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Category: Housing and Living Options / Topics: Change COVID-19 Family Hopes & Dreams Housing Planning Social Issues

COVID Upending Housing Plans

Ellen James Martin,

Posted: September 18, 2020

Pandemic forcing some retirees to reconsider options…

Editor's note. The following is an excerpt of Martin's "Smart Moves" column that appeared in my local paper today. You will find a link to the full article on, where it was posted September 2, at the bottom of the page.

Millennials and Gen-Xers aren’t the only ones the pandemic is making restless to buy a bigger home. Some baby boomers are also planning their future housing purchase with a more spacious place in mind.

Take the case of a university professor and his wife, who runs a small antique business. This Social Security-age couple raised their three kids, now grown, in a three-bedroom rancher. Before COVID-19, they’d imagined moving to a condo in their college town. But pandemic living has shifted their priorities. Now they plan to upsize to a five-bedroom house with a pool.

“COVID taught us family overtakes all else. Our new vision is for a really big place where the whole family — including the grandkids — can visit often and stay over for holidays and vacations,” the husband says. . . .

Stacy Berman, a longtime real estate agent who specializes in luxury home sales, doesn’t know the couple in this true story. But she works with many seniors who are revamping their housing plans in pursuit of a larger home, where family is more central.

For example, she cites the case of a couple in their 60s — a soon-to-retire neurosurgeon married to a homemaker — who are selling their suburban Virginia house in favor of a much larger place in Tennessee to be closer to the grandchildren they haven’t seen for months due to COVID.

“Many boomers are now revising their housing plans. The isolation caused by COVID has convinced many older people that bigger is better if it brings family together,” Berman says.

Of course, there are still numerous homeowners of boomer-age—born between 1946 and 1964—who can’t afford to upsize. These are empty-nesters who must stay put or downsize.

Even so, numerous boomers are sitting on enough home equity from homes they’ve owned for many years to give them a range of housing choices, says Ken Dychtwald, an expert on aging trends.

Dychtwald, co-author of “What Retirees Want” and other books on seniors, characterizes the boomers as a generation constantly reinventing itself.

“Boomers have lived in multiple homes. They’re comfortable with change and moving. And they’re determined to make their own choices. This is natural,” he says.

Here are a few pointers for senior buyers:

  • Try to reconcile differing views between you and your partner.

    Rosemary McMonigal, a residential architect who’s advised clients for more than two decades, recommends that older couples with different visions create priority lists and acknowledge the validity of each other’s preferences. . .

  • Look for a home with intimate rooms if you want a supersized house.

    Are you planning to buy a much more spacious domain? In that case, Ashley Richardson, a veteran real estate agent affiliated with the Residential Real Estate Council (, recommends you seek a home that seems intimate despite its large size. . . .

  • Don’t assume the home you buy post-COVID will be your last one.

    Many older people think any place they buy after retirement will be the last place they live. But Dychtwald says it’s common for buyers in their 60s to live in two or three more places during their retirement years. . . .

    He says someone who would like to downsize but accedes to a spouse who wants a big property can take comfort in the expectation that sooner or later the other person will likely also want a smaller home.

    “Sometimes, you have to compromise. But that’s not so bad when your next move won’t necessarily become permanent,” Dychtwald says.

© 2020, Ellen James Martin -
Distributed by Andrews McMeel Syndication

Read the full article

Editor's Note. Reading Martin's column reminded me that major decisions must consider a long-range view. We have been through various crises in our lifetimes—inflation, gas shortages, stock market booms and busts, recessions—that have led to immediate changes in consumption (more fuel-efficient cars, bonds instead of stocks, etc.) that soon reverted and even amplified old patterns (ever bigger cars and houses). Can the renewed awareness of the value of family because of COVID-19 make our responses now different from these other crises? Only time will tell.

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Posted: September 18, 2020

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