After 33 years and four children, Baby Boomers Marta and Octavian Dragos say they feel trapped in what was once their dream home in El Cerrito, California.
Both over 70, the Dragos are empty nesters, and like many of their generation, they’re trying to figure out how to downsize from their 3,000-square-foot, five-bedroom home.
“We are here in a huge house with no family nearby, trying to make a wise decision, both financially and for our well-being,” said Dragos, a retired teacher.
But selling and downsizing isn’t easy, appealing or even financially advantageous for many homeowners like the Dragos family.
Many Boomers whose homes have surged in value now face massive capital gains tax bills when they sell. This is a kind of tax on the profit you make when selling an investment or an asset, like a home, that has increased in value.
Plus, smaller homes or apartments in the neighborhoods they’ve come to love are rare. And with current prices and mortgage rates so high, there is often a negligible cost difference between their current home and a smaller one.
“For now we’re staying put,” Dragos said. “Better to hold steady than to do something we will regret.”
Fewer older homeowners selling is part of what is keeping the inventory of homes historically low and pushing prices ever higher in markets across the US. Empty nesters of this age own more larger homes — three bedrooms or more — than Millennials with kids do.
Dragos said she understands that, as homeowners, theirs are enviable problems. They own an asset that has soared in value, after all.
But as she and her husband sit at their dining table discussing the morbid math — what is left after capital gains taxes, what happens if he dies first, what if she goes before him — she says they see no good options for how to get out from under their home while keeping an acceptable amount of profit from its sale, which they’d like to use to fund their retirement.