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Baby Boomer Real Estate Trends

Those of us tagged as members of the "Baby Boomer" generation (born 1946 to 1964, so I am six months shy of being a Gen-Xer) are part of an explosion of births that occurred in the prosperous post-World War II era. Baby boom kids came of age in the 1960s and 1970s, and this generation of Americans has come to wield an enormous amount of political, financial and social influence over the last 30 years.

Recognizing this fact, Coldwell Banker Real Estate recently took a look at the buying and selling trends of the demographic. However, they analyzed their recorded data with a twist: by dividing the baby boomer generation into two different age categories, they noticed areas of commonality, as well as great disparity, between younger Boomers (ages 47-55) and older Boomers (56-64). Given that 79 million Americans fall into one or the other grouping, the division resulted in some interesting findings.

Coldwell Banker broke down the results of its survey of over 1,300 real estate agents, all of whom consider baby boomers to be a large part of their customer base, into four major categories:

1. Upgrading

Who doesn't want a bigger place if they can afford it? Apparently older baby boomers. A mere 6 percent of surveyed agents reported that those in the 56-64 age category are looking to sell their home in favor of a larger one.

Conversely, 31 percent of the queried real estate professionals reported that younger boomers, aged 47-55, would like more living space. This seems to make sense when you consider that the younger segment of this demographic is more likely to have growing children who need a little more room.

2. Downsizing

You may not be surprised to learn that the roles are reversed when it comes to this trend. Some 80 percent of Coldwell Banker's agents shared that clients at the upper end of the boomer age spectrum would like to trade down for a smaller home. Only 52 percent reported the same desire of their younger baby boomer clients.

Although the weak economy and anemic housing market are certainly a factor, apparently it doesn't all come down to money. Only 28 percent of the agents said their clients were motivated by finances. A much larger 49 percent of agents shared that their customers just want to live a little more simply.

3. Vacation Homes/Investment Properties

Once again we find a marked difference in the buying patterns between the two groups of baby boomers. Only 22 percent of surveyed agents reported that older clients are in search of a second property. By contrast, 34 percent said that younger boomers are interested in acquiring additional real estate.

Again, we may be able to infer that younger boomers are more likely to have children at home, which would make the search for vacation homes more attractive, as well as the desire to invest in the future. Older boomers may be more likely to have a look at the depressed housing market - and stay away.

4. Housing Stock

Roughly 47 percent of real estate professionals said that older boomers are not interested in the single-family home, which may relate to the downsizing trend. Instead, this group is looking for condos or townhomes with less maintenance and upkeep requirements. At the same time, a whopping 82 percent of Coldwell Banker agents shared that their younger clients are in the market for a single-family home.

What do these variances in buying patterns say about the two groups of baby boomers, the economy's affect on purchasing habits and the housing market in general?

According to Jim Gillespie, CEO of Coldwell Banker Real Estate, "The baby boomer generation has driven the U.S. economy for years, and like many Americans, they may be anxious about their next real estate decision."

"I know baby boomers are a very diverse group and cannot be described in generalities, but our survey clearly indicates that those boomers who are financially secure are actively seeking to buy their retirement home, or a second home, and they are taking advantage of the opportunities and value available in today's market," he added

Are you part of the "younger" or "older" baby boomer generation? Do you agree with the findings of Coldwell Banker's survey?
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Ilyce R. Glink is the author of several books, including 100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask and Buy, Close, Move In!. She blogs about money and real estate at ThinkGlink.comand The Equifax Personal Finance Blog, and is Chief Content Strategist at RealtyJoin.com.
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