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There’s a segment of the real estate population that often goes forgotten—baby boomers.

The baby boomers, a generation in which the oldest members are now approaching their mid-70s, have a homeownership rate of about 80 percent, according to the Berkeley Economic Review. While the millennial generation has surpassed baby boomers in size, this aging population makes up a significant portion of the real estate market, and agents should be prepared to help them navigate buying and selling while keeping their unique needs in mind.

What does that entail? Being knowledgeable about retirement and aging-in-place trends can help agents to better serve their baby boomer clients. Here, industry experts with experience in the senior home-buying and -selling markets share their insights.

Where Are They Going?
According to Linda Hollister, a REALTOR® with Compass, most seniors are either taking their equity out of the area or state, or moving into retirement facilities or condos near downtown or places that allow for easy walking.

“Single-story living arrangements are preferred,” Hollister says, a trend confirmed by a recent 55places 2019 National Housing Survey that found 48 percent said it was a top feature for their new home.

If these homeowners own second homes, they could be selling their primary residence, moving full-time into their secondary property. This is something Kathy Sperl-Bell, associate broker and REALTOR® at Active Adults Realty, has seen firsthand by working the Coastal Delaware market, which she says has always been a strong second-home and vacation-home market.

According to the 55places report, which surveyed a majority of respondents aged 55 or over, states with moderate climates are becoming more popular, but the top desired states are Florida, New Jersey, California, Arizona and Pennsylvania.

What Is the Motivation?
“The kids are finally out of the house,” is one of this generation’s biggest incentives for moving, says Judy Hanson, vice president of the J Barrett & Company Ipswich, Mass., office. In addition, hitting retirement age is another big one, she says.

Sperl-Bell has heard of reasoning that ranges from loss of a spouse, being closer to family, focusing on their health and being closer to medical facilities, and downsizing from a home that is too large. The 55places report found that 27 percent of respondents cited downsizing as a key driver for moving.

In terms of her specific market, Sperl-Bell says the following attract retirement-aged homeowners to second-home and vacation areas:

  • Taxes: “Compared to surrounding states in the Mid-Atlantic Region and in the Northeast, Delaware taxes are the lowest. Also, Delaware has no sales tax.”
  • Location: “Baby boomers’ children, grandchildren, family and friends may still live in the Northeast or Mid-Atlantic states. Delaware is a great central location.”

Sometimes the motivation can change over time, says Hollister, especially for those who decide to move to another state.

“Several seniors moved away years ago to nice areas only to realize that they are too far away from their grandchildren,” says Hollister. “If they can afford to, many have moved back to be closer to the kids.”

That’s where guidance comes in. Knowing these trends can help agents when assisting their senior clients.

What Are Their Unique Agent Needs?
Baby boomers heavily rely on agents when making a big aging-driven move, but they are looking for specific traits.

For example, the 55places report found that 80 percent of respondents want to ensure their agent is knowledgeable about their preferred market area, but 62 percent also value responsiveness and 32 percent look for availability. In terms of what they want out of the relationship, 59 percent said strong price negotiations, 54 percent prioritize comparable property listings and 43 percent focus on pictures and home features.

Hanson suggests that agents manage these relationships a little differently than other clients.

“They like to take it slower and not be rushed into things. They get nervous as many have not purchased a home in many, many years, and it has changed from a handshake,” says Hanson.

Sperl-Bell says it’s also important not to stereotype people.

“Understand that ‘senior’ doesn’t really fit,” says Sperl-Bell. “No baby boomer thinks of themselves as a senior. There are active adults and then there are seniors.”

It’s also about knowing what their specific needs are.

“They worked hard and they want to feel rewarded,” adds Sperl-Bell. “Relocation is not easy for everyone and they need to feel like they will make new friends and feel welcome.”

Hollister says they want the information upfront, stating they are “interested in hearing anything and making up their minds accordingly.”

Are They Still in Debt?
With previous mortgage tax law, carrying monthly property loan debt was more advantageous for homeowners. Now, however, the benefit is largely gone for many. Has that changed the way retiree-aged individuals are buying? Low interest rates may be actually incentivizing more buyers to purchase through financing, experts say.

“We used to see about 50/50,” says Sperl-Bell of the ratio of senior clients buying with a mortgage, “but lately we are seeing more of our clients getting a mortgage, even though some may be small.

“If they are buying new construction and a small mortgage will enable them to upgrade and get exactly what they dreamed of, that’s what they do,” she adds, emphasizing that baby boomers are not afraid of debt like their parents may have been.

These homeowners may also not be as financially crunched in their retirement as perceived. According to Hanson, “most can make the move without selling their present home.”

Holding onto debt, however, can be a good thing, according to the New York Times. Some homeowners are choosing to continue carrying their home loans as a security measure against inflation.

Giving Them What They Need
Perhaps the most important thing to know is what the aging population wants out of a home, focusing specifically on the amenities.

Sperl-Bell says most of the senior clients she’s worked with want most lawn maintenance included, as well as other specialized amenities such as a clubhouse and outdoor pool. She emphasizes that it’s never a one-size-fits-all situation with this generation.

Hanson says the following are the most-requested amenities: a first-floor master, handicap baths, garages and easy maintenance.

The 55places report says 64 percent of respondents desire a fitness center, 59 percent want an outdoor pool, 42 percent look for a gated entrance, 50 percent want an outdoor walking or running trail and 37 percent prefer an indoor pool.

“We need to listen to them and help them make good decisions,” says Hanson of working with the aging population. “Most have not done this since they bought their first home, and things are all new to them.”

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com.

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