Eviction was not an option: That's what Melonie Griffiths-Evans kept telling herself, even after the bank had foreclosed on her home in 2007 and was preparing to oust her so the house could be resold.
After a series of financial setbacks, including the loss of a job, the single mother of three had fallen hopelessly behind in her mortgage payments. But Griffiths-Evans, 38, wanted dignity for herself and her children, a way to negotiate their departure without being thrown out.
The Boston resident concedes that her home in the Dorchester neighborhood, assessed in February at $265,000, was basically unaffordable when she purchased it in 2004 for $470,000 with no down payment. She had taken out two loans in order to buy the home without private mortgage insurance -- one at 8.5% on 80% of the purchase price and the other at a whopping 12.5% on the remaining 20%. Her monthly payments totaled about $3,500, but, she says, she was assured by her lender that she could soon refinance into a lower-cost fixed-rate mortgage.
But she found herself unable to refinance, and the lender, whom the state attorney general eventually barred from making loans in Massachusetts, stopped returning her calls.
Unfortunately, troubles like Griffiths-Evans' are becoming more and more familiar.
Over the past decade or so, single women have become a major force in the housing market. The proportion of single female homebuyers climbed from 14% in 1995 to 22% last year, according to the National Association of Realtors. And by 2010, single women will make up about 28% of homeowners, Fannie Mae estimates.
But those gains haven't come without a price. Several studies have shown that women -- and women of color, in particular -- are more likely than men to be targets of subprime and predatory lenders, and that many of the women who have lost their homes to foreclosure could have qualified for lower-cost loans. And although there are no data comparing foreclosure rates between men and women, subprime loans have a higher rate of default. So with foreclosures soaring, experts say women are at particular risk of losing their homes.
"Even women with similar incomes as men were more likely to get subprime loans," says Anita Hill, a professor of law, social policy and women's studies at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. "Women were more likely to get subprime loans, and African-American women were even more likely. Women were advised