They bought it unbuilt, choosing from a floor plan. “It was a leap of faith, to say the least, but the location was really good,” Solymossy said. “After we moved in, I realized that this is really, really great; this really rocks.”
The Solymossys were front-runners of a mini-trend now taking root in some parts of the nation and particularly in the Washington metro area: baby boomers swapping out their single-family suburban homes for the bustle of urban life.
Reversing the trajectory of the Eisenhower generation, which fled cities for the suburbs, these boomers are following a path that younger people have embraced in droves. Many are empty nesters, and freed of the need to factor in school districts and yard sizes, they are gravitating to dense urban cores near restaurants, shops, movie theaters and Metro stations.
Between 2000 and 2010, more than a million baby boomers moved out of areas 40 to 80 miles from city centers and a similar number moved to within five miles of city centers, according to an analysis of 50 large cities by the online real estate brokerage Redfin.
While a 2010 AARP survey showed that 85 percent of people 50 to 64 prefer to stay in their current residences, the percentage decreases with income, a relevant detail in the Washington region where household income is double the national median. And those who move increasingly want to live where they can walk and bike to amenities.
“The millennials and the boomers are looking for the same thing,” said Amy Levner, manager of AARP’s Livable Communities.
Surveys of boomers’ preferences show that they are more interested in “smart growth” areas than in sprawl. And they are such a large generation that even if only a small percent of them embrace urban life, the effect could be dramatic, Levner said.
“This is just the tip of it,” she said.
Chris Leinberger, a professor at the George Washington University School of Business and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said that while comprehensive data won’t be available for another decade, the shift toward urban living is “the largest social trend of the early 21st century.” Although boomers aren’t driving it, he said, some are jumping on.
The boomers’ generation had forged a more extreme version of suburban life than their parents had — adding to the burdens of home and garden care and commuting, Leinberger said. “The baby boomers’ lots are much bigger and they moved further out,” he said. “They’re tired of mowing their lawn; it takes sweat equity, or you have to write a check to someone to do it.”