55+ and Still Going

Retirees see Shangri-La in New Hampshire,” proclaimed an article in the Boston Globe last June. If that claim seems a bit exaggerated, consider the rapid growth in the senior population of the state. Thomas Duffy of the New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning says that the number of seniors in the state will triple, from 147,000 in 2000 to nearly 408,000 in 2025. Seniors are indeed seeing New Hampshire as a good place for retirement.

Consider also the fact that each day in 2006, 7,918 Boomers will turn 60, according to Census Bureau estimates. This demographic supports the recent and rapid increase in the development of housing for active New Hampshire seniors. This is definitely a trend that will continue, says Jim Stabile of Stabile Homes. The demand is there. A new Stabile development, scheduled for completion in July, was almost sold out by mid-February. Units are selling well even in winter, typically a slow time in real estate.

The names and requirements of these developments vary somewhat. Active Adult Communities and 55+ Residential Communities are usually residential developments of single, detached homes or townhouses, owned as condominiums. The community will be age restricted in one of two ways: Either every resident must be age 62 or older, or at least 80 percent of the units must be occupied by someone age 55 or over.

An Active Residential Community is not age restricted but it is “age targeted.” Units will likely have two bedrooms — just enough to accommodate a visiting child or grandchild. There are no playgrounds or other amenities that families with children might want.

With a few exceptions, the communities are cluster subdivisions in which the homes are built close together, as compared to developments, and often with common green space. They are popular with town planning boards because the use of space is efficient and because they do not impact the school systems.

Who is buying these homes, which range in price from the low $200,000s to $800,000? Rudy Mayer of ERA Masiello Group in Nashua describes a typical buyer. It is a couple, around age 60, moving to southern New Hampshire from Massachusetts or the Seacoast. They have taken early retirement. They bring substantial equity from their previous home; they may pay cash for the new home. They want less upkeep and more time for other activities. They want a master bedroom on the first floor, a garage and upgrades such as hardwood floors and sunrooms. No longer concerned about commuting, they favor small towns at a distance from major highways. But they do want shopping and other activities within a convenient drive. Being near Massachusetts is a factor for many buyers.

Mayer says that in 2004, his office sold 260 new units in such developments. In 2005, the number sold was 420. He suggests, however, that cost and the lack of land for further development may begin to slow the market. He now has about 300 such units available.

Thus far, almost all of these adult communities are located in southern New Hampshire, primarily in the “golden triangle” area surrounding Manchester, Nashua and Salem. There is one age-targeted development in the western part of the state, in Jaffrey, consisting of 41 two-bedroom units of detached housing. Realtor Marc Tieger of Tieger Realty says, “I could have easily sold that many again.” Here, too, most buyers come from Massachusetts and the Seacoast. A few have come from northern New Hampshire.

The concept is popular; the units sell quickly. But will the trend move northward? Some say yes, some no. Jim Stabile suggests that where there are communities that attract active retirees, adult residential communities will develop. He sees the Lakes Region and the Upper Valley as likely areas.

Marc Tieger agrees and adds that there will be a westward movement as well. Somewhat lower land costs will be attractive for future development. The scenic beauty will attract active retirees with outdoor interests.

But some think that development of such communities will slow, as the market in the southern part of the state becomes saturated. Rudy Mayer suggests that the trend is too new to accurately assess its staying power. The restrictions of a condominium, plus increasing management fees, now $300 per month on average, may make some people hesitate.

For now, though, the trend appears to have staying power. With 330 Boomers per hour entering their 60s, there continues to be a market. NH