from work and “do something real with it.” Dani used the money to put a down payment on another house in town.
“We went in there, cleaned it up, and moved in as a family. We rented our other house for the whole summer and covered our mortgage for a year. It was awesome,” she says. “Now we didn’t pay our mortgage for the whole year, don’t get me wrong—but we took half and bought another house.”
Dani prefers the Airbnb concept to other rental websites because she’s able to pay as she goes—and there’s no cost to list. She also likes that they send her a 1099 at the end of the year so she doesn’t have to worry about her taxes. Dani also adds that she never fails to be surprised by how polite, clean, and conscientious her guests usually are.
She says that now, she uses her Airbnb income to live comfortably.
“I’m in Nantucket on the weekend, I’m in Iceland with my kids—and people wonder how do you do it? I do it via Airbnb—it doesn’t come out of my salary, that’s what keeps the lights on. This is how I earn my extra money.”
Dani is a natural hostess, so she admits that good reviews are one of her favorite things about renting her home on Airbnb.
“It’s just really nice to hear when you put all that effort in that someone appreciates it,” she says.
Female-Focused Airbnb Experiences
In addition to the rental side of things, Airbnb also offers “Experiences.” The experiences are activities hosted by locals that help you enjoy the destination you’re visiting once you’ve booked your lodging through the company. There are all types of experiences available—concerts, classes, workshops, site seeing, etc.—and that includes some that target or focus on women.
For example, Alicia Butler is a licensed full-time NYC guide and travel blogger. She’s been leading tours of the Big Apple for about five years, but saw an opportunity to create a themed tour for Airbnb Experiences. She now offers the “Celebrate Women: Women, Words, & Wine” tour through Airbnb. Her walking tour shares the stories of women who may have been mentioned in the history books but never seemed to get the credit they may have actually deserved.
“I started thinking about this tour a little over a year ago. Like a lot of women, I really wanted to brainstorm ways to elevate other women around me, women who’ve inspired me,” she says. “I knew I had to do something, I just really didn’t know how to translate that into what I do—which is lead walking and food tours.”
A few weeks later she watched the movie “Hidden Figures” and it made her mad.
“How have we never heard about these cool women in history? How were we only being taught a small, one-sided part of the story? I actually cried after watching that movie,” she admits. “I started thinking about the women I speak about on my tours and their stories, and I started wondering if there was more to their stories than I was taught. I did a little digging, and it turned out I was right. Even I had only been telling half the story! Granted, it was the story I was taught, but I realized that I had the responsibility to make it right.”
Alicia’s food, drink, and history tour celebrates the hidden history of the city’s most famous female builders, reformers, politicians, and innovators. It begins at the Brooklyn Bridge and then heads to Manhattan’s Lower East Side—and tourists are loving it.
“I’ve been amazed and touched by the response,” says Alicia. “I’ve gotten a lot of groups of women. I think men are afraid of the experience because they think it will be a bunch of women sitting around heckling men. I think that’s the struggle a lot of feminists face—that they’re somehow anti-men. But the truth that any woman will tell you is that we don’t sit around talking about men all day. When we’re talking about women, we’re talking about women.”
The Future is Female
How the global sharing economy will continue to grow remains to be seen, but there’s no denying that women are playing significant roles. As they work to make travelers comfortable and engaged, they’re also making smart financial moves, investing in real estate, and creating the lives they’ve always dreamed of living.