http://danvillesanramon.com/print/story/print/2009/04/03/homes-for-independent-women


Danville Express

Living - April 3, 2009

Homes for independent women

Women-to-Women Network matches professionals with women homebuyers

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

Kat Kiraly knew it would be a challenge to buy a house as a single woman. And she never dreamed she could buy one in Danville although it has exactly the sense of community she was seeking.

But in a few weeks she will be moving into a home in a neighborhood off San Ramon Valley Boulevard.

"The experience is eye-opening," said Kiraly. "I feel freedom and excitement I haven't felt in years. It's like a rebirth."

Kiraly, 48, is "nearly single," and has been sharing a house in Pleasant Hill with her nearly ex-husband for four years until she could buy her own. She's been working for several years with Ginny Mees, a Realtor who understands the special needs of single women.

In January, Mees brought Kiraly to see a home in Danville she thought she would like and could afford.

"I said, 'Let's make an offer,'" recalled Kiraly. "My heart was racing, my palms were sweating. I'd done it once in the past - a condo in Hercules - but this transaction was so much bigger. But I felt like I was finding myself again."

During her years selling real estate, Mees has fallen into the niche of being a Realtor for independent women as she helped friends, her sister and her widowed mother buy homes. Now she has founded the Women-to-Women Network to put together all the professionals needed for their transactions, including Realtors, mortgage brokers, CPAs, financial planners and insurance agents.

"Single women are the fastest growing demographic of homebuyers in the country," said Mees.

The organization is spreading across the nation and Canada, with chapters run according to ZIP codes. Mees has secured the five ZIP codes in Danville, Alamo and San Ramon.

"In those communities 31-35 percent of residents are single women," Mees said. "Single women like to have this support network."

"As a single woman I bought properties on my own," recalled Mees. "I bought a foreclosure in Pleasanton in 1991 - I wanted a single family home with a garden."

The payments were high and Mees also traveled a lot - 100,000 miles a year. Her solution was to rent out a room to a good friend, which helped pay the mortgage. "And I needed somebody to be there for security reasons - and to make sure the plants got watered. It worked out great," she explained.

"Then my company relocated me to Missouri, where I bought, then I moved to Cincinnati, where I also bought a home on my own."

Mees recalled purchasing a home in Ballwin, outside St. Louis. It was a safe neighborhood but it was mostly families.

"There was no interaction," she said. She wishes she'd had a Realtor who understood the needs of a single woman.

Since 2000, Mees has lived in Danville with her husband and children. She finds many single women are choosing the San Ramon Valley to buy a home and she is determined to help.

"A lot of these people are single moms who may be renting townhomes," said Mees. "The way they buy is very different. They may not even know they can buy. Sometimes two single moms can buy together."

A study by the Harvard Business School in 2004 found that one of every five homebuyers in the country was a single woman.

"Twenty-two percent of homebuyers out there are single women, compared to 9 percent single men," said Mees. "Women are by our inherent nature are nesters. We want security. It's empowering for women."

The group of women being helped by the network of professionals is called the Independent Women of Danville, San Ramon and Alamo, using the term "independent" rather than "single."

"We've wrestled with this and introduced it to focus groups," Mees said. "We sort of made a commitment to 'independent' in our marketing materials."

Mees said she herself has seen the "good, bad and the ugly" having been single, married, divorced and single again, and now happily married.

"I can encourage women (going through a divorce) that it's not the end of the world," she said. "It feels like it but you will get through it."

She recently helped another Danville woman who had been married with a child.

"All of a sudden, the husband walks out. She's a single woman after 10 years of being happily married," Mees said. "You need a group of professionals who can help you see things with the emotion of the moment."

In 2009, she reported, 30 percent of foreclosures were on women.

"They didn't get the right advice," she said.

Her group is planning monthly seminars to help address home-buying problems. Her first meeting, held April 1, was on how to buy a home in this market. The next free seminar presents Marcey Donnelly, owner of Got Mess? She will talk about "how to organize your home so it doesn't organize you," from 7-8:30 p.m., Wednesday, May 6, at the Keller Williams office in the Rose Garden.

Everyone is welcome, said Mees, although they are geared to single women. Future topics include homeowners insurance and how to protect your assets.

For more information about the Women to Women Network or Independent Women of Danville, San Ramon and Alamo, visit singlewomanhomeowner.com.

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