This article is written by a professor at the Wharton School who has a book coming out this week. It appears we have a glut of boomers – will we stay put, or sell the family homestead (once the covid is solved) and explore the world during retirement?
Population aging is a powerful force. By 2030 the population above age 60 will have grown so much that other generations like millennials and Gen-Z will be outnumbered by them in Europe, China, Japan and the United States.
Each day, 12,000 Americans celebrate their 60th birthday; in China, 54,000; and in the world, about 210,000, according to the United Nations Population Division. The pandemic will only accelerate this trend given the predictable decline in fertility — which tends to occur whenever unemployment is high — and the shifting demographics of cases and deaths, which are trending younger as time goes by.
The 60+ crowd will become very important economically for three reasons.
First, they own more than half of the net worth around the world, a proportion that reaches 80 percent in the United States, according to a study by the Federal Reserve. Second, the same study concluded that the net worth of seniors is more evenly distributed than among younger age groups, and poverty rates are also lower. And third, their incomes tend to be more resilient because many of them depend on pensions or investment income, and they can do some work on the side to cover potential shortfalls.
Not all seniors are financially secure, but they tend to be less exposed to large-scale financial disruption during episodes of crisis. Moreover, there are 25 percent more women above the age of 60 than men, they tend to be much better at managing their money and making it last, and they account for a smaller percentage of COVID-related health problems and hospitalizations, mainly because they heed the advice of health authorities and they have more robust anti-viral immune responses to begin with.
The gray market is quickly becoming in vogue because ever larger proportions of seniors are enjoying life by using their income and wealth wisely to procure goods and services that enhance their experiences.
Moreover, a 70-year-old nowadays lives the life of a 50-year-old in the 1980s.
The pandemic has also accelerated the technological savviness of this group, and not just in the area of e-commerce. In fact, a study in the Journal of Gerontology found that use of the Internet increases cognitive functioning rather than vice versa. Myriad new applications in virtual reality, robotics, and artificial intelligence are seeking to capture a rapidly growing market.
Other areas of technology will help seniors live longer and more fulfilling lives. Virtual reality can stimulate motor functions and the overall performance of the nervous system, and it can help reduce loneliness, a key problem afflicting large numbers of people at advanced ages. Artificial intelligence and robotics will also contribute to quality of life. Over the last decade, Japanese companies have invested heavily in robotics to aid with daily tasks like lifting weights, conduct physiotherapy sessions, and provide for companionship.
We know that covid, and it’s impact on schooling in particular, is causing some people to want more space around them. Bigger houses, with bigger yards, are becoming more desirable…..and buyers are scrambling to get situated and comfortable before school starts – or at least not get too far into the school year.
The Poway area offers such relief at a fairly affordable price.
My buyers and I finalized this list of homes on Monday, and picked yesterday as our tour date. By Wednesday night, this is how the list looked:
17307 St Andrews Dr., Poway. $1,399,000 Active listing
14260 Hacienda Ln., Poway. $1,150,000 Active listing
16105 Lakeview Rd. Poway. $1,350,000 Active listing
12612 Stoutwood St., Poway. $1,070,000 Pending
13615 Sunset View Rd., Poway. $1,100,000 Pending
11828 Clearwood Ct., San Diego. $1,290,000 Pending
12429 Damasco St., San Diego. $920,000 Pending
14473 Trailwind, Poway $1,465,000 Pending
14220 Primrose Ct., Poway $1,249,000 Pending
3428 Tony Dr., San Diego $1,329,000 Pending
12020 Blue Diamond Ct., San Diego $1,300,000 Pending
9972 Falcon Bluff, San Diego $1,389,000 Pending
14048 Old Station, Poway $999,000 Pending
12488 Caleta Way, San Diego $1,098,000 Pending
13427 Calle Colina, Poway $1,250,000 Active listing
Out of the 15 listings, eleven of them already went pending this week!
After looking at several houses along Alabama’s Gulf Coast, my new wife and I decided the sunny cottage on Audubon Drive in Foley was the one—so long as the seller came down a little on the $145,000 asking price.
