Where Empty Nesters Will Live: 65% Plan to Stay in Their Homes as They Age

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empty nesters
Aging in place is a big trend in real estate and housing.

Oh man, I’ve got to start this post with a quote:

“The back to the city” meme appeals to urban boosters and reporters but in reality the numbers behind it are quite small. A 2011 survey by the real estate advisory firm RCLCO found that among affluent empty nesters, 65% planned to stay in their current home, 14% expected to look for a resort-type residence, and only 3 percent would opt for a condominium in the core city. Most of those surveyed preferred living spaces of 2,000 square feet or more. RCLCO concluded that the empty nester “back to the city” condominium demand was 250,000 households nationwide, a lucrative but small market out of the 4.5 million empty nester households in the metropolitan areas studied.

250,000 nation-wide? I found this story by my pal Joel Kotkin to be very interesting and worth a mention or five. First of all, where ARE the most Baby Boomers living now? They currently make up 15 percent of the nation’s population, that figure expected to expand to 21 percent.

Answer: Tampa-St. Pete, Pittsburgh, Tucson, Miami, Buffalo, Cleveland, Rochester, Providence, Hartford, St. Louis and interestingly, Birmingham, Alabama, probably because of its manufacturing history. Two sand states and the rust belt.

The cities with the smallest percentage of Baby Boomers are Austin, Salt Lake City, Houston, DALLAS, and Raleigh, NC.

Why is this so important?

aging in place

Because Baby Boomers, God love us, have had our day in the sun. As we get older, we consume less, work less, cost more in terms of health care (unless we eat right & exercise), and, with the exception of Donald J. Drumpf, work less. (See our latest Interview with an Architect for a profile of a local talent who specializes creating homes that allow people to age in place.)

So where seniors move and live shapes America’s future geography and the economics of the locales:

In some places, notably in the Rust Belt, an aging population may suffer from the lack of young people to generate new wealth, pay taxes or provide them with services. In many others, notably in the Sun Belt, areas now built around youthful migration will have to prepare to accommodate many more aging people. And perhaps the biggest challenges will be felt by suburbs that, built for young families, now have to accommodate a growing senior population.

Too many old folks, not enough young ones to maybe even care take for them?

Interesting how Kotkin says we have always associated change with the movements and desires of the young, but in the 21st century, it may be the senior citizens who are directing the way American communities fare and adapt. After all, we have the most dinero.

So I find it intriguing, but not super surprising, to learn that a very small percentage — barely 2 percent — of empty nesters seek an urban locale. Most boomers, says Kotkin, move to the periphery of town or out of town completely.  In fact, a 2012 National Association of Realtors survey found that the vast majority of buyers over 65 years old looked for homes in suburban areas, followed by rural locales. “As age increases among recent home buyers, the rate of owning more than one home also increases.”

In contrast, relatively few seniors are likely to give up their homes for condos in the city center; a study by the Research Institute for Housing America suggested that barely 2 percent of all “empty nesters” seek an urban locale.

Of course there are exceptions, and I think the higher net worth look to have homes in urban areas as well as vacation homes they can jet to.

Another interesting note: seniors don’t want small living spaces. (Where are we going to put all our junk?) Note what Kotkin said: they want living spaces of 2000 square feet or more. Donna Smith at The Stoneleigh says it’s more like 3,500 to 4,000 square feet.

I know you have heard me say here repeatedly that many buyers at The Residences at The Ritz Carlton Dallas, Museum Tower, The Stoneleigh, and now Bleu Ciel are joining two and sometimes three units. That’s what happened at my dream pad. Museum Tower is more than 50% sold now and much of that comes from current owners who love it so much they are expanding units, snapping up two.

But there is another set of seniors/boomers who want to get as far away from the city as possible. Why? Taxes. There is no better focus group than the hot tub after skiing, especially in SnowBird, Utah, which is a male skiers paradise. While I soaked away my ski shins last week I over heard an intense discussion of how the best way to plan retirement real estate was to move your largest home out of the city and to the lowest priced an TAXED community you could find — rural — while maintain the smallest possible pad in the city, where the taxes are higher.

Alas, I’ve seen a lot of large homes in Dallas get snapped up by boomers age 60 or older who enjoy designing, building out and creating a large next no matter how empty it may be. But most move to the south and warmer climate where housing is cheaper and there is less shoveling. Others move to be closer to their children.

