Real Estate

Boom Time

Written by Teresa  Hamilton
Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cajun Boomers are finding creative ways to make lifestyle changes involving their homes.

Much has been written about the Baby Boomer generation and its effect on everything from housing to the stock market. National reports indicate a significant impact in helping their parents transition to retirement communities or nursing homes, as well as a powerful new trend by this group in the purchase of second homes.
But Acadiana, as is typical, runs counter to at least one of those trends. Psychologists and social workers in our area have called it a cultural difference because our generation is extremely resistant to moving our parents into nursing homes. Certainly, there are circumstances that require placement in a facility with on-site medical care, but exclusive of that, Acadiana's Boomers just won't do it.

Several years ago I identified a behavior that has held true to this day. Only one in 10 of the requests I receive to transition an elderly parent out of their home actually comes to fruition. But you have to give credit to the Cajun Boomers. They have found creative ways to make lifestyle changes involving their homes. Some are preemptive moves as Boomers look to the future, while others are more cultural.

Coco Dupont, a former social worker who is now a real estate agent on my team, describes the difference between Acadiana's Boomers and Boomers in other areas of the nation as being rooted in our heritage of closely knit, extended families.

"Because Acadiana began as an agricultural area, extended families were required to keep the family farm going. Today, that has translated into numerous family-owned businesses throughout our area," says Dupont.

"It's part of the family culture to assist elderly parents in maintaining their own homes, or merge them into ours," she continues, "and we've seen similar behavior in other rural agrarian areas around the nation. There's a sense of responsibility among the Acadian people. They're not a liberal people, but they are a very tolerant people."

My team of real estate agents and I have identified Boomers' involvement in housing transitions as follows:

1. Down-sizers
These are moves precipitated by children moving out. These Boomers are empty nesters who relish breaking free from the upkeep of a larger property and gaining time to travel. They're looking for smaller square footage and zero lot lines.
2. Helpful house hunters
These are Boomers with good intentions for helping elderly parents downsize, particularly after the loss of a spouse. These efforts rarely work due to both resistance from the parent or the ultimate reluctance of the Boomer children. Both often defer to Option 3 or 4.
3. In-law cottage or suite
This has long been an option in Acadian home design, with many architects and designers incorporating split floor plans to accommodate such arrangements, often well before the parent is ready to move in.
4. Combination upscale housing
This is a relatively new trend where the Helpful House Hunter discovers that the sale of both the parents' home and the Boomer's home will facilitate the purchase of a much larger, more luxurious property. The combined households resolve several issues, particularly that of maintaining the extended family while enhancing everyone's lifestyle.

With each type of transition comes an impact on our local real estate market. Homes owned by older Americans represent a sizable amount of the local residential inventory, or more accurately, potential inventory. Plus, in 2000, according to the Research Institute for American Housing, mortgages held by Boomers and their parents represented $2.5 trillion in home equity, referred to by statisticians as "untapped wealth."
From inventory, to equity, to influence in housing transitions, the Boomers represent a powerful force in the future of Acadiana real estate.

Teresa Hamilton of Van Eaton & Romero has been one of Lafayette's top agents for more than two decades. This representation is based in whole or in part on data supplied by the Realtor Association of Acadiana MLS. Neither the board nor its MLS guarantees or is in any way responsible for its accuracy.