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Baby Boomer housing needs

In Australia, baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, are shaping the housing landscape with their unique preferences.

Today, this cohort are between 60 and 78 years of age. There are over 4.1 million baby boomers in Australia, and this generation is expected to grow by 133,500 people per annum over the next five years.

If this happens, baby boomers will account for a third of Australia’s population growth between 2024 and 2029, making this generation the biggest age-related growth sector over this period.

Boomer's needs for housing

So, what does this generation want when it comes to housing?

As they transition into retirement or semi-retirement, many baby boomers are opting to downsize from larger family homes to more manageable properties.

This trend is driven by a desire to reduce expenses and simplify their lifestyles.

Age-friendly housing options are increasingly sought after, with features like single-level layouts and room to house visiting family and friends becoming essential.

This ‘spare’ room - given our polling over recent years - is best if it can play a multifunctional role (i.e., used as an office or escape space) and is somewhat distant from the rest of the home.

This can be achieved via a backyard home or dual occupancy arrangement. Also, when it comes to apartments and townhouses, this distance can be achieved by thoughtful layout and the provision of an ensuite.

Being able to lock-up this new home and travel is also of importance to many.

Proximity to amenities is crucial and healthcare services important, as baby boomers prioritise convenience and accessibility in their housing choices. While some opt for traditional retirement communities, many prefer mixed-age neighbourhoods that offer opportunities for social interaction and community engagement.

Location plays a significant role, with preferences leaning towards either very urban locales with cultural attractions or regional hubs with facilities plus natural beauty.

Financial considerations are paramount, with baby boomers aiming to maximize home equity and secure their long-term financial well-being. Downsizing allows them to free up funds for retirement savings or lifestyle pursuits, while options like reverse mortgages provide flexibility in accessing home equity.

Yet, as a general rule of thumb, baby boomers like to have at least 20% cash in their pockets when it comes to selling the family home and buying their downsizing residence.

Sometimes - well to be honest, often - downsizers cannot find value for money when it comes to selling their family home and securing a nearby smaller housing option. So a backyard home can also work, allowing them to move into this new smaller space and ‘renting’ out the main residence to their children or others.

Overall, baby boomers in Australia seek housing options that cater to their evolving needs, from downsizing to age-friendly features, proximity to amenities, and financial security. Understanding and addressing these preferences are central for meeting the housing needs of this demographic.

In summary baby boomers are after these housing related items:

1. Age-in-place features: Incorporate design elements such as single-level layouts, wider doorways, accessible bathrooms and functional to accommodate potential mobility issues and allow for aging in place. Also make sure there is room to house family and friends, via a spare bedroom plus ensuite.

Again backyard homes and/or dual occupancy style housing is in high demand here.

2. Low maintenance: Offer housing options that require minimal upkeep, including features like manageable outdoor spaces, durable materials, and optional maintenance services.

3. Community amenities: Provide opportunities for social engagement and recreational activities within the community, such as clubhouse facilities, walking trails, and fitness centres, to support active lifestyles and foster a sense of community.

4. Location and accessibility: Offer housing options in walkable neighbourhoods with easy access to amenities such as grocery stores, restaurants, and public transportation, allowing for independent living and maintaining social connections.

5. Proximity to healthcare: Ensure convenient access to medical facilities, pharmacies, and healthcare services to meet the healthcare needs of aging residents.

 

Michael Matusik is an Australian housing market specialist, providing commissioned housing and demographic market reviews, updates and outlooks for over 30 years, and shares his thoughts in his blog, Matusik Missive.

 

22 Comments
Peter C
May 10, 2024

I don’t know if it is true, but many years ago I read an article that in Japan the baby boom happened between the wars and not so much after WWIi. This combined with a lack of immigration to Japan may explain why Japan aged quicker than the rest of the developed world.
Japan is a good case study of what our future may look like. With declining population, economic stagnation (not necessarily decline), ever increasing Government debt and more individual poverty it is not a pretty picture.

john
April 21, 2024

In regard to "downsize from larger family homes".
We found this unviable because anything smaller did not give us money left over. With the cost of a newer home being higher even though substantially smaller. I mean a newer home like talked about above. Mainly because of real estate, developer and profit taking costs. Plus there are a myriad of other costs when moving that have to be taken into account.
I could give a long list and landscaping is just one of those.
On doing the 'Maths' it was better to 'Upsize" and get the valuable aged pension.
Or would Centrelink deny that ?? Because it would be terrible to be caught out like that.

Peter B
April 21, 2024

How can baby boomers who are already here account for future population growth? They can account for demographic changes within the population, but they are not being born as boomers or migrating here as boomers. As a 70 year old who still works 3 days a week, I get a little tired of hearing that boomers are responsible for everything that is wrong.

Bob Jarvie
April 21, 2024

Totally agree.I think boomers are probably the fastest shrinking generation in total numbers. The increase in the other alpha mash of generations can only be by immigration which is set by government policy. Hopefully no decisions are made on these figures

Mike
April 21, 2024

Yep, exactly my first thought. Population growth by baby boomer generation? Does not compute!

Geoff
April 20, 2024

As a younger boomer, the list of boomer requirements for housing above is completely irrelevant to me. It just feeds into the tropes that retirees are all old and frail and have special needs.

I just upsized. It has stairs. I'm fitter than I've been for decades and relatively healthy. I'm as close to health care and amenities as anyone who lives in a suburb in a city.

I'll worry about the list when I get to 75, perhaps.

Disgruntled
April 20, 2024

We never know what's around the corner for us.
I'll be retiring at 60 and will buy a place of my own, currently renting, it will be single storey, whilst I have no mobility issues, I don't want to be going up and down stairs as I get older.

