Baby boomers aren’t fueling the condo craze after all

by Olivia D'Orazio10 Mar 2015
Housing starts may have fallen across the country, but some suburban markets actually reported increased construction – a shift for which they can thank baby boomers.

“Baby boomers are not doing what people predicted,” says Barry Lebow, a Toronto-based agent who is specialized in working with seniors. “They don’t want to go to condos.”

Instead, the boomer generation has been moving from one detached house to another – in some cases opting to take yet another step up the property ladder. But, in order to make that leap, many home buyers are being forced to leave the cities they’ve called home.

Even Phil Soper, president and CEO of Royal LePage, said the predictions analysts originally made were “simply wrong”

“Baby boomers, in a recent study we did, were expected to desert the suburbs in droves, and in fact, this doesn’t appear to be happening,” he said at an Empire Club of Canada event last month. “Almost half – 45 per cent – [of baby boomers] who were looking for their next purchase [were looking] to buy a home of the same size or larger.”

In order to access the equity in their expensive Toronto homes – the average price for a detached house in Canada’s largest city topped $1 million in February – many boomers are heading to the ‘burbs, where they can buy a large house on a big plot of land for a fraction of the sale price of their old home.

“People aren’t going to go from a luxury home to a crappy condo,” Lebow says. “Even with a modest house in Toronto, to go from a $700,000 house to a $300,000 condo? I don’t think so. But I can move to Windsor for $100,000 and I still have a beautiful home and equity. I can’t do that if I trade into a luxury condo.”

Still, Lebow says that’s not the case for all boomers. Some want the lifestyle change that comes with moving from a detached home to a condo, others live overseas for part of the year, and others yet are forced into community living because of health considerations.

“Condos near the hospitals are going to do much better as baby boomers age,” he says. “But there is no such thing as one trend for all baby boomers. There are so many strata of baby boomers – factors like where they live now, what lifestyle they had, their financial status, their marital status and their health status – that there’s no one size fits all.”

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