Gearing up for the golden years: Active-adult housing readies for demand

The active-adult housing category is about to get even more active. As baby boomers age and many trade in their current properties for ones that better meet their needs today, homebuilders are responding with inventory meant just for them: single-family attached and detached homes in developments offering shared resources, access to retail and dining, nearby transit and services like maintenance.

“There’s a growing market for age-targeted and age-restricted developments,” said Kristine Smale, manager at John Burns Real Estate Consulting, noting that such communities are springing up beyond historically strong retirement states like Florida and Arizona. And just as there are many markets, so too are there many — sometimes conflicting — needs to address among members of this buyer group. For one, not everyone wants a smaller home.

A recent report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University offers some idea of just how great the demand in this category could be. Through 2035, more than 825,000 older-adult households are expected to move into new, owned homes while 1.6 million will move into rental properties annually. The first baby boomers reached the age of 70 last year and another 10,000 are turning 65 every day for the next 15 years — which is to say that the growth in this category is likely just getting started.

From economy to luxury

When Del Webb launched Arizona’s Sun City in 1960, the iconic desert retirement village offered one-story, 860-square-foot bungalows starting at $8,500. Today more than 55 years old itself, Sun City is still going strong and new active-adult developments are building on that early vision of providing a community setting for older adults, even if expectations have changed.

Early communities like Sun City were often built for those on a limited budget, according to Jim Rorison, president of Caldwell Homes, a division of Caldwell Companies, in Texas. “The homeowners…

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