Senior housing market set for boom, builders are told Buyers over 55 seen leading next surge in Balto.-D.C. area

Real estate

December 05, 1998|By Robert Nusgart | Robert Nusgart,SUN STAFF

They are older, they are established and they have money to spend. But right now in Baltimore, senior citizens have few places to go.

New-home builders were told yesterday that the active senior adult housing market has yet to be fully realized in the metropolitan market and it's time for area builders to seize an emerging opportunity.

"I would think that Baltimore is very under-served for the senior marketplace," said Timothy Sullivan of the Meyers Group, a national firm that tracks and analyzes new home sales in more than a dozen markets, including the Baltimore and Washington metro areas.

Sullivan was among several industry professionals who gave insights into trends and offered forecasts at the 1999 Real Estate Forecast Conference, sponsored by the Home Builders Association of Maryland at Turf Valley Conference Center.

Among some of the other trends that Sullivan touched on were: A growing immigrant population that came to Baltimore in the 1980s has matured, and now has the wealth to affect area housing.

The "echo boom" generation -- the 20-something children of baby boomers -- will demand that homes be built and equipped for future technology.

Builders and mortgage lenders should pay attention to the single-female market that is growing because of spousal death and divorce.

But it is the homebuyers 55 and over who will be leading the next housing market.

This is the market setting that Maryland and D.C. are awaiting, Sullivan said. "The move-up market is what is driving housing. These buyers have the money. They are discretionary. They can spend it, but they don't have to. It is a dynamic that is changing."

Sullivan said the U.S. population age 85 and over will increase 39 percent by year 2000 and another 33 percent by the year 2010. "When we look at the age and life expectancies the expectations are profound," he said.

Not all older people want to head to Florida or Arizona, he added.

"About 92 to 95 percent of seniors indicate that [they] want to age in place," Sullivan said. The reason: "Services are there that they know. They've got all the professional services there that they know, and they have their family -- that's the most important tie."

Sullivan said active seniors will be seeking a variety of housing options. He dismissed traditional "compound" communities, where senior housing is walled-in.

"We are going to see any kind of housing that you can imagine. Many seniors like the idea of moving down from the old two-story to the one-story. But there are other services and other techniques that could be done much more effectively.

"There will be small communities. There will be large communities. They will be attached. They will be detached. They will be in-fill. They will be downtown," he said.

Pub Date: 12/05/98

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