7 Baby Boomer housing needs you should know

by Peter Thomas Ricci


At 75 million strong, the Baby Boomer generation comprises just over a quarter of the U.S. population, and as such, it wields considerable sway on the direction of the country’s economy – particularly in the area of housing.

Indeed, today’s 65 year old, according to new research from Freddie Mac, is set to reap a 3.7-time return on their home, given how prices have increased since their purchase. “The rate of return on this investment is hard to beat,” wrote Sean Becketti, Freddie’s chief economist.

But how will the housing market change as Baby Boomers look to cash in on their real estate investments? Freddie’s research delved into that very question, and provided a fascinating perspective on Baby Boomers and their housing preferences. Below, we’ve detailed seven of the report’s findings:

1. Boomers are Different – Baby Boomers differ from other generations in two main ways. First, they are far less diverse than the Gen X and Millennial generations – per Freddie Mac’s report, 75 percent of Boomers are white, compared to 57 percent of Americans younger than 55; similarly, only 9 percent of Boomers are Hispanic, compared to 21 percent of other Americans.

Second, Baby Boomers are staying in the labor force longer than past generations, thanks to longer life expectancies and added financial needs to accommodate those extra years. In the early ’90s, just over 30 percent of Americans aged 55 and older were still part of the labor force, but today, more than 40 percent are (and nearly 20 percent of Americans aged 65 and over).

2. Aging in Place – Much ink has been spilt on where Baby Boomers will move when they retire, but Freddie’s survey actually found that nearly two thirds want to remain in their current residence, with 37 percent stating they will likely move at least once. Among Baby Boomers who are “very satisfied” with where they live, 60 percent cited their community as the reason, and 65 percent cited their specific house.

3. Unfit Accommodations – Although many Baby Boomers are intent on staying put and aging in their homes, not all of them are confident in how well their homes will suit their changing needs. While 77 percent stated they will stay in their home without making any renovations, 23 percent admitted that their home will require major renovations to accommodate their aging lifestyle, and among the 77 percent, Becketti noted that complementary research suggests they may be underestimating their homes’ need for renovation.

A large share of Boomers are unsure of how they would handle the costs of renovations. Nearly 20 percent would not be able to afford such renovations, and roughly 17 percent have not even considered how would they pay.

4. Renting ≠ Boomers – Among the Boomers who do intend to move, the vast majority will purchase their next residence, rather than rent. In Freddie’s survey, a whopping 79 percent of Young Boomers intend to buy, as do 71 percent of Old Boomers; in other words, roughly 18 million Boomers will be looking for homes in the next few years.

5. A Downsizing Generation? – Along with the desire to move, downsizing has also been a mantra in past coverage of Baby Boomers and their housing needs, with headline after headline suggesting that Boomers want to ditch their single-family homes for something smaller and more practical. Freddie’s survey, though, found that downsizing is only “very important” to 20 percent of Boomers. By contrast, 31 percent consider downsizing “not too important,” and 17 percent consider it “not at all important.”

The most important factor among Boomers was affordability, which 46 percent of respondents cited. Also notable were retirement-needed amenities (44 percent), low maintenance (41 percent), and proximity to family (31 percent).

6. Mortgage Considerations – Surprisingly, more than a third of Baby Boomers are still paying their mortgage, and among that group, a majority have at least 10 years left until their loan is paid (in fact, nearly 60 percent of both working and retired Boomers have a decade or more left on their mortgage).

7. A Comfortable Retirement – Finally, Freddie’s survey found that a small share of working Boomers are confident they will have a financially comfortable retirement. In perhaps the report’s most relevant finding to agents, only one-fifth of homeowning Boomers who are still working expressed such confidence, compared to a third of retired Boomers. Confidence was particularly weak among lower-income Boomers – for those earning less than $50,000 a year, only 11 percent of non-working Boomers think they’ll have a stable retirement, and only 19 percent of those retired think the same.

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