You may think your dream of spending your golden years in a house flanked by the ocean on one side and golf courses on the other is over since the bottom fell out of the housing market. After all, development has stalled, sales offices are empty and home prices at some communities have dipped by as much as 50% in the last year.
You may be decades away from retirement, but as communities scramble to attract whipper-snappers as young as 45 years old, a golf course near a sunny beach may not be out of your budget.
“There are definitely deals to be had,” says Dave Robertson, editor of Living Southern Style magazine and a speaker for the traveling Live South Resort and Retirement Real Estate Show. “It’s difficult to get credit, but if you’re relatively affluent and have a big enough down payment, you can get a house.”
What’s Going On
December housing starts slid 15.2% compared to December 2007 and housing sales plummeted more than 37% year over year, leaving active adult communities such as the 140-unit Esplanade in Hudson, Mass., two-thirds undersold.
Even with a decline in the stock market, baby boomers have an average of $500,000 in total assets, not counting income from Social Security and pensions, according to Milliman, a consulting firm based in Seattle. However, the majority of that wealth is not liquid. Most of it lies in the value of their existing homes and, with credit frozen and housing sales in the tank, the money that active adult communities depend on to keep in business has dried up.
“The market has just been hard all around,” says Lizette Frias, a spokesperson for the Esplanade. “A lot of retirees just can’t get rid of their homes, so they don’t have the money to buy right now.”
Free Parking and Other Incentives
Some communities, such as the Esplanade and Century Village East in Deerfield Beach, Fla., are lowering their age requirements from 55 to 45, while others, such as Heritage Place in Roseville, Minn., are offering incentives such as three months of free parking, meals or housekeeping to lure new tenants.
“There’s no reason that you can’t sell a house in 30 days,” says McCarthy. “If a client can’t sell the house then I’ll put my own money behind the promotion.”