Quick Takeaways

  • Baby boomers made up the largest percentage of sellers in 2021 and may have different housing preferences than previous generations of seniors.
  • Working with seniors involves understanding their particular needs and priorities.
  • Reverse mortgages may be a loan option for some, but it’s important to carefully consider the risks and benefits.

Senior households are increasing faster than other age groups and baby boomers make up the greatest percentage of sellers by generation. There are some trends toward renting in active adult communities and exploring senior co-housing, although many seniors are buying homes similar to those owned previously. Fewer people are choosing assisted living facilities than in earlier generations.

Real estate agents who work with seniors should be prepared to handle any accessibility needs and understand older buyers’ priorities. This may involve working with a client’s family in the process. While some seniors are moving to traditional retiree hotspots, other locations are growing in popularity among older adults.

Reverse mortgages can be an attractive loan option for some seniors. They can borrow against their home equity for as long as they remain in their home. However, it’s important to understand the options, risks, and benefits associated with reverse mortgages. There are some protections in place to help borrowers avoid foreclosure.

A number of helpful tools and websites exist to help seniors weigh their different housing and funding options. These include cost calculators, community ratings, moving guidance, and financial assistance resources. Seniors Real Estate Specialist® designees are REALTORS® qualified to address the needs of older home buyers and sellers.

See References for more information.


NAR Library & Archives has already done the research for you. References (formerly Field Guides) offer links to articles, eBooks, websites, statistics, and more to provide a comprehensive overview of perspectives. EBSCO articles (E) are available only to NAR members and require the member's login.

What do seniors value?

2020 Home Ownership: Rates by Age 

  • 65+:     79.6%
  • 55-64:  75.4%
  • 45-54:  69.4%
  • 35-44:  61.3%
  • < 35:    37.8%

Source: Homeownership Rates By Age (U.S. Census Bureau, Jul. 27, 2021)

“The second quarter 2021 homeownership rate was highest for those householders aged 65 years and over (79.6 percent) and lowest for those householders under 35 years of age (37.8 percent). The second quarter 2021 rates of all age groups were lower than the rates in second quarter 2020.”

Housing Trends of the Over-50 Demographic

A Lot of People Blame Baby Boomers for The Housing Shortage, But It's Not So Simple (NPR, Jul 30, 2021)

The current shortage of housing inventory can not be solely attributed to baby boomers. Compared with previous generations, current seniors are healthier and prefer to age at home rather than move to assisted living facilities. However, some people blame boomers for widespread single-family zoning inhibiting new construction.

Demand Rises Among Seniors to Rent Rather Than Own in Active-Adult Communities (The Washington Post, Jun. 24, 2021)

Some active adult communities are seeing a trend toward renting rather than owning. This may be partly due to affordability, particularly in markets with a large senior population. Others enjoy the freedom associated with renting while still having access to the amenities active adult communities offer.

2021 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report (National Association of REALTORS®, Mar. 16, 2021)

“Baby Boomers make up the largest share of sellers at 43 percent. While Baby Boomers are separated out by Younger and Older as in the buying section, some patterns are consistent among both. When selling, Younger and Older Boomers trade for a home that has a difference of less than 100 square feet, essentially trading a similar sized home. Baby Boomers are selling to move closer to friends and family, due to retirement, or because their home is too large. Younger Boomers have owned their home typically 14 years before selling, while Older Boomers owned their home 16 years before selling.”

Ten Insights About Older Households from the 2020 State of the Nation’s Housing Report (Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, Dec. 17, 2020)

With households age 65 and over increasing faster than any other age group, this population is having a significant impact on both rental and ownership markets. Older households were cost burdened in high numbers prior to the pandemic, and Covid has further contributed to this.

Elder Cohousing: The Future of Eldercare (The Senior List, Dec. 2, 2020)

The growing trend of “elder co-housing is an environmentally sustainable alternative to the existing models of housing for boomers and seniors who yearn for their independence within a supportive community environment.”

Working with Seniors

Helping the Most Vulnerable Clients (REALTOR® Magazine, Jun. 15, 2021)

“Homeowners who are losing their memories or have other cognitive challenges need knowledgeable professionals who can help them with their real estate needs.”

How to Market to Senior Buyers, Retirees (Real Trends, Mar. 30, 2021)

Tap into a new market by including seniors in your advertising plan. Understand senior buyers’ priorities and needs, available financing options, and their marketing preferences.