There were two bedrooms, two bathrooms, an attached garage, a tidy shed that was painted picnic-table red, and a pair of towering longleaf pines. It sat in an oval subdivision of cookie-cutter homes on a lot roughly the size of a basketball court. There was just enough room for the dog to run in the backyard without trampling the vegetable garden. It was convenient to my newspaper office in Foley’s antique downtown and to the elementary school in Gulf Shores where my wife taught kindergarten in a trailer parked outside of the overcrowded elementary school.
The beaches along the Gulf of Mexico were a short drive from the house. Just built and bland as an egg inside and out, it offered a blank canvas with years to go before we could expect major repairs. I replaced the tacky ceiling fans and planted bushes in my head as we looked around. The real estate agent walked us over to see the neighborhood playground.
A week before Thanksgiving in 2005, we signed papers to buy the house for $137,500. We painted the walls and hung blinds in time to have friends over for the holiday.
Twelve years later, little about my life remained the same. I’d left the Mobile newspaper to take a job at The Wall Street Journal. I was no longer married. Pierre, the dog, had died of old age. But I was still sending mortgage payments each month to a bank in Alabama.
I would have sold the house, and in fact I tried. But when the U.S. housing market collapsed in 2007, the property’s value fell far below the amount I had borrowed to buy it. Walking away was never an option. I’d signed papers promising to pay the money back and I intended to do so one way or another. In case my moral compass ever needed a shake, laws in Alabama, as in many states, allow lenders to pursue the difference between the mortgage debt on a property and what it fetches in a foreclosure sale. For much of the next decade, that number kept growing. At one point, it would have been more than $70,000.
Our new listing of a 2005-built home on a culdesac for only $739,000! The Zillow history shows that the house was rented the first of April, and as soon as the new tenant moved in, she told the landlord that she was not going to pay rent because of the eviction moratorium. The owner decides to cheap-sell it with a non-paying tenant inside, but no takers. The ensuing hysteria around the house caused by people thinking they might be able to buy one for $100k under value eventually caused the tenant to move out.
It’s more complicated to look at homes for sale these days. Open houses have been banned, everyone who enters must sign disclosures for each house in advance promising not to sue realtors if you get the bug, and of course you have to wear the PPE and sanitize before and after the experience.
It was already a challenge before Covid-19 to gather enough information in 10-20 minutes to make a decision that will affect the rest of your life. Compound the difficulty with a mask that makes it harder to breathe (and fogs up your glasses) while the listing agent is pestering you not to touch anything.
Today’s covid tip: TAKE A WORKSHEET WITH YOU.
Customize it with your own questions – here’s a start:
Is there a suitable downstairs-bedroom suite?
Is there extra space for office(s), or do I need to use a bedroom?
Is the floor plan suitable for longer quarantines?
Do I feel secure? Is it possible to improve security, and if so, how much cost?
Can I go in the backyard and relax day and night?
Does the kitchen have a gas or electric stove?
Is the fridge built-in, and if not, do I want the sellers to leave it behind?
Do I want the sellers leave the washer and dryer?
Does the garage have extra storage?
What improvements need to be done just to move in?
What improvements are needed long-term?
If the listing agent didn’t get the memo that matterport 3D tours are the worst thing for sales and is using them as a substitute for live showings, then use your worksheet while navigating the online tours too.
Over the history of real estate, buyers have determined the market.
They decide how much education and investigation they need to complete before making what is now the biggest decision of their life, and then they proceed when ready – or when they see an attractive house, hopefully in that order! There isn’t much education available on how to do it, so people just trust their gut and start looking around – even those who already own a home. HGTV makes it look easy (see three, and buy one), and the disrupters keep promoting that their agent-lite program is all you need. In a hot market, the investigation/education phase usually gets obliterated.
You’d think it would cause people to Get Good Help, to compensate – and many do (thanks!).
But once on the playing field, the buyers are split into two categories:
Those who own a home here now, and are trying to do better.
Those who don’t own a home here, and want/need to get in.
Buyers from the second category are determining the market.
They see every decent home get snatched up by those who got desperate sooner. It becomes a race for those newcomers to get desperate enough so they can compete with those ahead of them.
Buyers in Category 1 already have it good. Even if their home doesn’t suit their current needs, it’s what got them here. The property taxes are lower, the neighborhood is a known quantity, and they are comfortable. Are they going to rise to the same desperation level as those who don’t own a home here yet? It’s doubtful, even if the Prop 19 passes and sellers can take their property-tax basis with them anywhere – nobody is desperate to leave coastal San Diego.
