Ralph Zucker On PRV: “The Market Just Died”

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pine-river-villageAn increasing number of developers struggling to find older residents for their 55-plus housing communities have relaxed the age restrictions to attract younger home buyers.

The housing collapse and recession hurt sales in active adult communities, which in the past 10 years had multiplied as the first wave of 79 million Baby Boomers entered retirement. The real estate boom allowed retirees to make big bucks on their old homes and pay cash for smaller houses.

“The 50-plus buyer has had a double whammy in the last couple of years,” says Brian Gentry, president of Landed Gentry Homes and Communities, based in Burlington, Wash. “They lost the ability to turn their house into cash, and a lot of them have taken a pretty big hit in their portfolios.”

His company found more success with multigenerational developments, he says. They built enclaves for younger adults in a Mount Vernon development initially aimed at older buyers.

Other recent age-restriction changes include:

Somerset Development was building 173 homes for older adults at Pine River Village in Lakewood, N.J., when the market tanked.

“We started right as the market was cooling off, sold about 20 homes and the market just died,” says Ralph Zucker, Somerset president.

He went to the 26 residents at the time for approval and then to Lakewood Township officials for a zoning change. Now, about half of the homes will be for all ages in a separate development.

Sherwood Lakes in Virginia Beach was going to build a third of 180 homes for 55-plus buyers. “As we were building, we realized the market for age-restricted was almost non-existent,” says Dustin Little, sales consultant for Sherwood Lakes and a real estate agent. “We went to the City Council and lifted the age restriction.”

Sun City Grand in Surprise, Ariz., was completed in late 2005. Two years later, the community voted to allow people ages 45 to 54 in 15 percent of the homes. That lets children who inherit the homes move in after the owners die.

“We had forward-thinking board members who could see the future,” says Meda Cates, membership director. “As we age, we golf less, we spend less money doing activities, and we also wanted to be perceived as a younger community.”

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  1. Somerset’s homes in Lakewood didn’t collapse. It never got off the ground. How many retirees are looking for $ 500,000+ homes with 10 foot ceilings in the basement,etc.


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