Can’t afford a place to live in the South Sound?
Blame it on me — and my fellow baby boomers. That’s what Alexander Casey, a policy advisor on Zillow’s economic research team, told hundreds of business leaders at a recent Association of Washington Business gathering.
In a normal housing cycle, Casey said, a generation that has kicked its children out of the nest — and owns way too much room in the house for an aging couple — would look to sell and downsize. But we boomers in the region aren’t behaving normally.
Why? Fear, said Casey, a millennial. We boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) are a fearful bunch.
Millennials and Gen Xers — our younger followers — don’t think highly of us. In a national Axios/SurveyMonkey poll conducted last spring, 51 percent of millennials (18- to 34-year-olds) blamed boomers for making life worse for them, and 42 percent of Gen Xers (35- to 54-year-olds) agreed that their poor lots in life rest at the feet of boomers.
As it turns out, a lot of us boomers don’t like ourselves very much, either — 30 percent of us think we messed up the world, just 32 percent think we made things better and 34 percent of us think we didn’t do much of anything, according to the poll. We’re not just fearful, apparently. We wallow in self-loathing.
And we ain’t selling our homes. Aaron Terrazas, Zillow senior economist, a self-admitted older millennial, said he didn’t want to lay total blame for our region’s housing-affordability woes at the feet of boomers. (Thanks, Aaron.)
“We haven’t seen the scale of homebuilding that we’ve seen in past economic cycles,” which has slashed the new supply of affordable homes we would expect to follow a strengthening economy, Terrazas said.
Homebuilders face rising materials costs due in part to federal government tariffs on construction supplies from China. Labor costs have spiked as new commercial construction sucks the talent from the market and boomer-aged construction workers retire. Homebuilders, consequently, need to build higher-end homes to make a profit rather than homes “at a price point that most people can afford,” Terrazas said.
So, boomer buddies, let me encourage you. With four children out of the big Tacoma house now, my wife and I put our 2,000-square-foot home up for sale and purchased a 974-square-foot condo closer to the city center. And we love it. No more yard work. No more feeling the weight of stuff. No more living in a third of the house. No more daily reminders of the children we miss.
Want to try it? Or are you afraid?
Terrazas and Casey say you can expect a “softening” of the superheated market that has caused affordability to drop and prices to spike in 2018. Softening, to Zillow, means 10 percent price growth in the coming year in Pierce County and 4.5 percent in Thurston County.
“I guess the advice I tell people,” Terrazas said, “is you can’t really ‘plan the market.’ Live your life. Buy a home when you need it. People don’t buy homes because the market’s at a peak or a trough.”
We buy homes because we have children or children move away or we move for work or we retire. So, c’mon boomers; never fear. You can sell, downsize, and enjoy it — and not be a disappointment to the younger generations.
Take this advice from a millennial: “Of course,” Terrazas said, “you never want to have bad timing. You don’t want to over-leverage yourself, but buy a home because of your life needs.”