NEW YORK (MainStreet)—Single women are buying more homes at nearly twice the rate as single men, marking a trend that real estate professionals expect to continue and rise.

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The National Association of Realtors (NAR), a trade group, reported that 16% of homebuyers were single women, compared to 9% single men who bought homes between July 2011 and June 2012.

The NAR survey demonstrates that women are recognizing the opportunity that exists right now in the housing market because of low interest rates for mortgages and "taking the plunge," said Ellen Haberle, a real estate economist for Redfin, an online real estate brokerage.

"This is an encouraging sign," she said. "This is signaling that the trend could continue."

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More women now have the ability to purchase homes, because they are closing the income gap and attending college in greater numbers, said Haberle.

"We see this as a great sign," she said.

Women and men still have different buying patterns, which is demonstrated in a survey conducted by Redfin recently.

Single women tend to seek a home that they love while single men search for a good value - 46% of women buying a home on their own said they rely on their emotions to evaluate a home whereas 54% think more about value and cost. On the other hand, only 24% of single men evaluated a home based on emotions.

The survey also showed that single women are less likely than single men to buy a home for investment purposes. Only 3% of single women were planning to buy a home for rental income, and none were planning to renovate and flip it. Comparatively, 7% of single men were planning to buy a home for rental income and 2% were planning to renovate and flip it.

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Women tend to view owning a house as a long-term asset. Single women were much less likely to buy a short sale or a foreclosure than single men. Only 13% of single women surveyed were interested in buying a short sale or a foreclosure versus 30% of single men. Single women and single men were equally as interested in buying a new home or a conventional sale, where the owner is the seller.

"It's clear that men and women approach home buying differently," Haberle said. "Overall, more single women buying homes is a great sign that women are becoming more financially independent and savvy."

This trend has occurred for at least the past five years, because women now have greater financial earning power, an increasing presence in workplace leadership roles and are "smart" about their credit management, said Hale Walker, co-founder and senior vice president at Michigan Mutual, a Southfield, Mich.based residential mortgage lender in 39 states.

"Women are extremely engaged in the process of the mortgage," he said. "Single women are much more independent. Their credit scores are also better, and they expect to put down a large down payment. I have seen why more single women are qualifying for mortgages today than ever before. Purchasing a home is a great financial tool in their portfolio."

Men are more apt to rent instead of buying, said David Hall, president of Shore Mortgage, a Troy, Mich. based subsidiary of United Shore Financial Services LLC (USFS).

Women tend to be more savings-oriented compared to men and have been purchasing more homes than men since the mid '90s, he said.

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"It has been a steady increase" Hall said. "It is really smart since home appreciation is setting in and people are seeing value again. Men make more impulse buys. It is an interesting dynamic. I think it will continue to grow."

Hoang Uyen Nguyen, who is 33 and works in advertising traffic for a T.V. network, bought her first house when she was 31 in Lauderdale, Minn., because she felt that owning a home was a good financial decision.

"I've always had that mentality," she said. "It's better to buy rather than rent. It's a good investment. I feel like I am very independent."

--Written by Ellen Chang for MainStreet