Are Baby Boomers Causing a Housing Shortage?

Posted on March 3, 2020 by

There are a lot of misperceptions in the residential real estate market, especially when it comes to 55+ homebuyers. Today’s older adults typically live longer, healthier lives than previous generations. Because many stay in larger homes longer than their parents did, in some markets where housing is tight, Baby Boomers are being blamed for fewer housing options available to younger would-be homeowners.

According to a recent article in the national e-newsletter Curbed: “The theory goes like this: Senior citizens historically will downsize into smaller houses as their children leave the nest. This allows younger families with starter homes to expand into larger houses. That in turn allows first-time homebuyers to buy starter homes that the younger families are moving out of. But since the financial crisis, this cycle of homeownership has come to a halt, and Baby Boomers who ‘won’t move’, particularly those who live alone in houses that could otherwise be home to multiple people are often blamed.” Access full article here.

In this case, perception is NOT reality. The article goes on to say the national real estate listing site Trulia conducted a study that found that older Americans living in their homes are not causing a housing shortage. “The cities that have the most Boomers who could downsize are among the most affordable in the country, so if they decided to downsize en masse, it wouldn’t alleviate any serious problem.”

While the article is interesting, it leaves out a key lifestyle choice for many empty nesters, and that is moving to an active adult community for 55+ residents. This housing choice has exploded in popularity in recent years due to the many advantages it affords the active adult homebuyer.

“55+ homebuyers do not look, act or feel old,” said Jim Chapman, president of Jim Chapman Communities, one of greater Atlanta’s premier 55+ homebuilders. “They are buying into a lifestyle – one they will enjoy with other like-minded adults. They want onsite amenities like pools, clubhouses, tennis and pickleball courts and community gardens. And since all exterior landscaping is taken care of at our communities, they are free from yard chores so they can enjoy their own hobbies and pursuits.”

Kelly Stephens, managing broker for Engel & Völkers Buckhead Atlanta and Engel & Völkers Atlanta North Fulton, says location and home styles also matter to 55+ homebuyers. “Our associates work with a number of 55+ homebuilders and homebuyers. The buyers want easy, one-level living. When possible, they want to live near their adult children and grandchildren, as well as in communities with access to shopping, dining, entertainment, recreation and healthcare. We’re seeing a surge of popularity in suburban and even exurban 55+ communities that offer these amenities.”

The article concludes:  “It’s unlikely that Boomers would cause what’s currently a housing shortage to turn into a housing surplus.  Boomers … cover a broad age range.  This means that any selloff of Boomer housing would be staggered over the course of the next 20 years or more.”

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