Baby boomers aren’t nearly as predictable as one might think. Many of them are of retirement age, and the real estate market might expect that they’d sell their homes and move to smaller, lower-maintenance options or spend the equity traveling and experiencing all retirement has to offer.

Right now, the government estimates baby boomers own about 32 million homes and represent 40 percent of homeowners. Boomers own a significant portion of real estate in the United States, so their decision to buy or sell has an impact on the available inventory.

Why Baby Boomers Wait to Sell

There are many reasons baby boomers aren’t selling their homes. Eighty-five percent of baby boomers do not plan to sell in the coming year. Some live in larger family homes that aren’t as popular in today’s market. They figure if they can’t get what the home is truly worth, they’ll stay where they are.

Inventory is low, so if they go for a starter-sized home, which might be all a retired couple needs, they compete against younger people looking to get into the market. Some baby boomers choose to stay where they are, rather than get into a bidding war or keep a young couple just starting out from getting the house they want. Instead, they close off rooms and keep the homes they have.

More people are working past the age of 65 than ever before. Their homes may be close to work and paid off, and many older owners see no need to move away from an established location. They also can rent out a room or two in their larger homes and bring in a bit of residual income.

Impact on the Economy

Even though baby boomers have valid reasons for staying in their current homes, the result is a shortage of real estate inventory and an environment where prices are on the rise. That increases the debt burden for young buyers who might have trouble saving up enough of a down payment for a more expensive starter home or qualifying for financing. One thing young buyers can do is pay down as much debt as possible to free up finances for home ownership. Good financial health helps you qualify for a home loan.

Although some experts predict another housing recession as baby boomers suddenly start to sell off their homes in waves, other experts predict many millennials will choose these suburban homes as the market prices them out of the urban areas they might find most desirable. Since baby boomers preferred sprawling suburban homes, the inventory should open up as boomers grow too old to care for the properties easily and want to rent or move to assisted living centers.

The reality is likely somewhere in the middle. Some baby boomers will have to sell for less than they want or age in place, while other markets will remain strong and house values will go up.

Should You Put off Selling Your Home?

If you’re trying to make tough decisions about whether to sell your home and downsize or age in place, take time to think through all the pros and cons. If you have paid off your home, you may have trouble finding something of comparable value in today’s highly competitive market. On the other hand, the upkeep of a larger home can seem overwhelming as you get older. Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to sell your home boils down to your plans for retirement and the time you wish to invest in caring for a larger home.

Holly Welles is a real estate writer with an interest in financial success. You can subscribe to her blog, The Estate Update, for new tips on managing real estate and home improvement.