An event occurred early last week that many have waited a long time to see. On Monday, Kathleen Casey-Kirschling, a New Jersey grandmother, became the very first baby boomer to file for Social Security. She was born at 1 second after midnight, on Jan. 1, 1946. She won't be alone for long. Boomers represent 30 percent of the U.S. population, and are expected to become eligible for Social Security benefits at the rate of 10,000 per day for the next decade – rapidly exhausting the current Social Security trust fund, with is currently thought to be solvent only for another 30 years or so.
How is this related to the real estate market? It's not. But it is a very interesting story … and provides a bit of a segue into the rapidly changing story of the "over 55" or active adult communities that flooded the real estate market in central Massachusetts over the last 10 years. At first,
these were a novelty – so much so that people didn't know quite what to make
of them. They were heavily favored by the towns as a way to increase the tax base without increasing the school system population, and thus the approval process was made much easier than going for a traditional high-density development . These communities were fueled by a financially savvy population of older adults, most of whom had earned substantially equity
The new real estate market of 2006-2007 has brought many changes to that segment of the economy, per- haps more so than the traditional housing market. As the larger homes became more challenging to sell, and were discounted over previous years, the amount of disposable cash dwindled quite a bit. Combined with uncertainty about where the market would ultimately bottom out – many empty nesters were reluctant to make a move in such a rapidly changing time. Perhaps the biggest issue is that many potential consumers actually wanted to live in a "more adult community" but without the deed restrictions that a true "over 55" development imposed.
This has led to a large glut in the number of these properties on the market, and many projects that were having trouble keeping the sales at a reasonable pace necessary to sustain the project. Well, the builders around here are nothing if not creative, and many have been able to work with the towns to get the over 55 restrictions eliminated, and be able to open up the development to Buyers of all ages.
A great example of this is the Holden Hills condominium development. This picturesque property overlooks the Holden Hills golf course, and was originally conceived as an over 55 community, built by the renowned developer Roger Kane. When the market for such properties became sluggish, Kane approached the town of Holden with the idea of being able to remove the age restriction. Thinking proactively, the town leaders came to the brilliant conclusion that a successful project with 48 new homeowners was far better for the town than an empty building, and with a few concessions on the part of all involved, were able to grant buyers of all ages the opportunity to reside at Holden Hills. Once that happened … the sales were finally there, with buyers from all around the area seeing the value in being able to spend under 200K for a gorgeous new construction condo, overlooking the golf course, with granite counters and all the bells and whistles. You can check out that property at www.holdenhillscondos. com and you'll see what I mean.
In the long run, I believe we'll be seeing a lot more changes to the over 55 market in the coming months and years – and a lot more creativity on the part of the developers. As these millions of baby boomers get ready to retire this year, there will certainly continue to be a market for properties designed to suit the active, yet low-maintenance lifestyle. The key will just be for the market itself to stabilize enough to present a vision of where we're heading … and then more and more consumers will jump on the train.
Steve Levine is the President of Steve Levine Inc., and an agent for REMAX First Choice. He's been ranked as the #1 REMAX Agent in New England for the 8th year in a row, and can be reached online at www.stevelevine.com or by phone at 508-735-HOME (4663).