In many neighborhoods, baby boomers are hanging onto their properties into their elder years, adding to the frustrations of millennials struggling to step onto the first rung of the housing ladder. The obvious result: rising prices.
“Home price appreciation continues to outpace wage growth,” says Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at Attom Data Solutions (attomdata.com), which tracks real estate markets throughout the country.
But one subgroup of boomers is finally releasing their houses, clearing the way for the next generation to take occupancy of their dwellings. These are seniors selling to move closer to their grown offspring.
Take the real-life example of a pair in their early 70s. They’ve owned their modest ranch-style house in a leafy middle-class suburb since the 1970s. But now that their only child has given birth to a daughter, they’re finally planning to sell and buy a condo near the baby’s parents' house.
Thanks to home price gains, some older owners can now afford to cash out of one property and buy another closer to their kids, says Victoria Mendenhall, a real estate broker since 1998.
“Family, and particularly grandchildren, are now a bigger factor in determining where people choose to retire,” says Mendenhall, who specializes in working with older clients and is affiliated with the Seniors Real Estate Council (seniorsrealestate.com).
Here are a few pointers for grandparents planning a move:
-- Don’t assume you need fancy entertainment options for the kids.
In an attempt to attract more frequent visits from grandchildren, some seniors decide to live in a community that offers easy access to such commercial entertainment features as an amusement park or a miniature golf course.
But Judy Luna, a veteran real estate broker, says retirees shouldn’t plan their move on the basis of kid-oriented tourist attractions. That’s because most communities offer enough in the way of recreation to keep most kids happy.
“It’s ideal -- but not necessary -- to have a neighborhood swimming pool the kids can use when weather is right. But you don’t need a lot of other major entertainment attractions,” says Luna, who’s affiliated with the Residential Real Estate Council (crs.com).
-- Challenge the notion that you’ll need an oversized yard for the kids.
Luna attempts to dissuade older buyers from seeking a property with a large yard, unless they’re devoted gardeners and have the stamina to maintain the property or can easily hire contractors to do so.
“To meet your grandchildren’s needs, you’re actually better off living near a park with a playground than having a big yard. Also, a small yard will certainly mean less upkeep for you,” she says.
-- Pick a setting with calm streets where kids can play safely.
One factor some older buyers overlook when selecting a grandchild-friendly community is the level of traffic coming through the area.
“You won’t want to live in a heavily traveled neighborhood or on a main road,” Luna says. As she observes, a road with a lot of traffic brings noise and fumes into your habitat. It can also pose obvious risks to the safety of your grandchildren.
Ideally, you’ll choose a property that’s located on a quiet cul-de-sac or a dead-end street. But if that’s unavailable, Luna says you’ll at least want to position yourself on a calm street with relatively little through traffic.
Making sure children are protected from road hazards is especially important if the grandparents intend to provide day care for very young children. But it’s also vital for older kids, who enjoy riding bikes and playing ball on neighborhood streets.
-- Seek a home with an extra bedroom or suite.
Many older buyers plan to downsize to a smaller property after selling the large family home where they’ve lived for years.
But Tom Early, a real estate broker who twice served as president of the National Association of Exclusive Buyers Agents (naeba.org), recommends that those hoping for overnight visits from family buy a place with at least one guest bedroom.
“Granted, your family can always check into a hotel. But it’s a lot more fun if everyone stays under the same roof and you can easily share those great pancake breakfasts,” Early says.
-- Rule out any community that limits family visits.
Though the Great Recession is in the past, Early says many grown children, including those with young kids, are still moving in with parents when facing a financial crunch or to save money.
If you’re an older homebuyer facing this possibility, he recommends you closely examine the rules or regulations that could limit your ability to house family members.
“It’s really shocking to see how many new condo and townhouse developments have deeds that severely limit how long guests can stay over,” Early says.
Often, the written rules governing guest visits are not enforced. But it’s always possible that leaders of the residents’ association will demand you follow the rules to the letter. That could mean, for instance, that your newly divorced son couldn’t move into your place with his toddler -- not even temporarily -- until he can afford to buy his own home.
“It can be painful to be forced to turn away family who need to live with you for one reason or another. Life is much too short to accept such draconian restraints,” Early says.
(To contact Ellen James Martin, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)