Navigating Seniors and Their Families (SRES® Blog, Mar. 22, 2021)

Be prepared when seniors bring other families into the home buying process. It’s important to build trust and make sure all parties feel heard. Everyone should work toward a common goal of what is best for the buyer.

It’s Not Just Florida! America’s 10 Fastest-Growing Retirement Towns Show Some Surprises (®, Mar. 8, 2021)

2020 saw a record number of workers retire from their jobs. As these retirees move to new towns, they make a significant impact on the region’s housing. The top ten fastest-growing retirement destinations include some perennial retiree favorites, like Florida, along with some new locations.

The Ultimate Guide to House Hunting for Aging Adults (Redfin, Nov. 30, 2020)

Step-by-step advice on how to look for accessible housing, preparing a home to sell, and the selling process.

Reverse Mortgage Basics

Protections for Reverse Mortgage Borrowers (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Oct. 6, 2021)

“If you are a reverse mortgage borrower affected directly or indirectly by COVID-19, the CARES Act and guidance from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) can protect you from default and foreclosure if you have an HECM reverse mortgage.”

Reverse Mortgages: Everything You Need to Know (cnet, Jun. 25, 2021)

Benefits of a reverse mortgage include no monthly payments, possible protection from foreclosure, and housing security. Drawbacks include potential scams, a reduction in your assets, and high fees and closing costs.

10 Facts Heirs Need to Know About Reverse Mortgages (AAG, May 18, 2021)

When a reverse mortgage borrower passes away, loan repayment falls to the heirs. Understand the rights, responsibilities, and options for heirs in the event of a borrower’s death.

New Protections from Foreclosure of Reverse Mortgages (National Consumer Law Center, May 18, 2021)

“Even with a reverse mortgage, homeowners can lose possession of a home for any number of reasons… this article provides information on the risks of foreclosure even for reverse mortgages, sets out new protections from that foreclosure, and also summarizes other rights to avoid foreclosure on a reverse mortgage.”

The Reverse Mortgage: A Retirement Tool (Investopedia, Jan. 17, 2021)

Reverse mortgages allow home owners to take out loans against their home equity. There are different types of reverse mortgages and income options. Reverse mortgages can help reduce foreclosures and delinquencies, but borrowers should do their research thoroughly before taking out a reverse mortgage loan.

Useful Websites

AARP Livability Index (AARP)

A project of the AARP Public Policy Institute, the Livability Index rates communities on factors such as housing, health, and transportation for older adults.

CohoUS (The Cohousing Association of the United States)

A national non-profit raising awareness of the benefits of cohousing and supporting the development of cohousing communities nationwide.

Information for Senior Citizens (U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development)

HUD’s collection of financial assistance resources and guides to help seniors make decisions about their housing.

NASMM (National Association of Senior Move Managers)

The National Association of Senior Move Managers is a membership organization for Senior Move Managers, recognized for its innovative programs and expertise related to senior move management, transition and relocation issues affecting older adults.

Reverse Mortgage Calculator (Mortgage Calculator)

Free calculator to help consumers estimate their future equity balance on reverse mortgage loans.

Senior Housing Choices (

Compare different housing options for seniors, estimate costs of relocating versus aging at home, and find state specific senior housing resources.

SRES® (SRES® Council)

Seniors Real Estate Specialists® designees are REALTORS® qualified to address the needs of home buyers and sellers age 50+.

eBooks & Other Resources

The following eBooks and digital audiobooks are available to NAR members:

Boomer Basics (eBook)

Boomer Marketing (eBook)

Future Marketing: Targeting Seniors, Boomers, and Generations X and Y (eBook)

Gilbert Guide to Senior Housing (eBook)

Reverse Mortgages for Dummies® (eBook)

The Complete Guide to Reverse Mortgages (eBook)

How to Age in Place (eBook)

Books, Videos, Research Reports & More

The resources below are available for loan through Member Support. Up to three books, tapes, CDs and/or DVDs can be borrowed for 30 days from the Library for a nominal fee of $10. Call Member Support at 800-874-6500 for assistance.

Boomer Consumer: Ten New Rules for Marketing to America's Largest, Wealthiest and Most Influential Group (Great Falls, VA: Linx, 2007) HD 7293 T39

Reverse Mortgages for Dummies (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2005) HG 2051 L99r

The New Reverse Mortgage Formula: How to Convert Home Equity into Tax-Free Income (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2005) HG 2051 K29

Pocket Idiot’s Guide to Reverse Mortgages (Indianapolis, IN: Alpha, 2005) HG 2040.5 P76

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