The number of unmarried men has doubled in less than 20 years. Six in 10 men aged between 25 and 34 have yet to tie the knot, and 40 per cent of them consider themselves "completely solo" - neither cohabiting nor in a long-term relationship.
Singles are the country’s fastest-growing population group, accounting for about 40 per cent of all households, up from less than 10 per cent in 1960. This extraordinary demographic shift is causing huge property ripples, or what one market research organisation calls a "lifestyle tsunami".
London, in particular, is a hotbed of singles. Remarkably, half of all homes in the male-dominated Square Mile are single person pads. Many of these are pied-à-terre properties, but as the City becomes a more lively place during evenings and weekends, habits are changing. Rather than buying a tiny crash pad, single men are choosing fabulous designer apartments close to the office for use as their first home.
Tapestry Building, a Georgian warehouse conversion moments from Liverpool Street station, is evidence of this trend. Ranging from 1,400sq ft to 3,500sq ft, the apartments mix contemporary finishes - ash floors and glass walls - with vaulted timber ceilings, cast-iron columns and exposed brick and cargo doors. And this architecture is obviously fit for purpose as these flats are becoming a big hit with big-budget male bankers. Prices from £1.4 million. Call 0845 474 1771.
Single men have become a major force right across the market," says Lucian Cook of Savills Research. "There are singles who spend £200,000 and singles who spend £2 million-plus." And these modern males are not only fiercely competitive in the office but also about their homes."A lot of single City guys want something the other guy hasn’t got, a place that is snazzier, sexier or funkier than the one next door - a penthouse with a great roof terrace or a spectacular view," says Nick Davies of estate agent Stirling Ackroyd.
"It’s a statement. It says, ‘Look, I’m cool - not a boring guy living in a cottage.’"
Gone is the Men Behaving Badly image of the slovenly bachelor happy with his untidy home littered with dirty laundry and a bin full of beer cans. They are asking for modern designs, gadgets and a garage. Today’s males are not only style-conscious, they are house-proud. The classic case is a wealthy investment banker with discerning taste. His home is a temple to his success - an acquisition that reflects his status.
Often these more mature singles are enjoying the trappings of monied middle youth. They have successful careers, own a fancy sports car, are into cool fashion, furniture and technology, they like to cook (using gizmos, even a stainless-steel parmesan shaver) and love to drizzle olive oil over everything. At the Neo Bankside scheme next to Tate Modern, one buyer has a temperature-controlled tent covering his Ferrari in the underground car park.
Well-off single men often look at themselves as a marketable commodity and want to be the whole package: affluent, healthy, attractive and on top of their work.
As such, they are a key target for advertisers, property developers and estate agents alike who recognise them as consumers with plenty of disposable income. Their interior schemes are monochrome - matt black and brushed stainless steel with dark wood finishes and (incidentally) they make interiors decisions fast. And according to James Hyman of Cluttons, which is selling stunning penthouses at Cormorant Lodge overlooking the marina at St Katharine Docks (priced £3.75 million, call 020 7488 4858), they are mostly keen on low-maintenance, ready-made living space. They lack the time, and the desire, to put a personal stamp on their home.
Location is another factor. "Men like to be close to the action and they want all their day-to-day needs - pub, bar, café, restaurant, deli and dry cleaner’s - on the walk home from the station or office."
City fringe areas - Southbank, Shoreditch, Shad Thames - are popular, as are Soho and Covent Garden, Clapham, Putney, Chelsea, Islington, Kensington, Notting Hill, East Dulwich and Fulham.
Developers recognising this life change are responding by making apartment schemes more male-friendly. Modern developments of recent years have a high number of smaller flats (demanded by planners), and to make up for squeezed internal space, developers have created amenity-packed common areas and so-called lifestyle extras - cinema/screening room, gym, residents-only roof terrace, pool table and ping pong, lobbies with iPod docks and free wi-fi - almost like a private club.
Another estate agent has discovered a different angle on the singles sale. It would appear some of these buyers are, whether they recognise it or not, preparing for their future. The "sperm factor" sale is to a single, professional, eligible, rich male who will marry eventually. For these, Hamptons International is selling a well-designed spacious home converted from a former factory in Chiswick that comes with a hot tub in the open-plan living area. Priced £1.195 million. Call 020 8987 8444.
Of course, this is not an entirely revolutionary life change. Victorian mansion blocks often have tiny flats with cupboard-like kitchens. They were built as "gentlemen’s chambers" and came with a high level of service. The porter would take care of things such as laundry, and often there was a restaurant on the ground floor.