Baby Boomers: Why You Shouldn’t Wait to Buy a Forever Home

Baby Boomers: Why You Shouldn’t Wait to Buy a Forever Home

Posted on Aug 12, 2021

The baby boomers have finally reached their golden years: with an age range of 57 to 75 years old, many of them are now retiring, traveling, and downsizing their homes; or are they?

Although conventional wisdom indicates that baby boomers are eager to find their “forever home,” or what's also called a “sunset home” - as in, the home they want to spend their remaining years in - the opposite is often true. Many baby boomers are delaying their move to a smaller, more convenient, and easy-to-navigate home, despite their old home no longer meeting their needs.

There’s a variety of reasons for this baby boomer trend, but more importantly, there are plenty more reasons why they should sell their current home and move into their forever home now, rather than waiting another few years.

Here’s what you need to know. 

Mobility Issues Happen Quickly

Aging seniors tend to downplay the difficulties of aging/decreased mobility and, as a result, often pay the price - quite literally. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults 65 years and older spend $50 billion annually on medical costs related to nonfatal fall injuries, while costs related to fatal falls total $754 million. Unsafe homes pose a real - and expensive - risk to seniors.

In May, The New York Times published a prescient piece about the challenges that aging boomers are facing, noting that delaying a move to a more suitable home means that those decisions then tend to be made in the more chaotic, confusing time after an accident happens. 

“More often than not, changes are hurriedly made in response to a fall, accident or medical diagnosis,” the article notes. "For the country’s swiftly growing older population, safety-focused attention to detail is essential to healthy home life." By proactively planning for the difficulties of aging, seniors can get ahead of these issues - and potentially even prevent them from happening in the first place. 

Part of their reluctance to move and acknowledge the difficulties of aging is likely due to generational pride in independence. 

“Baby boomers are a special breed—they are resilient, independent, and have navigated life with ingenuity and creativity in solving problems,” explains David Bernstein, MD. “They feel they can endure, and I believe they are sometimes ill-prepared for what lies ahead. They kick the can down the road, become less active… then the crisis hits, and families become overwhelmed with stress and guilt.”

While moving out of a big family house may be emotionally taxing, pro-active planning for the future and moving to a more suitable home allows baby boomers to carefully consider how to accommodate their future mobility issues/age-related limitations.

Aging in Place in a Big Home Isn’t Easy

When you’re relatively young and limber, it’s easy to downplay the difficulty of navigating your home when you’re older. You might assume that making your home aging-friendly is as easy as just adding a walker to the mix, or removing easy-to-trip-on rugs. However, as our Aging in Place guide documents, there’s a lot more to it than that. 

Most homes just aren’t set up to truly account for future mobility issues. The majority of people 65 and older live in homes with stairs, according to the AARP - yet 40% of people in their 80s report serious difficulty climbing stairs. Why wait until your mobility issues set in - and a potential accident occurs - to make the move? 

In many ways, moving into a home that is already well-designed as a sunset home is easier than installing a $4,000 stairlift, renovating your bathroom to be senior-friendly, or having to hire someone to mow your lawn twice a month because you don’t live in a neighborhood with an HOA.

“Boomers delaying trading their family home for their forever home or not upgrading their family home to account for aging are taking a gamble on increasing their risk of slipping or tripping and falling,” warns Karen Condor, a Greenville, SC-based home safety expert with “If a baby boomer holds onto a house that’s not a good match for their retirement years, their decreased mobility, dexterity, and strength could cause challenges and perhaps even impossibilities in navigating stairs and narrow doorways and reaching shelving that is too high.”

Is Your Neighborhood Walkable?

It’s not just inside the house that matters, either: according to the AARP, seniors outlive their ability to drive by an average of 7-10 years. This means that aging baby boomers should prioritize being in a more walkable community since it can be difficult to predict when driving will become unsafe - and once that happens, retirees can become “stranded” in their own homes when those homes are located in un-walkable communities.

This is all the more reason to get into a forever home now, rather than later, especially considering that young homebuyers also prioritize walkability. Competition for these communities will only grow as more millennials and Gen-Zs enter the housing market.

Curious as to how your area (or future neighborhood) stacks up? Walk Score can tell you just how walkable a neighborhood or city is. Tampa, FL for example, has a walk score of 49 - which means that some but not all errands can be accomplished on foot. On the other hand, its suburb of Temple Terrace, with a lower score of 37, is a car-dependent neighborhood.


There’s a Baby Boomer Housing Bubble

We’ve written about this issue before, but to recap: baby boomers currently own a large percentage of the country’s housing stock - a total of about 32 million homes. At some point, though, baby boomers will want to sell their large, difficult-to-care-for homes, whether that’s to downsize, move in with relatives, or switch to a retirement home - and millions of them are going to be selling at the same time. 

This has the potential to essentially flood the real estate market with homes - and frequently, these are homes that millennials and the upcoming Gen-Z generation aren’t as interested in. Business Insider has documented how millennials prefer homes centered around urban cores, whereas many baby boomer homes are located in the suburbs where everything is a drive away. Millennials are also dealing with the burden of student debt, and are often looking for much smaller, more reasonably-priced homes than the 6-bedroom, 3,000 sq. feet homes that baby boomers built throughout the early 2000s.

Right now, the real estate market is so lopsided that baby boomers can get a great price for a home they sell almost anywhere. Eventually, though, supply will likely increase and demand will cool - and when that happens, baby boomers might get stuck having to undersell the homes they’ve put so much equity into. 

By selling now when the market is at an all-time high and moving to a home that they know can better accommodate their future needs, baby boomers can make the most of their housing equity.

Sell While the Market is High; Use the Equity to Fund Your Dream Home

Should I sell my house? The housing market is red-hot right now - but there’s no telling how long the feeding frenzy will last. By selling a home they are aging out of today - rather than waiting several years for the market to cool - baby boomers can make the most of their equity, and use it to fund their dream forever home (whatever that may look like). 

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