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Retiring in a new home

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Thursday, February 9, 2012
Posted: 9 am ET

The National Association of Home Builders is holding its annual convention in Orlando this week, and one of the major themes is the growth of the age-55-plus market. It's a bright spot in a business that has been dismal for five years.

W. Don Whyte, president of Kennecott Land in South Jordan, Utah, and chair of NAHB's 50-Plus Housing Council, says the senior housing market is changing quickly from what it was when it was first devised to suit the needs of buyers who are now in their 70s, 80s and older. Boomers, he says, are looking for a different kind of retirement -- one that incorporates considerations that weren't part of the retirement planning of that previous generation.

He says today's retirees want:

  • An urban-type environment. They want to walk to restaurants, coffee shops, groceries, etc.
  • Gates are out. Today's over-55s don't want to lock out the world because they don't want to be isolated from it.
  • Multi-generational living is in. Boomers are still raising their own children, and they are involved in raising their grandchildren. They are taking care of their aging parents, and they are making room for other family members who, for one reason or the other, can't or don't want to live on their own.

If you're thinking about buying a new home at this stage of life, here are some things to keep in mind.

  • Today's new homes are more energy efficient compared to those built 30 years ago. This efficiency will be reflected in the cost of utilities, heating and air conditioning.
  • You don't have to have a house that shouts "handicapped folks live here," but the home you buy should have halls wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair, bathrooms that are friendly to older bodies, and you might even want to consider an elevator if you have multiple stories. The price has fallen to as low as $15,000 for both new and retrofits.
  • The builder may be able to help you sell your existing home. It never hurts to ask. Builders know that one of the big factors that has kept people from buying new houses is their inability to sell the old one, and they are using their connections to reduce that impediment.
  • Don't think you have to buy a traditional condo to get managed maintenance. That concept is increasingly available in neighborhoods of single-family homes.
  • Think about buying a house with a floor plan that accommodates today's changing lifestyles, including more multi-generational households and more non-nuclear family groups. Even if you currently have a traditional lifestyle, you never know what's going to happen.
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