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How Baby Boomers looking to downsize can avoid housing crisis

Expert says be ready to upgrade older homes, pay more for newer ones

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A housing crisis looms on the horizon for Baby Boomers as many retirees look to downsize into more manageable homes.

Tired of running up and down stairs and needing less space with their children grown and out of the house, many Boomers are ready to move out of their longtime family homes.

But the process isn't as easy as they might think, experts say.

David Elian, a realtor at Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty on the Southside, said Boomers should keep in mind that their home might not be worth as much as they thought.

WATCH: Realtor sits down to talk downsizing on The Morning Show

What to do

Older homes are likely decades out of date and will need upgrades, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Elian said the three main areas anyone looking to sell needs to consider upgrading are the bathrooms, kitchen and roof. 

“Just accept the fact that there will probably be things that need to be upgraded, like deferred maintenance,” Elian said. “Maybe the roof is 20 years old. Most people don’t want to buy a house with a roof that’s older than 15 years.”

Boomers might opt for lowering their asking price instead, but they need to know it will likely have to come down considerably.

“To lower the price, you can’t really just lower it by $20,000. You’re probably going to have to lower it by $30,000 to $40,000 just to lure a buyer in, because today’s buyers are absolutely catered to, and they are used to getting that warm, fuzzy feeling as soon as they walk into a house,” Elian said. “If they see wallpaper, that’s a turnoff.”

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He added that some people who purchased their homes between 1996 and 2000 have teal carpet because they were celebrating the Jaguars coming to Jacksonville, but now that old carpet isn’t desirable for buyers.

Sheri James said she and her husband didn't have difficulty selling their home to downsize into a retirement home, but she knows others who have.

Elian said Boomers or those approaching retirement should consider meeting with a realtor early, even a decade before they're ready to make the decision, so they know what it will take to sell their house.

Elian said beyond selling an older home, many Boomers also face a surprise when they see the price of a new home.

“When they bought that dream home in Jacksonville 20 years ago, it was $200,000,” Elian said. “But now that dream home has grown in value, but so has new construction, so they’re in shock when they see what that new home will cost them.”

Where to go

Some retirement communities, like Sweetwater in Jacksonville, cater to the 55-plus demographic, but it can be smart to look outside the city, Elian said, especially if being near schools and local parks for children is no longer a concern.

The deep Westside of Jacksonville near Chaffee Road is one area where Baby Boomers tend to congregate for lower-cost housing with smaller yards and less home maintenance. Along the coast, south of St. Augustine and Palm Coast in Flagler County are popular. For those who would rather be inland, Green Cove Springs, Middleburg, Alachua and Ocala all get a lot of retirees.

Elian said most Boomers are looking for single-story homes. 

“You don’t need that big old house anymore,” Elian said. “And many times you don’t want to put the energy into it either.”

Some Boomers, like Ranie Brown, said the prospect of moving is just too daunting.

“I’ll be there 'til I die or Jesus comes,” Brown said, “whatever comes first.”    


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