Area baby boomers choosing to stay in their homes longer: Here’s what our examination found

Finding a starter or forever home in this region can be a formidable challenge. Rising prices and low inventory are causing the problem, but exacerbating the issue is the baby boomer generation staying put in their homes.

Born between 1946 and 1964, boomers own more than 30 million U.S. homes. But unlike previous generations that frequently opted to sell their residences in later years to downsize or move in with family or an assisted living facility, the generation has shown an increased inclination to age in place.

An analysis of Census data shows that residents aged 65 and older account for 34.6% of owner-occupied households in the Dayton region and 41.2% of them moved into their homes 30 or more years ago. Residents aged 65 and older account for 35% of owner-occupied households in the Springfield area and 46% of Springfield seniors moved into their homes 30 or more years ago.

Lee and Robert Naragon purchased their Fairborn home on Saratoga Drive in 1967.

“When our children were young, it was a good neighborhood for kids to grow up in,” Lee Naragon told this news outlet. “After we paid off the mortgage, it seemed ridiculous to take on a huge debt later in life. Mostly, this house is close to where we grew up and to family.”

She brushed aside the idea of downsizing.

“This house is already downsized,” Naragon said of the couple’s 1,800-square-foot home. “It’s not a McMansion. We moved into our retirement home in our 20s.”

Naragon said she can’t imagine trying to find a home to live in now and doesn’t know what advice to offer first time home buyers.

“I don’t think there is affordable housing in this area,” she said. “If it’s not a $250,000 home, it’s not being built.

“Fairborn is going through this right now. They are building, $150,000 (and) $250,000 (and) $350,000 homes all around town and young people now are making a better salary than we did 1967. I was working for $2.75 an hour, but the (price of a) house was only $21,000, too.”

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Michael and Cynthia Crumley, purchased their 2,500-square-foot home on Penny Pike in Springfield in 1976. Michael, who worked for 24 years in city schools as a teacher, building administrator, assistant principal and assistant superintendent, said he never considered moving elsewhere.

“The location was convenient,” he said. “(It’s) in the country, but close enough to the city. Even when I took a job 60 miles away, we stayed. Our three adult daughters stayed here and are all 12 minutes away or less in any three directions with my six grandkids, so there’s no reason to move until we can’t maintain it.”

Add to that the appeal of already having a wide array of community friends and activities close to home.

“We’re able to function and so we have no reason to try to downsize or do anything,” Crumley said. “The house is paid for, the cars are paid for, we’re just comfortable.”

In addition, they’re “still functional,” able to mow their acre lot, tend a garden and take care of their dogs, he said.

“Everything just works for us,” Crumley said. “We’ve been here for so long that we’re used to it, and we’re still renovating.”

Greg Blatt, Dayton Realtors president and the director of KW Commercial Advisors Realty, said what the market is seeing now is seniors who are “in a bit of a quandary.”

“While many of them would like to sell and downsize, they’re struggling a little bit because many of them refinanced over the last several years into low-rate mortgages, if they have a mortgage,” Blatt said. “But ... the bigger challenge is the lack of inventory for places for them to go.”

The goal of downsizing, he said, is reducing expenses and the amount of maintenance necessary for upkeep of a home, typically by shifting into a smaller home or a condominium, “but there’s nothing available for them to go to.”

“So that leaves them the opportunity where, if they’re going to downsize, they have to build and the challenge of building right now is ... inflation,” he said. “The cost of building something is usually greater than what they have in their current home.”

The fact that many seniors aren’t downsizing and moving out of their homes has a ripple effect, Blatt said.

“If I’m in a 7,000-square-foot McMansion and I want to downsize to 2,000 square feet, and there’s nothing available, I’m staying in my 7,000-square-foot home because at least I can manage my expenses,” he said. “But that second-time buyer that may be in a 2,000- or 3,000-square-foot home and their family’s growing, they want the 7,000-square-foot home but they can’t move there.”

That, Blatt said, then limits the first-time buyer who wants to snap up a 1,500 or 3,000-square-foot first-time home.

“They’re limited because those people that will be the second-time buyers, they’re not moving up to the to the larger homes either,” he said.

The average age for Dayton area homeowners who had owned a property for 30 years or more ranged between 60 years old in Warren County to 69 years old in Greene County, according to Census data analyzed by this news outlet. The amount of people who have owned a home for 30 years or more ranged between 7,111 in Warren County, a more recent population boom, to 51,136 people in Montgomery County, which still sees development, but is limited in space to expand housing options.

Jessica Lautz, deputy chief economist and vice president of research at the National Association of Realtors (NAR), said another different challenge in the market comes from boomers who are not downsizing, but are not content to age in place in their perfect home.

Boomers, many of whom are nearing retirement age, are increasingly facing off against millennials entering their primary homebuying years.

“They may actually be moving from the home where perhaps they raised their family into a neighborhood that they want to be in, that gives them the quality of life that they want,” she said. “And as they do this, they’re on the move and they’ve become the biggest segment of homebuyers in the last year because of that.”

Millennials, who represent the biggest generation, also were the biggest generation of homebuyers from 2014 to 2022, but “they do have financial difficulties entering the market,” she said.

In 2022, though, baby boomers made up the largest portion of homebuyers in 2022 at 39%, rising by 10 percentage points from 2021, according to NAR’s 2023 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report. Meanwhile, millennials accounted for 28% of home purchases last year, down from 43 percent in 2021, when they made up the largest share.

But Lautz said most boomers have a pivotal advantage when it comes to vying for a home: higher incomes and considerable equity from prior home purchases, both of which help dodge the financial pitfalls of a long-term mortgage.

“We actually do see that about half of older boomers paid all cash for their next property, because essentially, they were in a scenario that they had accumulated quite a bit of housing wealth, to allow them to purchase their ideal next home,” she said. “They’re able to make a housing trade into their ideal location.”

Lautz said one of the easiest solutions in the battle for home sales is more inventory

“We have large populations,” she said. “We have millennials at the timeframe that would be peak household formation looking for their first home, they’re the biggest generation, at the same time that boomers are healthier later in life and they are active and they want to find a property or stay put, and so this has created a lot of generational warfare in the housing market, but it also does create really this ripple effect to other generations.”

Further complicating thing is that the boomers who are purchasing a home are not downsizing by looking for a smaller home or a condominium, Lautz said.

“We find that actually for older boomers, they increase their square footage by 110 feet,” she said. “I think there’s a couple of factors at play. They may not want a smaller property. Two, we just don’t have a ton of small, affordable units in the marketplace. The types of homes that are in the U.S. really do tend to be (larger) single-family properties.”

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