What do Boomers Want from Real Estate?

Baby Boomers, like the rest of “the 99%” in this country, have to worry about money more today than ever. The decline in traditional pensions, high investment in recently volatile stocks, and the fact that 35% of Americans already over the age of 65 rely almost entirely on Social Security payments, all work against Boomer buyers. Meanwhile, sellers of this generation may be frightened now to sell, particularly if their homes’ value has dipped or if they hold property in an area where real estate sales are sluggish. Marketwatch reported this year on a study that showed 87% of the 1,300 real-estate agents and brokers surveyed said their Baby Boomer clients have wondered if they should “put their wishes to sell their homes on hold,” citing the weak economy.

However, “simplifying life,” which can mean anything from trading a house for a condo to moving to a more walkable neighborhood, has emerged as equally – if not more—important to this generation.

Most Will Need to Sell to Move, and Many Will Want to Move

The need for downsizing and simplifying life will ultimately motivate a good percentage of this generation’s homeowners to sell in order to buy something more suitable. Those Baby Boomers still living in large family homes on big lots no longer need so much space, no longer want to deal with the upkeep, and hope to save on monthly maintenance and utilities. But the main goal, according to available 2011 data, may be more about making life easier than making life less expensive. The Moneywatch survey cited 49% of agents saying the primary reason for Baby Boomers’ desire to buy a smaller place was a “simpler lifestyle.” 28% said the main reason for downsizing is economical.

Survery Says…

Other survey results confirm the average Baby Boomer is looking to simply, not complicate, life.

  • Just 6% of surveyed agents reported that those in the 56-64 age category are looking to sell their home in favor of a larger one.
  • 80% of Boomers in the 56 years and up category seek to trade down for a smaller home.
  • Only 22 percent of surveyed agents reported that older clients are in search of a second property. That means then that the majority of Boomers are looking for primary residences, ones that will make their retirement years simpler and, by extension, more enjoyable.
  • Close to 47 percent of industry professionals said that older boomers are not interested in the single-family home, opting instead for the easier, communally cared-for condo or townhouse.

ZipRealty Agent Experiences Confirm

Becky Gee, a Zip Realtor working out of Portland, OR, reports:

“I just sold a townhouse to a retired couple who bought it as a second home near their son/grandson. They wanted a townhome in particular because they had a dog and wanted a place to garden, but didn’t want the maintenance of a regular-sized yard. Some other features included a garage, which you don’t get with a condo usually, and they didn’t want a place with too many stairs as they are getting older. It’s also close to the center where they can walk to dinner, grocery shopping and public transportation.”

I’m noticing more Baby Boomers moving closer to their kids/grandkids,” she adds, which explains also why Boomers might be attracted to Portland, a Mecca for families who come for affordable, safe and vibrant communities flourishing now in that city.

Zip Realtor Marissa Kjera confirms: “The most significant trend I have seen is the desire to be able to walk to businesses, public transportation… basically easy access to services. “

And easy access, in today’s language, means walkable, not drivable, which in many ways makes an argument for retirees to consider cities instead of more sprawling suburban locations.

Ultimately, these desires, as Boomers use their real estate buying power to achieve them, will change the reality of American cities and towns, not to mention the economy itself. Given that “Beginning January 1st, 2011 every single day more than 10,000 Baby Boomers will reach the age of 65” and that “that is going to keep happening every single day for the next 19 years,” the impact of the Baby Boom can’t really be under-estimated.