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As Recession Dims, Americans Fall Out of Love With Smaller Homes

Homeowners’ post-recession fling with smaller dwellings has fizzled.
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Homeowners’ post-recession fling with smaller dwellings has fizzled, and Baby Boomers aren’t downsizing as expected.

Real estate site Trulia found that 43 percent of more than 2,000 online survey respondents want “somewhat” or “much” bigger homes than their current residences. This might be expected among younger adults with growing families — more than 60 percent of respondents under 35 want a bigger home — but even their parents still feel cramped.

Although Boomers are most likely to be satisfied with the size of their current homes, the conventional wisdom that these empty nesters would downsize to smaller homes later in life turned out to not be the case. “It is a bit contrary,” said Trulia housing economist Ralph McLaughlin. “According to our survey, we are finding that almost as many of them want larger homes.”

While 21 percent of Baby Boomers want a smaller house, the highest percentage of any age bracket, the number who still want to go bigger is five percentage points higher. Last year, Fannie Mae noted that Boomers displayed no hurry to trade in their houses for retirement condos.

“It is pretty surprising,” McLaughlin said, adding that there are probably multiple explanations for the enduring preference for bigger homes. Retiring Boomers may be moving out of urban areas and into communities where they can get more square footage for their money. They might want larger spaces so their kids and grandkids can come visit without feeling cramped.

Or, they might not want to give up their toys just yet. “It could also be the case that Boomers are also going to stay more active and need space for all the activities they stay engaged in,” McLaughlin said.

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-- Martha C. White