- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 28, 2005

The real-estate industry is preparing for the biggest wave of retirees in the nation’s history as the first baby boomers reach 60.

Already, boomers whose children have left home are seeking new housing that is easier to maintain and often smaller, real-estate agents say.

There are 77.5 million Americans in the baby-boom generation, born soon after World War ll.

“They are certainly a dominant force in any market they participate in these days,” said Dale Mattison, a Washington broker for Long & Foster Real Estate.

Their influence can be seen in the condominiums being built in the Washington area, he said.

“In our region, condos are starting to make up about 50 percent of the marketplace,” Mr. Mattison said. “In a lot of those cases, those near-retirees are looking to downsize, as in no yards to take care of.”

They also are contributing toward plans for more retirement communities.

Pulte Homes, one of the nation’s largest home builders and developers of retirement communities, has about 100 age-restricted communities in early stages of development.

The company already operates 33 communities restricted to residents at least 55 years old and is scheduled to open 22 more in the next 18 months under its Del Webb brand.

“With the nation’s number of persons age 55 to 75 expected to grow to nearly 80 million by the year 2020, the need for housing solutions for active adults is obvious,” said Caryn Klebba, Pulte Homes spokeswoman.

Among the 41- to 49-year-old age group, 59 percent plan to buy a new home when they retire, according to a recent Harris Interactive survey. Half of 50- to 59-year-olds and 33 percent of 60- to 69-year-olds plan to buy a new home, according to the survey of 1,814 respondents.

Common reasons for wanting to move include a desire to be near family, more convenient accommodations and a warmer climate.

The most popular states for retirees continue to be Florida, Arizona, North Carolina, California and Texas.

The Harris Poll of people 41 to 69 years old also said the retirees want to live active lifestyles that include exercising, hobbies, volunteering or learning new skills.

Developers are designing their retirement communities around the more active desires of the prospective residents.

“While 20 years ago retirement actually meant leaving the work force for good, today many in their retirement years are continuing to work and even taking up new careers,” Miss Klebba said.

“The active portion of their lifestyles are different as well. Popular activities today may include Rollerblading and Pilates [exercise method], whereas 20 years ago, Rollerblading wasn’t a widely available option or sport and Pilates wasn’t a household word.”

Despite more active lifestyles of the coming generation of retirees, they want to spend less time taking care of their homes.

“When people say they want to downsize, what they’re really talking about is a house that’s easier to maintain,” said Andy Kochera, senior policy analyst for the AARP.

Luise and Jim Jordan are a good example of a retiring couple that wants to stay active without spending too much time on their house.

“Looking toward retirement, this lovely house and three acres is more than we want to deal with,” the retired government auditor said about her home in Clarksville, Md.

Last week, they bought a house at Penn National, a planned community of mostly retired people near Gettysburg, Pa.

She and her husband, an environmental engineer, will live on a six-tenths of an acre plot near golf courses, walking trails, tennis courts and other amenities.

“We love to play golf,” Mrs. Jordan said.

Their new home also puts them close to their children and grandchildren in Columbia, Md., and Mr. Jordan’s opportunities for part-time consulting work in the Washington area.

Penn National has about 1,000 families living in its 1,600-acre community and plans to expand soon with the growing need for retirement housing.

“I would venture to guess it probably has more than doubled,” Laura Nicklas, Penn National spokeswoman, said about the need for retirement housing in the past 20 years.

In Virginia, Bob and Emma Gilbert moved from their home in Atlanta to an age-restricted community at Falls Run for reasons similar to the Jordans.

“We have a daughter that lives up in Stafford, and we have two grandchildren,” Mrs. Gilbert said. “We decided to move close to our children.”

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