It’s what is causing the inventory to be so thin, and why I’m convinced it’s only going to get worse.
Consider these factors:
Baby boomers are older now – if they haven’t moved yet, it’s probably too late. They will make do with their current residence, and make it last for the duration. Kids will inherit, and one of them will occupy as their primary residence – and the cycle of low inventory for sale will continue for another generation.
San Diego is a mid-range market – there are a number of more expensive areas that makes us look cheap, relatively. It’s those move-down buyers from affluent areas who are filling up Category 2, making it very tough for locals to compete, which prevents them from moving…..which means less inventory.
There aren’t any new-home tracts left to build in Coastal North County.
There will be massive pressure on the Fed to keep rates low for years to come.
The business is being dumbed-down for easier consumption, not smarter.
These factors will keep the inventory low, and competition high for a long time. It also means that the deliberate, informed buyers will keep getting run over by those who are just in a hurry to buy a house.
The old adage of buyers determining the market is being snuffed out.
Sellers can name their price now, and there is probably someone who will at least consider paying it. Until unsold listings are stacking up to the rafters, sellers will ensure that prices keep creeping upward.
At least this was based on a survey, rather than ivory-tower speculation:
Where people choose to live has traditionally been tied to where they work, a dynamic that through the past decade spurred extreme home value growth and an affordability crisis in coastal job centers. But the post-pandemic recovery could mitigate or even produce the opposite effect and drive a boom in secondary cities and exurbs, prompted not by a fear of density but by a seismic shift toward remote work.
Now that more than half of employed Americans (56%) have had the opportunity to work from home, a vast majority want to continue, at least occasionally. A new survey from Zillow, conducted by The Harris Poll, finds 75 percent of Americans working from home due to COVID-19 say they would prefer to continue that at least half the time, if given the option, after the pandemic subsides.
Two-thirds of employees working from home due to COVID-19 (66%) would be at least somewhat likely to consider moving if they had the flexibility to work from home as often as they want. Only 24 percent of Americans overall say they thought about moving as a result of spending more time at home due to social distancing recommendations.
Many employed Americans are trying to square the desire to work remotely with the functionality and size of their existing homes. Among employees who would be likely to consider moving, If given the flexibility to work from home when they want, nearly one-third say they would consider moving in order to live in a home with a dedicated office space (31%), to live in a larger home (30%), and to live in a home with more rooms (29%).
A Zillow analysis finds 46 percent of current households have a spare bedroom that could be used as an office. But that percentage drops off by more than 10 points in dense, expensive metros such as Los Angeles, New York, San Jose, San Francisco and San Diego, where far fewer homes have spare rooms.
When it comes time to move, home shoppers who can work remotely may seek out more space — both indoor and outdoor — farther outside city limits, where they can find larger homes within their budget.
“Moving away from the central core has traditionally offered affordability at the cost of your time and gas money. Relaxing those costs by working remotely could mean more households choose those larger homes farther out, easing price pressure on urban and inner suburban areas,” said Zillow senior principal economist, Skylar Olsen. “However, that means they’d also be moving farther from a wider variety of restaurants, shops, yoga studios and art galleries. Given the value many place on access to such amenities, we’re not talking about the rise of the rural homesteader on a large scale. Future growth under broader remote work would still favor suburban communities or secondary cities that offer those amenities along with more spacious homes and larger lots.”
Zillow Premier Agents from Silicon Valley to Manhattan say anecdotally, they’re seeing the early beginnings of a shift.
“We are seeing more buyers looking to leave the city,” said Bic DeCaro, a member of Zillow’s Agent Advisory Board serving Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia. “Buyers, who just a few months ago were looking for walkability, are now looking for extra land to go along with more square footage.”
Keith Taylor Andrews, a small business owner in Denver, started home shopping on Zillow the week Colorado issued a stay-home order. The first-time homebuyer is now under contract on a house in Fayetteville, Arkansas that he plans to use as his home office.
“We learned from COVID-19 that we could operate our business remotely,” said Andrews, who has 40 employees working from home. “Arkansas is a good place to move, it’s economical and there are far fewer people. It feels like a breath of fresh air to get out of the city.”
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