There are a lot of things distorting the housing market right now, and there’s no one single culprit that you can blame for something so complex.
No wait, there is: “Millennials Have the Children, but Boomers Have the Houses,” observed the New York Times last week.
So if it seems like there’s a fundamental mismatch between the people who have the most housing (Boomers) and those who want it (everybody else), you're not crazy. And what city, according to the NYT, has the biggest share of large houses (three bedrooms or more) owned by empty-nester Baby Boomers? If you guessed Pittsburgh, you are correct: 32%. The share of houses in Pittsburgh owned by millennials with children is at the bottom at 13%.
So that’s a problem. If a housing market at historic highs doesn’t convince empty nesters to sell, what will?
Once again, the Boomers get the last laugh — and maintain their status as protagonists of this story (and nearly every story of the past century). If they become the first generation ever to succeed in their attempt to simply live forever, then this may continue indefinitely.
For sale: 116 Harbison Pl., Brighton Heights, $229,000
This single-family home went a little overboard on the whole neutral-white/minimalist thing — like even a family of Kohl’s mannequins was like, “Too bright — that hurts our eyes.” But it also looks fresh and clean, and for a house built in 1957, that’s not nothing. Do you know how much pollution was in the air in Pittsburgh in 1957? (A lot.) At 8,000 square feet, it’s bigger than it looks from the road, and its three bedrooms qualify this as “a large house” in the aforementioned New York Times story. There’s even a two-car garage hidden around the back.
Here’s a family-sized three-bedroom house for rent, which is an option in the current low-inventory/high-interest-rates environment (I didn’t say it was a good one; rents are rising too). If fighting for housing makes you feel like a pawn in someone else’s game, well, here’s a house with checkerboard-patterned floor tiles.
For sale: 2161 Ley St., Troy Hill, $129,999
If you squint and imagine this house has a face, it sort of looks like the gritted teeth of the “grimacing” emoji. What’s it trying to tell you? Is it grimacing because it doesn’t like heights? Or is it sheepishly admitting something, like the low list price is a joke (it’s not). That’s the great thing about this particular expression: ambiguity. We just don’t know. It includes three bedrooms, a very unfinished basement, and a nice slice of steep hillside.
Atop Pittsburgh’s most aptly-named neighborhood, this house even has a name — the Warren Castle Carriage House. Those don’t usually come with a $1,200 price tag, but this one is special. This unit is only 735 square feet, however. If it feels small, there’s a park, a ballfield, and all the cardio you can handle going up and down those hills right outside your door.
For sale: 300 Paulson Ave., Larimer, $195,000
There aren’t a lot of historic (1905) three-bedroom homes available for less than 200K in the East End, but here is one. Though the interior seems to have lost a battle with the entire gray color department of Pittsburgh Paints, the turn-of-the-century craftsmanship is impossible to conceal. If you need to make a dramatic entrance down the staircase like some silver screen gaslight-Gothic heroine, this is the place.
For rent: 4901 Penn Ave., Garfield, $1,000/month
We’re going to go out on a limb here and say that living on a busy stretch of Penn Avenue above a “Botanica & Occult Shop” is probably not for everyone. But if it’s for you, you’ll know right away. If you ever decide to pull the plug on car ownership and all its attendant expenses and hassles, this is probably one of the best locations to do it.