Boomers Hunt for Smaller Houses

When it comes to housing, baby boomers differ from other home hunters in that they have more equity in their homes and many are preparing to move. If housing experts are right, boomers—the 77 million Americans ages 48 to 66—soon may be a sweet spot in an otherwise sour market for new homes.

Homebuilders—caught in a slump that has slashed U.S. new homes sales in half since 2007—have been slow to adjust. The stock of existing homes is not exactly rich in the type of amenities boomers say they want. A few builders are shifting to the senior market, but there’s not nearly enough construction planned to meet the pent-up demand.

Downsizing

The retirement market, experts say, appears ripe for change. Having raised families, many baby boomers are ready to turn in the keys to their oversized suburban McMansions. Research suggests boomers are tired of climbing stairs and mowing lawns and will seek ranch-style homes along quieter blocks, with features that make life a little easier on achy backs and knees.

So far, however, boomers haven’t started moving in big numbers. “These days a lot of people can’t move,” says Indiana University economist Willard Witte, “because they can’t or won’t sell their house at a big loss.”

Unlike the younger families targeted by most builders, however, boomers have been building equity for decades. They have paid down their mortgages over time, putting them in a better position to sell. Witte said boomers may be the first demographic to move when the market picks up. “I think we are heading into a huge retirement market,” he says.

Specific Wish List

The type of homes that boomers want appears to be in short supply. Most boomers now favor ranch homes that are about 1,500 to 2,500 square feet. Some prefer age-restricted communities, low-maintenance townhomes and downtown condominiums. The majority, Witte’s research shows, say they want single-story houses within neighborhoods that attract a broader mix of people and are close to where they now live.

They also have a specific checklist:

  • Open spaces to host friends and family, rather than separate dining rooms, living rooms and kitchens.
  • Features such as vanities and electrical sockets that are a bit higher off the ground than normal.
  • Storage, especially his and hers master closets, plus structurally reinforced attics.
  • Backyard living spaces—not swimming pools or outdoor kitchens, but large decks with fireplaces, hot tubs and wet bars.

Looking to move or thinking about moving? Contact Brent Belesky of Simplify Your Move Real Estate at (810) 229-2500. Brent is the Broker – Owner of Simplify Your Move Real Estate, Michigan’s only real estate company dedicated to serving senior citizens.

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