My father retired at 62 and he and my stepmother bought a campervan and a couple of months a year would travel Australia. They went overseas a few times. Around 75, sold the van and settled down to more simple lifestyle. Around 80 my father went blind, a few years later dementia set in. He passed a couple of weeks ago.

Ram
April 21, 2024

My only comment is it would be useful if the various "generations " are referenced with actual age ranges instead of some vague descriptives or alphabets. I'm sure I'm not the only one scrambling for a cheat sheet to figure out what they all mean. BTW, who came up with "baby boomers" ? ... exploding babies ? Better to stay with actual numbers. Thanks.

Graham W
April 21, 2024

It was started after the end of the second world war when the returning servicemen were able to have families. With an average of three per family, it was indeed a boom in births.

John Pracy
April 22, 2024

Baby boomers was a term that was bandied around many many years ago.
Referring to the birth explosion that occurred after the 2nd world war with returning soldiers, a brighter outlook for the future, more jobs (think reconstruction), more money, more home conveniences, etc.
I remember when I was young, there were schools everywhere to cater for this generation, big families and heaps of kids playing on the streets.
As they grew up, many schools had to close and the streets lost these kids.
Baby boomers dictated Government policy for years as it tried to cater for them.
They now wag the tail of the Government who know their voting power come election time.
All the other generation tags mimicked this tag.

Peter K
April 19, 2024

Firstly, Editor would you please delete the Lombard comment above. It is offensive and (at least partly) inaccurate. I've seen reports showing that 25 - 30% of baby boomers are still renting for example. I read most of these articles with interest and very often the intelligent and thoughtful responses are as educational as the articles themselves. Growth in Baby Boomers? Is there a special Boomer migration programme I haven't heard of? Other countries have them - bringing in wealthy retirees to spend their money there. Australia is too expensive for most, I think.

James Gruber
April 19, 2024

Peter, apologises, that's deleted.

Dave
April 19, 2024

Glad I'm not the only one who thought this! There are zero new baby boomers being minted (in fact they'll be the fastest dying cohort in time), only new babies. The generations coming after the boomers will enter those age brackets in time and create their own needs for housing, healthcare etc and bring their own spending profiles, voting patterns and broad beliefs with them.

Disgruntled
April 20, 2024

Baby Boomers and GenX will be at the stage of parents dying if not already passed. Transfer of wealth from those parents to their kids is in play.
The house will be sold, inheritance split, the more kids, the less each receives. $1.5M between 4 is not the same as $1.5M to one.

Where will that money go? Pay off existing property? Help Grandkids buy? Saved and invested? Spent on travel and luxuries?

Then we have Baby Boomers and GenX retiring over the next 10 to 15 years with their higher Superannuation balanced. Where will that money go? Housing also, or lifestyle?

David Williams
April 18, 2024

Very useful summary. Thanks. There is another perspective on the housing crisis that highlights the importance of an effective national longevity strategy.
It’s clear that our obsession with retirement, fueled by the early ‘retirement’ signpost of age 67, is driving unhelpful short-term decisions. By being better informed about their potential longevity and the realistic alternatives to making the best of it, many people would select working longer as a sensible response. In doing so, they would reduce the pressure on availability of housing created by encouraging the entry of non-student immigrants who have an immediate housing need. The current response is that we ‘need’ high immigration to counter expected labour shortages which fuels inflationary pressures.
Educating and encouraging (even incentivising) older Australians to remain employed longer would reduce housing pressures (they are already housed), improve their health and general financial well-being and hopefully even begin to change our attitude to ‘entitled retirement’. It would also help governments by deferring and lowering the costs of supporting those who cannot or choose not to contribute.
Time is the bottom line in this. Everyone needs support in better planning their longevity (not just financially) and governments need to inform and support Australians in making better longevity decisions. Super funds and financial advisers also have a pivotal opportunity to influence this to their benefit and that of their clients and members.

Andrew Smith
April 19, 2024

Agree with most, except on this 'The current response is that we ‘need’ high immigration to counter expected labour shortages which fuels inflationary pressures'.

That maybe partly true but they are neither 'high skilled' nor a permanent cohort, with work restrictions simply doing more hospitality, retail, cleaning, logistics, care etc., and as the article suggests, in future there will be more retirees &/or older dependents accessing budgets and services more.

The mislabelled 'immigration' (confuses people with capped permanent migration) ignores that students are temporary residents, compulsory private health insurance etc., pay GST etc. and majority depart, this in turn supports budgets vs fewer working age taxpayers; 'net financial contributors'.

See OECD where old age dependency ratios older vs working age are increasing; imo till the boomer 'bomb', last high fertility generation passes by mid century, then population pyramid rebalances.

David Williams
April 19, 2024

Thanks Andrew. I have no issue with the benefits of student immigrants, even though many older working age people are capable of filling the gaps you mention, and do elsewhere (eg NZ). The housing impact may be shorter term but the longer term effects are also important - helping older people frame their longevity better and take less account of the outdated 'retirement' roadblock. A very good National Seniors article yesterday reports that extending working life is happening here anyway. We need to better promote that and other valuable longevity insights and use all the levers we can to maximise the benefits of an older community, not just focus on the cost.

Trevor
April 21, 2024

We need immigration of skilled tradesmen.

Dean
April 18, 2024

I think you'll find the age group of 60 - 78 is expected to grow by 133,500 people per annum. Rather than the baby boomer generation as you state. I don't become a boomer just because I turn 60.

Geoff
April 19, 2024

Spot on Dean, first thing I saw as well.

Jeremy Campbell
April 19, 2024

Thanks for pointing that out, and saving me the trouble. I was gobsmacked that someone could get something so basic, so wrong

Ward
April 22, 2024

Thanks Dean, I was wondering how long it would take for someone to point out the obvious!

 

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