What kind of home will Baby Boomers buy when they Downshift?

Tens of millions of baby boomers are going to downshift over the next couple of decades.  That means they will be in the market for new, more modest homes.

However, I don’t believe that will be the only thing they will be looking for.   They will also be looking for a home that’s:

  • able to pay for itself or provide income.
  • near to where they currently live so they can continue to work.
  • able to provide them with a sense of refuge (attainment of the American Dream).

That last part is important.  People that retire in place won’t buy a “starter home” or a fixer upper.  They want a home that will be their slice of Dream for twenty to thirty years.  What does a home like that look like?

In my neighborhood, there was a modestly-sized, well maintained slab home that a baby boomer couple just bought.  What really set it apart was a well established foodscape — a landscape built to grow food.  That foodscape added $100 k (about 20%) to the price of the home.   Wow.

Contributor C. Thomas Howell sent in some pics as an example of how espaliered apple and pomegranate trees improved his tiny front yard.



As you can see, this is on the way to becoming much more valuable than what we’d more than simple curb appeal improvement.  It’s on the way, to the extent the small space allows it, to becoming a refuge.  A place that provides for you over the course of decades.

Incidentally, a bountiful refuge is increasingly what people that telecommute/work online want to own too.  A perfect counter-balance to the onrush of information encountered online.  So, this type of improvement not only serves the needs of older downshifters, it’s the perfect starter home for people who work online.

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Discussion — 10 Responses

  • Joshua Biggley November 20, 2013 on 2:57 pm

    Though far from retirement, I am already starting to plan to downsize and I am nowhere near the baby boomer phase. In fact, I plan on downsizing and making my home into a income property (diversified income property) in my mid-40’s after I’ve raised my children.

    I wonder if we will see a change in housing such that young families with children have homes to accommodate and raise them (ie larger homes with more bedrooms, storage space, etc.) instead of this progression of buying larger and larger homes well into retirement?

    • Shlok Joshua Biggley November 20, 2013 on 8:38 pm

      Joshua, I’ll add a tier below the young parent group. The younger single crowd. Family one day but the downsizing is coded in now.

      Thinking vacation/remote work/retirement cottage somewhere somewhat accessible but outside the city. Maybe multiple.

      Raise a family in one. Downsize after.

    • Eric Joshua Biggley November 21, 2013 on 5:50 am

      I agree, I’m focused on downsizing and finding a income producing home right now. John, I think the effect will be even bigger with baby boomers and younger generations all looking for these types of homes. The only problem I’m having is finding the right State/City.

      • John Robb Eric November 22, 2013 on 11:57 am

        Eric, That’s always tricky. Here’s what I’d do. Look for a place near to where you currently are (if you want to continue to make money doing something similar to what you are doing, but part-time). Find a town that has been undervalued relative to others and search for a great neighborhood (for me, that’s a town a little further out from the city than I am in now, but OK since I don’t commute anywhere much).

  • Steven Martin November 21, 2013 on 6:44 am

    John, good point about landscape, foodscape and trees making the property more valuable. For trees, there’s now an app for that! See
    Steve M

    • John Robb Steven Martin November 22, 2013 on 11:53 am

      Thanks Steve! Amazing how many apps are available and how much easier it makes doing many things. JR

  • Jimmy November 21, 2013 on 6:56 am

    We are BBer’s (tail-end of) & are doing as John points out. Funny how we’d already planned this out & then find more confirmation via this blog. Sold our home to downsize & are “re-scaping” with help of a PDC friend to create a beautiful “foodscaping” system. We are adding rain catchment, AltE & other self-sustaining systems. I believe Urban (& Rural) PDC concepts will fast become our future due to economic forces & a change of mindset. Thanks to all, Jimmy

    • John Robb Jimmy November 22, 2013 on 11:53 am


      Good luck with your re-scaping efforts. Shape it in terms of income/beauty. Something you would be proud to own 20-30 years.


  • Edward Mulder November 21, 2013 on 1:52 pm

    A bit off topic here (but still baby boomer related), I am wondering John if you have any ideas or have heard anything about healthcare ideas in the context of the direct economy. I am navigating the nightmare of the new ACA stuff right now and think that there must be some kind of resilient (beyond exercise/paleo lifestyle prevention) solutions. I know some doctors are “going off the grid” (in some creative ways) as far as insurance is concerned, but there must be a way to create a “community” (resilience vs. on your own) of doctors and care professionals in the direct economy. What are your thoughts?

    • John Robb Edward Mulder November 22, 2013 on 11:43 am

      Edward, It’s tough to be flexible w/healthcare if someone else (insurance/government) is picking up any of the bill. They can dictate how and what you get.

      Despite this, there are lots of other options if you can swing it. Live in support in exchange for rent. Multi-generational support if you live near kids that love you. Online medicines via Canada. Medical vacations for surgery. Finally, a huge number of apps/sensors that will monitor/support you (and connect you to a dispatch if you have a problem).