Finding a Home for Downsizing Baby-boomers and Suburban-Bound Millennials in Baltimore County

The “rent-or-buy” dilemma is often attributed solely to the millennial generation and young professionals establishing their households—not for those who are approaching retirement. However, baby boomers—those born within the years of 1946 and 1964—are found to be renting far more than buying as they look to downsize from their single family homes. As the relocation trends for both empty-nest boomers and millennials increase the demand for more multifamily housing in their communities, what does this mean for the current real estate industry in the Baltimore County area?

Trends Show Both Millennials and Baby Boomers are Slow to Buy Single Family Homes

Baby boomers are perhaps the most populous and financially secure age group in the nation, as such, they tend to dictate economical trends in real estate. These current trends show that, on a national scale, the most drastic changes in the renting population came from those aged 55 and older with an increase of 28% in renters. This is compared to the trends of renters aged 34 or younger, up by only 3%. Additionally, it is expected that more than five million boomers will rent their next home in 2020 as opposed to buying a smaller, detached home.

Current trends are also demonstrating that millennials are slow to buy houses, with many preferring to rent in an urban or suburban setting as their preferred living arrangement. This leads to the issue of a massive retreat of baby boomers away from their single family homes and towards luxury apartment complexes, and no millennials to buy these homes, as they seem to prefer the convenience of renting a living space as well.

The rise of “surban” living, which blends favorable characteristics from suburban and urban communities, also has great appeal to Millennials and Baby Boomers alike. Surban communities are characterized by mixed-use developments that provide a variety of entertainment options, boutique-style shopping, local fare and pedestrian-friendly accessibility. A recent Urban Land Institute (ULI) report indicates that surban areas are projected to attract the most U.S. households in the next decade. Besides providing amenity-rich and walkable living spaces, surban areas are also characterized by high-performing school systems and low crime rates, making them ideal for Millennials with young families and Baby Boomers seeking to age in place.  

Modern Multifamily Communities are Amenity-Rich

Our older generation is currently making real estate moves that are typically expected of young professionals looking for modern apartments near their workplace. Why are these changes in the renter profile occuring? It is noteworthy to recognize the hassle-free environment that an amenity-rich, luxury apartment complex can offer in suburban areas.

Perhaps the most significant reason that both downsizing baby-boomers and suburban-bound millennials are attracted to multifamily housing is the combination of luxury and affordability. Millennials are shown to prefer the low-maintenance lifestyle of renting an apartment rather than taking on the burden of a mortgage, especially if they are less financially-stable in the early stages of their careers. Boomers seem to be attracted to the convenience of a rented apartment in addition to the wealth of amenities, such as swimming pools and fully equipped fitness rooms, offered in most luxury apartment communities.

Because many modern multifamily housing facilities have the option to come fully-furnished (or at least force a downsizing of the boomer’s previously more product laden lifestyle), and include the convenience of free repairs, boomers looking to downsize seem to prefer the accessible environment of modern apartment complexes. There is also a trend sweeping the millennial generation to spend more money on experiences rather than thingsanother reason that the “hands-free” feel of renting an apartment seems so alluring to young professionals.

Baltimore County is Slow to Compete with Surrounding Areas

The current renting trend affects Baltimore County because of the area’s lack of modern multifamily housing compared to the growth of multifamily housing in thriving suburban areas such as Columbia, Bethesda and Annapolis. However, there is significant room in the area for more complexes as the population continues to demand them.

One of the most notable multifamily housing facilities in Baltimore County is the Palisades of Towson, an apartment complex that has helped spark retail revitalization in the downtown Towson area. Baltimore County is also behind in its development of luxury apartment complexes compared to Baltimore City and its successful complexes such as Rotunda, the The Fox Building and Remington Row. The quick prosperity of these complexes exhibits both the desire for and need of additional multifamily housing units in the Baltimore County area.

How is Multifamily Housing an Asset to the Community?

Baby boomers want to remain in their communitybut, since downsizing to a smaller home can often prove complicated and burdensome to those close to retirement, who are  craving the stability of a stress-free living environment. With more multifamily housing facilities for rent in the Baltimore County area, there will be more opportunities for our large population of boomers to remain in their community and downsize in a less complicated, and more cost-effective, way.

Overall, the numbers do not lie: between 2009-2015, about 2.5 million senior households transitioned from homeowners to renters nationwide, joining the vast population of millennials renting in apartment complexes. As both individuals and families in the two largest populations in Baltimore County continue to choose apartments over houses, it is time for more development of multifamily housing in the community.

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