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From the Ottawa Citizen

 

Are men and women looking for different things when they shop for a home? In earlier generations, this was an easy one: women, so the thinking went, wanted nothing more than a stateof-the-art kitchen and heaps of closet space, while men had their eyes on a great piece of land, a workshop and a great garage.

 

Most of us like to think that times have changed - that with women's hard-won success in business and politics, such old-fashioned stereotypes are no longer true. But when it comes to the comforts of home, it seems old habits die hard.

 

Now, it's important to note that, while surveys may show a majority of buyers follow a certain pattern of behaviour, individual buyers are, well, individuals. In addition to demographic differences among buyers (urban versus suburban, single versus married, gay versus straight, and so on) there are some preferences that can simply be chalked up to personality. With that in mind, let's look at some of the tendencies real estate experts are seeing among today's home buyers.

 

If there's one part of the home that's seen a significant shift in terms of male attention, it's the kitchen. These days, particularly among younger buyers, it's common for men to profess their love of cooking - and that translates into men who care about counter space. More and more, these same men also care about finishes: with all the design shows on television, these guys know their granite from their Corian. As Top Chef star Marcus Samuelsson has claimed, "the kitchen is the new garage."

 

So where does this leave the garage? And the workshop, and the acreage? While more women than ever are tuning up their own cars and staining their own decks, these still tend to be more important features to men. In fact, the idea of "men-only" spaces has had a resurgence over the last few years. What was once the Victorian smoking room has evolved into the modern "man cave."

 

Meanwhile, the garden, soaker tub and spacious master bedroom continue to be the typical refuges for a hard-working woman. Closets are also still largely the domain of women, as women simply tend to have more clothing.

 

That brings me to a couple of important points, long acknowledged in the real estate business: in mixed couples, women tend to have stronger influence than men when purchasing a home. And, whenever you're house hunting with a significant other, compromise is part of the process.

 

One of the bigger disagreements a couple might encounter is when looking at resale homes. In general, surveys show, men are more likely to favour "fixer-uppers" than women. This may be because more men are comfortable working the power saw than women, they're more open to living in a construction zone, or they're less realistic about the time and work required to make that fixer-upper shine.

 

As for single men and women, more are purchasing homes than ever before - and condos are often their home of choice. Single women in particular look for the security features offered by many condos.

 

Then there are the intangibles. These include the type of relationship we seek with our realtors (women tend to look for a personal connection, while men tend to want "just the facts"), the speed with which we expect to seal the deal (research shows that women are quicker to find the home they want, and quicker to make an offer), and even the type of negotiating process we're comfortable with (one recent British study showed that women are three times more likely than men to offer a home's asking price).

 

Yet another recent survey has shown that living close to extended family is more important to women than to men. Is this one more sign that times haven't changed all that much? Perhaps those mother-in-law jokes will outlast us all.

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