Angela Cottrill likes having control over the place where she lives.

The single hairstylist wanted the investment of owning a condo, so she put in extras hours at her job and saved money to buy her own home after living with roommates in apartments and in a small house in Linwood.

“After a couple of years renting, it sort of became a little silly to throw money out or spend time fixing up the place when I know when my lease is up or when I left, I would essentially be left with nothing,” said Cottrill, 28, who bought her Somers Point condo in September.

After married couples, the next largest demographic group of homebuyers is single women, according to the National Association of Realtors and New Jersey Realtors.

As the housing market has bounced back in recent years, the percentage of single women buying homes has increased from 15 percent in 2015 to 18 percent last year, the National Association of Realtors said.

“Unmarried couples, single females and single males, they all seem to be a growing share, especially among younger, first-time buyers,” said Jessica Lautz, vice president of demographic and behavior insight for the Realtors group.

More single women are purchasing homes each year due to their increased job stability, said Angela Desch, broker manager, residential and commercial, Coldwell Banker Argus Real Estate in Ventnor, and vice president of the Atlantic City and County Board of Realtors.

“For example, some professions, like nursing, where there is a shortage and wages seem to be quite competitive, those in that industry are able to finally afford a home on one income. First-time homebuying grants are also helping,” Desch said.

Heather Vernile, 37, was not a first-time homebuyer when she purchased her three-bedroom, two-full-bath house in August 2017 in Linwood.

Vernile bought her first house in 2011 in Mays Landing. She had a dog, and it was hard to find an apartment that allowed pets. She also was sick and tired of answering to someone else.

“It was just time,” said Vernile, after spending about seven years renting apartments and houses in Brigantine and Mays Landing. “How much more am I just going to rent? I’m not getting anything out when I leave. Renting, you barely get your security deposit back. ... You have rights as a renter, but you’re kind of at the mercy of (landlords).”

Vernile may have stayed in Mays Landing if not for her preference to have her 5-year-old kindergartner attend Linwood public schools. On a scale of one to 10, she ranked her chances of being able to afford a home in Linwood at a four in the beginning.

But she said buying a home in Linwood turned out to be a lot more fulfilling and satisfying than when she bought her first home in Mays Landing.

“This time, I had more of a purpose,” she said. “I had a son. ... There was someone else to think about.”

A 2001 University of Rhode Island graduate, Vernile had her college student loan paid off by the time she purchased her second house. She also has 15 years of experience working in the Atlantic City casinos and currently is the food and beverage manager at Harrah’s Resort.

“It’s hard buying a house on your own from the emotional aspect. You are doing it all by yourself. You have nobody to really share it with,” Vernile said. “While it’s rewarding, it’s challenging. It’s emotional sometimes. You have no one to share it with, this giant purchase.”

Realtor Associate Elizabeth “Beth” Nicholas, of Balsley Losco Realty in Northfield, said she has seen an increase in single women and single men buying houses during the past few years.

“For each, the reason was because it is cheaper to buy than to rent. Also, these individuals wanted to buy while the interest rates were low,” said Nicholas, who sold Cottrill her condo.

Cottrill had one advantage in buying her own home. She did not have college student loan debt to pay off. She graduated from Mainland Regional High School and the Atlantic County Institute of Technology in 2009. She earned her cosmetology license the same year and immediately entered the workforce.

As a single woman, Cottrill was able to lean on her family, especially her father, when it came to whipping the first home she has ever owned into shape.

“Coming here and fixing this place up, when I turn it around, it will actually benefit me and be worth it in the end,” Cottrill said. “I can really appreciate the hard work I and my family have put into it.”

Cottrill said size-wise and maintenance-wise a condo was best for her. It means a great deal to her to own her own place.

“It’s not easy to just get up and buy and do it on your own, especially on your own. Every decision that I made, God forbid, something was wrong. If that happened, it was all me. I didn’t have a significant other to run it by, but I was thankful to have my parents,” Cottrill said. “It makes me proud at the end of the day to be here and say, ‘This is mine.’”

Staff Writer

Twenty years as a staff writer in the features department, specializing in entertainment and the arts at The Press of Atlantic City.

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