Retirees are Living Mobile…And Loving it

Not all retirees are moving into condos or retirement residences. The new trend for many aging boomers is living mobile: A manufactured home on the beach, hitting the road in an RV, or globetrotting to bucket-list destinations.

REM online reports that real estate agents are discovering a new niche: Finding appropriate manufactured home developments for active retirees across the country. The trend is particularly strong in B.C., where the buy-in for a new manufactured home within an hour from downtown Vancouver can be under $100,000. In contrast, the price for a typical detached home in Richmond, B.C. – half-an-hour from Vancouver – comes in just under $1 million.

Mobile living is so not about a Trailer Park Boys lifestyle. Many manufactured homes are now prefabricated, and look and feel like regular detached homes, not like trailers. They are typically located on small lots in developments with a strong sense of community, and shared amenities such as swimming pools, recreation facilities, landscaped gardens…even walking trails. Plus, there is often a management team to keep things well maintained and running smoothly.

For seniors, the benefits of living in a manufactured home in such a development are many. Costs and, of course, the time and energy that goes into home maintenance are drastically reduced, and older people are more likely to have an active social life and enjoy plenty of physical activity.

Some retirees are taking the idea of mobile living literally by trading houses for a life spent on the road. These footloose and fancy-free retirees travel in RVs, or enjoy back-to-back-to-back stays in destinations around the world.

A recent article in the New York Times profiled several couples who are doing just that. But it’s not for everyone: In some cases, the duos sold off their homes and donated almost all of their possessions, bringing new meaning to the adage: You can’t go home again.

Urban/Suburban: What Your Choice Says About You

An upcoming New Year may mean a new address for some. Before deciding where to look for a home, why not take this quiz:

Urban

  • Do you like to live close to your workplace?
  • Do you prefer easy access to numerous dining and entertainment options?
  • Do you want to reduce your carbon footprint?

If you answered “yes” to the above questions, conventional wisdom says you are looking for a castle in the clouds – a downtown high-rise apartment with a cloud-high price tag to match. In big urban areas like Toronto and Vancouver, location is the selling point, as buyers want to be close to work and play. And because many are childless professionals, they can afford to spend a lot of money to live in a small space.Suburban • Do you need space for your family?

  • Do you want to be close to affordable daycare options?
  • Do you value peace and quiet?

If you answered “yes” to these questions, then the suburbs might be a good fit for you. These predominantly single-family homes are further away from the downtown centre. These locations mean you may have a long commute for work, but will offer other less tangible benefits that may make up for it. Statistics Canada uses factors such as distance from city halls and central business districts, municipal boundaries, and housing density to define “Urban” and “Suburban.” But increasingly, lines are blurring; communication technology means many may work from home. So increasingly, it’s just about what feels right.

Aging in Place: The Next Renovation Trend

What’s the next big trend in home renovation? As baby boomers age, it’s still all about them. So the next big trend is their next big concern. These days, many older boomers are trying to avoid leaving their homes for retirement residences and nursing homes, so they’re aging in place – renovating their homes to improve accessibility and comfort.

Value-added? According to a recent article in the Financial Post, many older adults are making accessible renovations to their homes; it’s a trend that’s likely to mushroom as the population ages. And while many are concerned about ease of living, and not about making a return on their investments, some accessible renovations are already paying back.

Ted Rechtshaffen, chief executive of TriDelta Financial, told the Post that seniors considering a renovation need to think about how many years they will realistically be able to stay before finally having to move for health reasons. So wouldn’t a retirement residence, single-floor home, or condo may make more sense?

Emotional attachment: Possibly. But many seniors are resisting even those options and remain attached to the family home. Many would prefer putting money into it, rather than having to move. Says Rechtshaffen: “The emotional side is tough.”

So is the financial side: Some seniors are concerned about the high monthly costs of retirement or condo living, although condo fees cover maintenance, and most retirement residences cover almost all living expenses under their monthly fees.

Incentives: As incentives to staying home, Ontario and British Columbia offer tax credits ($1,500 and $1,000, respectively) to seniors/family members who renovate to improve accessibility, reduce the potential of risk, and improve their ability to move around the home.

Of the $63.4 billion renovation market in Canada in 2013, individuals over 65 accounted for $8 billion, according to an Altus Group study. As boomers try to age in place, seniors’ share of the market can only grow.

Walkability is All About Dollars and Sense

How much would you pay to be close to the amenities you need? Well, even as far back as 2009, people paid between $4,000 and $34,000 more for houses with above average walkability scores. Now it’s considered even more valuable.

Walkability is all about living within a comfortable walking distance from the amenities that are important to you: schools, parks, grocery stores, restaurants, etc. The highest walkability scores (90 to 100) mean you can complete all your daily errands on foot.

And this is a game-changer.

Today’s home buyers, particularly the younger ones, want to buy in urban areas where entertainment, work, school, and stores are walkable from home. Not just because these areas are trendy, but also because walking saves on long commutes, parking tickets, and gasoline. Plus, it’s healthy.

Walkability scores are the brainchild of a Seattle company called Walk Score, which compiles walkability data for virtually every address in North America. Walk Score sells this information to a number of real estate industry websites, and they, in turn, use the data in their listings to attract potential buyers to walkable properties. Houses listed with high walkability scores can command a premium, according to a 2009 Impresa study quoted in Real Estate News Exchange and noted above.

So what’s next? These days, the environmental and economic benefits of proximity to transit, and bicycle-friendly neighbourhoods, are as appealing as being able to walk to everything. So, Walk Score has introduced Transit and Bike Scores to its online searchable data base.