The number of home loan applications by single women had increased significantly in the past four years in line with a rise in single person households and women obtaining better positions in the workplace, mortgage originator ooba said yesterday.

Ooba said that the ratio of women to men in single-person home loan applications submitted to it had increased from 36.53 percent in January 2007 to 46.94 percent currently.

It said that single-person applications presently accounted for 49.65 percent of total home loan applications.

Jenny Rushin, ooba’s Western Cape provincial sales manager, said yesterday that this was a positive development for the property market, particularly as gender equality was enshrined in the constitution.

Rushin said that it was pleasing to note that the dynamics of the historically male-dominated property market had evolved.

She said that a steady increase in the number of women in the workplace, particularly those occupying more managerial top-level jobs that commanded higher incomes, had helped to shift the balance towards a more equal ratio among homebuyers.

Absa, meanwhile, reported yesterday that there was further strain on house price growth in the small, medium and large home categories last month despite some marginal nominal monthly growth in these categories.

Absa said average nominal year-on-year price growth in the first four months of this year was still positive in the three categories of housing compared with a year ago but home values in real terms dropped further in all three segments in March.

Small houses, which are 80m2 to 141m2 in size, recorded a nominal year-on-year price drop of 3.5 percent last month following a 1.2 percent decline in March. The average price of a small house was about R766 300 last month.

The average nominal value of medium-sized homes, which measure 141m2 to 220m2, declined last month by 0.1 percent year on year after rising by the same percentage in the previous month. The price of a medium-sized house was about R972 900 last month.

Prices of large houses, measuring 221m2 to 400m2, grew last month by 2 percent year on year compared with the 2.5 percent increase recorded in March. The average price of a large house was about R1 489 700 last month.

Jacques du Toit, a senior property analyst at Absa Home Loans, said that house price growth in the first four months of this year was affected by price trends in the corresponding period last year, while many consumers were still experiencing some financial strain, which ultimately influenced the housing market.

Du Toit said that inflationary pressures were mounting in the South African economy on the back of rising energy costs and food prices while employment and consumer confidence were down in the first quarter of this year compared with the previous quarter.

He said that growth in household credit extension, including mortgage advances, remained well in single-digit territory in the first three months of the year, reflecting the state of household finances. - Roy Cokayne