In the coming years, baby boomers will be moving on (inching further through the python, if you will). “They will want to sell their homes, and they’re hoping there are people behind them to buy their homes,” says Nelson, director of the Metropolitan Research Center at the University of Utah. He expects that in growing metros like Atlanta and Dallas, those buyers will be waiting. But elsewhere, in shrinking and stagnant cities across the country, the story will be quite different. Nelson calls what’s coming the “great senior sell-off.” It’ll start sometime later this decade (Nelson is defining baby boomers as those people born between 1946 and 1964). And he predicts that it could cause our next real housing crisis.
“Ok, if there’s 1.5 to 2 million homes coming on the market every year at the end of this decade from senior households selling off,” Nelson asks, “who’s behind them to buy? My guess is not enough.”…
A vast majority of today’s households with children still want such houses, Nelson says. But about a quarter of them want something else, like condos and urban townhouses. That demand “used to be almost zero percent, and if it’s now 25 percent,” Nelson says, “that’s a small share of the market but a huge shift in the market.” And this is half of the reason why many baby boomers may not find buyers for their homes. “Even if the numbers matched,” Nelson says, “the preferences don’t.”
Demographics will further complicate this picture. We’re moving toward a future in America when minorities will become the majority. But given entrenched educational achievement gaps, particularly for the fast-growing Hispanic population, Nelson fears that the U.S. is not doing a good job educating the “new majority” to make the kinds of incomes that will be required to buy the homes we’ve already built.
A number of commentators have argued we may be on the verge of this with younger generations have less interest in owning a home. I haven’t seen an argument about the demographic angle before but it is also intriguing.
The article also hints that this phenomenon might not be evenly spread across the United States. What happens to exurban locations as Baby Boomers and others desire more urban locations? What happens to communities with bigger homes that people no longer want? While these sorts of problems in the United States have been localized in places like Detroit, this could become a bigger issue.
This may be a larger problem involving more people than Baby Boomers. What if a county or society makes a rapid switch away from homeownership and toward renting? What happens to that existing housing stock?