Many Baby Boomers around the country are in a strong position to sell their now-too-large homes and downsize. Thanks to a high rate of homeownership within this demographic as well as a high rate of price appreciation and home equity built up over years of living in their homes, Boomers could easily sell their homes, pocket substantial gains and move on.
Not so fast, says Alexandra Lee, a housing analyst with Trulia. “Downsizing depends on a lot more than just the ability (and the equity) to do so. Seniors may not want to give up on their neighborhood and the lifestyle they’ve grown accustomed to in their longtime home.”
Like many things, being able to downsize and actually downsizing are two different things. It turns out that nationally, just 5.5% of households headed by someone 65 years and older move in any given year. This statistic, first defined in 2006, remains unchanged today. Of that 5.5% who move from their longtime house, some 50% move into apartments and some 50% move into smaller single-family homes.
The balance, the 94.5% of households headed by at least one Boomer, remains in their longtime house. Why?
In 2006, 15.9% of Boomers 65 and older were actively working in the labor force. Today, 19% of Boomers are actively working in the labor force. And of that 19% still working, 16.1% of the households headed by a Boomer need a larger home because children and/or grandchildren are living with Boomers in those households.
Also, in 2005, more than 50% of seniors were living in multi-family units by the time they turned 75 years old. Today, seniors delay making that move into multi-family units until they turn 80 years old.
So yes, it would appear, on paper at least, that Boomers with now-too-large homes could sell those homes, downsize to smaller digs and, in turn, help ease the housing crunch young families are experiencing. But, again, being able to downsize and actually downsizing are two different things.
Boomers may be a help to their children’s families who need supplemental financial and/or childcare support but they are not currently an answer to help ease the shortage of the single-family housing. Perhaps helping enable homebuilders to build more entry-level single-family-homes might be viable option to explore.