Age, unfortunately, is creeping up on all of us:

In the coming decades, the United States is going to look a lot greyer. By 2050, the number of Americans over 65 will almost double to 81.7 million, with their share of the overall population rising to 21 percent from roughly 15 percent now, according to Census projections. More than 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 every day.

aging in place

Where seniors move for their twilight years will shape America’s future fabric immensely. I wish I could stick around long enough to see how Gen X does it, or the Millennials. In any case, here are the urban areas where the Old Farts Baby Boomers are multiplying the fastest — moving in to be right next to the youth:

No. 1: Atlanta

Growth In Senior Share Of Population, 2010-14: 20.3%

Senior Share Of Population (over 65), 2014: 10.8%

Rank Among Major U.S. Cities By Pop. Share: 48th

No. 2: Raleigh

Growth In Senior Share Of Population, 2010-14: 18.1%

Senior Share Of Population (over 65), 2014: 10.6%

Rank Among Major U.S. Cities By Pop. Share: 49th

No. 3: Las Vegas

Growth In Senior Share Of Population, 2010-14: 17.7%

Senior Share Of Population (over 65), 2014: 13.3%

Rank Among Major U.S. Cities By Pop. Share: 27th

No. 4: Portland

Growth In Senior Share Of Population, 2010-14: 17.4%

Senior Share Of Population (over 65), 2014: 13.3%

Rank Among Major U.S. Cities By Pop. Share: 27th

No. 5: Jacksonville

Growth In Senior Share Of Population, 2010-14: 17.1%

Senior Share Of Population (over 65), 2014: 14.2%

Rank Among Major U.S. Cities By Pop. Share: 16th

No. 6: Denver

Growth In Senior Share Of Population, 2010-14: 16.4%

Senior Share Of Population (over 65), 2014: 11.7%

Rank Among Major U.S. Cities By Pop. Share: 46th

No. 7: Austin

Growth In Senior Share Of Population, 2010-14: 16.3%

Senior Share Of Population (over 65), 2014: 9.4%

Rank Among Major U.S. Cities By Pop. Share: 53rd

No. 8: Phoenix

Growth In Senior Share Of Population, 2010-14: 15.7%

Senior Share Of Population (over 65), 2014: 14.2%

Rank Among Major U.S. Cities By Pop. Share: 16th

No. 9: Sacramento

Growth In Senior Share Of Population, 2010-14: 15.6%

Senior Share Of Population (over 65), 2014: 13.9%

Rank Among Major U.S. Cities By Pop. Share: 21st

No. 10: Tucson

Growth In Senior Share Of Population, 2010-14: 14.7%

Senior Share Of Population (over 65), 2014: 17.7%

Rank Among Major U.S. Cities By Pop. Share: 3rd

 

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Candy Evans

A real estate muckraker, Candy Evans is one of the nation’s leading real estate reporters. She is also the North Texas real estate editor for Forbes.com, CultureMap Dallas, Modern Luxury Dallas, & the Katy Trail Weekly. Candy has written for Joel Kotkin’s The New Geography, Inman Real Estate News, plus a host of national sites. Constantly breaking celebrity real estate news, she scooped former president George W. Bush's Dallas home in 2008. She is the founder and publisher of her signature CandysDirt.com, and SecondShelters.com, devoted to the vacation home market. Her verticals have won many awards, including Best Blog by the venerable National Association of Real Estate Editors, one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious journalism associations. Candy holds an active Texas real estate license but does not sell. She is on the Board of Directors of Braemar Hotels & Resorts (BHR).

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Jon Anderson says

    You’re right, these measurements have to be counterbalanced against retirement income levels to tell the true story of Boomer migration.

    Also, regardless of the small numbers of seniors wanting an urban condo life, in Dallas there are relatively few urban choices (when compared to suburban, exurban, rural) that small numbers matter (when compared, for example with the condo-stuffed skylines of Florida). Also, in Dallas, how would we define our urban core? Downtown? Downtown, Uptown, Turtle Creek? We don’t have the traditionally defined core of many cities. Is a move from Plano to Preston Hollow or Oaklawn considered a more to the urban core?

    Count me in on taxes! My cheapest home is in Dallas where the taxes are the highest, my most expensive is where taxes are lowest.

  2. LonestarBabs says

    So glad you changed the headline and graphic on this article! Old Fart and wheelchair do not accurately portray the aging population these days. Boomers are changing the definition and expectations of the aging experience in this country, and I expect subsequent generations to do so as well.

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