As part of the baby boomer generation either I or one of my family members has transitioned through all phases of the real estate cycle. When I was born, my parents first lived-in an apartment and in the late 60s bought a small but affordable ranch house in Oak Hill Park, Newton. It was on a quarter acre lot with 3 bedrooms and one bath and cost $24K. At the time Newton was ranked and still is ranked as one of the top public school systems in the state. Their top priority was for my younger brother and I to be able to attend the Newton public school system. As a child, I perceived this home to be the tiniest house of all my friends and an embarrassment to bring people over. Looking back this may have been a predecessor for the Tiny House movement although my parents did not live a minimalistic lifestyle (this was early days of collecting habits of my dad.) See my blog decluttering.
As I went through high school, interestingly, this little house became the destination for many of my friends particularly after a movie or date. My parents always had an open door policy and welcomed my friends to visit whenever they wanted. The small cozy space had a welcoming warmth that guests enjoyed the minute they entered the front door. One time, although a bit late (I think 1:00 am) a friend, Billy rang our door bell and said "he was home from college". Although we told him it was a bit late for a non-college setting the idea that he would stop by was actually heartwarming and became a long time family joke that "Billy was home from college"(he was studying nearby at Bentley). I learned from my parents how to make a house a home and have since carried this philosophy throughout my adult years. They were always open to hosting dinner guests or having friends over for fine tea and coffee served in the nicest of bone china.
Once I went away to college and then graduated I moved to my our series of apartments before getting married and buying a starter home. Right out of school, I moved outside West Hartford Connecticut for an auditing job with Emhart Corporation. I had searched through for a roommate through the West Hartford JCC at the time and found a two bedroom to share with someone already there in a very family oriented suburb which was not fun for a single college grad. After one year of discontent with both my job and my living situation I decided I really wanted to be in a NYC and got a great job at Dunn & Bradstreet Corporate and my own apartment. I found a small studio in Forest Hills New York with an easy commute to Manhattan where I was working for two years.
Missing my family and close friends as well as starting to date my now husband, after two years it was time to move back to the Boston area. I again started a new job in Needham and found an apartment in Chestnut Hill that I lived in for a year prior to getting married and moving to a 2 bedroom apartment in Newtonville. During this time my husband was finishing a residency program in Boston and I studied for my MBA at BU. At this point an apartment was perfect as we both had full-time jobs and studying to do.
Once my husband finished residency and we were about to start a family we were ready to enter the housing market and started our search for our first home. At the time we couldn't afford the high property prices in Newton or Needham ( my husbands family lived in Needham Heights) where we both grew up and a work colleague of my husbands encouraged us to look in her neighborhood of Dover, a rural community closeby. In the mid-80s housing prices were booming and increasing much quicker than inflation and salaries. The starter home of my parents generation was now in the mid to high 200's.
We ended up buying a raised ranch in Dover and closed one month to the date before our first child was born. The house was structurally sound with 3 bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths. It was larger than the typical starter home and to me seemed like a huge home compared to where I grew up. The lot size was an acre which is standard for Dover. The area was very residential and only a few miles from the Needham line. The house itself just needed some cosmetic updates which we would do. The immediate needs of painting and redoing hardwood floors were tackled before we moved in but updating bathrooms and the kitchen could be done at a later time. We were of the generation that understood that the first house would not be perfect. We quickly learned that we had to compromise a bit and would need to put in our own money or sweat equity into tailoring it to our wants.
As part of our due diligence we drove around the area and went to the town hall to learn more about life in the community. We learned that Dover had one of the top rated public school systems and the amenities Dover had to offer fit our soon to be family needs. As we drove around different areas in Dover we set our eyes on a few neighborhoods we admired as well but agreed that the location and size of this home was perfect for our family at the time. We ended up staying in the house close to 17 years.
A few generations later, the starter home of our time may be a thing of the past. Todays millennials often seek out the maximum house they can buy. Real estate is one of the largest single investments Americans will make and therefore it is important to buy the property you choose for the right reasons. For insight into recent buying trends of millenials see a recent new article story on posted by CNBC.
As time progressed our family grew from three to five and in the late 90s we began to think about moving to a larger home. We looked off and on over a few years but truly did love our neighborhood. As our daughters approached middle school though we decided it was time for them to each have their own bedroom. We were bursting at the walls with clothing and things they needed and all felt we needed to upsize. We ended up finding our dream home, a colonial, in one of the neighborhoods we aspired to move in when we bought our first home in Dover. At that time it was just being built and didn't have trees. Now in full bloom almost 15 years later it was bursting with families our age and we excitingly made the move. The house was perfect and like my parents small home in Newton quickly became the "go to" place for our kids throughout their high school years. We had a large basement and TV set up and always welcomed their friends. Many a party and sleepover as well as a great cul de sac lot made our yard the perfect prom photo-op destination.
As the next decade approached our kids started to go off to college and leave the nest. During this time we also had to deal with the process of helping our parents downsize and transition to care facilities as health care issues developed. In addition to accumulating our own things we suddenly inherited our parents collections and items to deal with. See Blog here Transition. We now have a large house filled with things but the kids have all moved out of state. The upkeep of this size house is high and a lot of work for two people. We have since bought a townhouse on the Cape which is half the size and a the perfect space for our current needs. Eventually we will decide what to do with our primary house.
We are now seeing may of our neighbors downsizing from the suburbs towards an urban or resort lifestyle. Many of my friends and colleagues are asking me, where I plan to retire?. Although not quite ready ourselves I do have some suggestions for those who may be ready right now. As we start to age, floor layout and ability to navigate a larger home may start to become difficult. For those who want to stay in their homes, there are often renovation options to allow you to age in place. The National Association of Home Builders has out together a checklist (click here) NAHB.
Today Baby boomers are changing the trends on the real estate market and will many opt to remain in place many choose to seek alternative living situations. The options are growing now for our generation. In California, for example a new law was just passed to expand the concept of Granny houses, small houses that could be adjunct to a property as an in-law or millennial type home for your extended family. For those who may be aging and not be able to age in place or near family members there are senior housing options also available. I suspect that as time goes on as the trendsetting generation there will be more innovative ideas coming along and I will share them as I become so informed.
Wendy recently joined Coldwell Banker Needham. She has been a realtor for over 8 years and knowing the area quite well can share a hands on local perspective. She has also recently earned the SRES designation and looks forward to helping other baby boomers as they approach their next transitions. Feel free to contact her directly or click here http://www.wendybcb.com if you would like to learn more.