Baby Boomers Prefer to Upsize, Despite Empty Nests

Though their nests may be emptying, baby boomers prefer to upsize their homes rather than opt for smaller residences, according to recent survey data from Trulia.

Despite what conventional wisdom may have suggested in the past, baby boomers — those age 55 and older — would rather live in a larger home than a smaller one.

When asked about what their ideal home size, 26% said they wanted a larger home, while 21% said their ideal residence would be smaller than their current home. Though only a five percentage point difference between the two preferences, it is clear that boomers do not feel a “massive yearn to downsize,” Trulia says. 

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On the contrary, however, just over half (53%) of boomers said they are are already living in their ideally-sized home. Even so, members of this older generation were still more likely to want to downsize than millennials (13%) and GenXers (14%). 

“Of course, age doesn’t tell the whole story about why people might want to downsize,” writes Trulia Housing Economist Ralph McLaughlin. “It could be that certain kinds of households — such as those without children, and living in the suburbs or in affordable areas — might be more likely to live in larger homes than they need.”

Households that fit this description, however, are about twice as likely to want a larger home than a smaller one, especially for those living in the suburbs. 

For those with children, 39% prefer to upsize compared to 18% who would rather have a smaller home. Meanwhile, for those living in the ‘burbs, the difference is even greater at 42% want-to-be upsizers to 16% downsizers.

The size of one’s current residence plays a contributing factor in the desire to either upsize or downsize, especially among households living in homes larger than 3,200 square feet.

Of this group, 26% wanted to downsize versus 25% that prefer the opposite. Though only a mere 1% difference, Trulia finalized overall survey responses based on the size of respondents’ current residences. What it found was households that wanted a larger home “kicked up” as current home size went down.

 For example, among households living in 2,600 – 3,200 sq. ft. homes; 37% prefer a larger home compared to 16% for a smaller home.

In homes ranging from 2,000 – 2,600 sq. ft.; the preferences become 34% wanting larger homes versus 18% wanting smaller homes. Among those living in homes ranging from 1,400 to 2,000 sq. ft.; 38% desire a larger residence, while 18% prefer a smaller space. 

“The ‘ideal’ sized home for most Americans may be larger than where they’re living now,” writes McLaughlin. “But that spacious dream home may not be practical. As a result, the mismatch between what Americans say they want and what best suits their circumstances may persist.”

Read more at Trulia. 

Written by Jason Oliva

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  • If this survey is limited to baby boomers than their attitudes at their respective ages are little different than their predecessors. January 1, 2015 was date when the first Baby Boomers turned 69 and the last of the youngest Baby Boomers had just turned 50 the day before (i.e., 12/31/2014).

    When I turned 50, I was at the start of my best earning years with one child through his first year of college and the second still in junior high. Like my mother at the same age, I wanted a bigger home in a better community with higher upgrades. We were not about to begin retirement and seeking the refuge of downsizing, not just yet.

    Although not 69, I certainly have a number of friends who are and whose outlook is the same as mine. We will stick out our relative situations until it is no longer reasonably feasible to do so but that appears to be a few decades from now. Those with the greatest health concerns are looking to make their space more accommodating or moving. One is going from Seattle to Phoenix. Another left Los Angeles a few years ago to go to Urbana, IL to be close to a daughter and grandchildren while downsizing in the move to minimize the impact of poorer weather.

    So survey results are not unexpected but rather look at a huge generation in transition from their best income years into retirement.

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