Downsizing Trends

Tuesday, May 23, 2017 - By: Bill Petersen


At 77 million strong and comprising about a quarter of our country’s population, age truly is just a number for the 55+ demographic, now our nation’s most influential consumer category. Many are far from retiring (25% are starting second careers as
“encore entrepreneurs”), few will tolerate being labeled as seniors (rightfully so), and from lifestyles to living arrangements, they’re proudly defying all things age restrictive. 55—a number so often used to define this demographic, is quickly eclipsed by the numbers that more accurately identify this formidable economic force:
  •  HALF of all consumer spending and 70% of all disposable income is controlled by Americans over the age of 55
  •  TWO THIRDS of the country’s equity in single family homes is controlled by the 55+
  •  31% of all home purchases are made by adults over 55
  •  18 MILLION home buyers over 55 will be house hunting within the next 3 year
  • $1.9 TRILLION will be spent on home purchases by those 55+ over the next 3 years

The term “downsize’ is considered a dirty word to many adults over 55, who might associate it with other potentially age-offensize words like “mature,” “assisted”, “senior” and even “adult.” Negative connotations aside, downsizing doesn’t always mean less, and many Americans who embark on “downsizing”, actually make a more lateral move to a smarter space-one where less really does mean more.

“We’re really not compromising a lot at all. Not really on anything,” says Kathleen Lee. Lee and her husband, Kirk, just closed on a new construction/downsizer home in Wilton’s Craw Farm development. As new empty nesters, the Lees began to notice that after the kids moved out, much of their house sat empty as well. “We realized that we really only lived in certain parts of the [larger] house. The home wasn’t a burden; it was just a lot of upkeep for two people.”
Enjoying their privacy but looking for something more manageable, the Lees decided to downsize. Once they did, they re-entered the real estate market confidently with a clear idea of what they wanted in their next home: the right location, a single story floor plan, and high quality construction.

A confident consumer makes a savvy shopper. Jim Chapman, Chairman of the NAHB’s 55+ Housing Industry Council, says older home buyers may be better equipped to compete in the housing market than their younger counterparts. Downsizing 55+ buyers do their research,” says Chapman, “they know what they want and don’t want to settle for less.”

Not only do downsizers not want to settle, but less really is more to many, who consider lower housing costs and single story floor plans just as much of a “downsize” as less square footage. In fact, many downsizers rank less square footage low on their list of priorities. What they really want, according to the National Association of Homebuilders, is similar to what the Lee’s were looking for. And also, strikingly similar to the real estate wish list of another demographic: the Millennials.

“We wanted to be close to the amenities of Saratoga, we love Saratoga,” explains Kathleen. “Ten minutes and boom, you’re in the city [of Saratoga Springs]. It’s close to the highway, it’s close to Lake George and Sacandaga [Lake], so the location was perfect.”

Enter Matt McPadden of McPadden Builders, LLC, an area home builder who saw a need in the local new construction market for modestly-sized, quality-crafted, single story homes in Saratoga’s surrounding areas. McPadden began building neighborhoods in nearby Wilton and Milton, and has since scored dozens of awards in Saratoga’s widely attended annual Showcase of Homes.

It was at the 2015 Showcase of Homes that the Lees and McPadden first met, after Kathleen and Kirk toured the builder’s Chestnut model and realized they’d found the downsizer of their dreams. “The Showcase of Homes [is] something my husband and I do in the fall every year,” explained Kathleen. “We walked through the particular model and it just struck me as being the perfect house in terms of its layout and open floor plan.”
With all their favorite features from their larger home, but in a more manageable space, and built brand new, the model home made downsizing look like an upgrade. And the visible quality of the home provided the Lee’s peace of mind for their future ahead.

“For us it was a matter of getting a good quality built home. It’s kind of an intangibility really, but we could just tell that it was a well-built house. It’s going to last, it’ll be good for resale, and it stuck in my head. This particular house is more in line with our lifestyle, especially after we retire,” Lee says.
“We have always built efficient, detailed homes, both in terms of the lack of wasted space as well as energy efficiency,”

McPadden explains. “Add that together, and the product epitomizes what 55+ home buyers are looking for since most of them are coming from larger homes with higher costs to operate.” 75% of his new construction clients are now adults over 55. “Build it and they will come,” indeed.

But his 55+ buyers aren’t coming alone. The builder says that many are being followed by their Millennial kids and grandkids, who see the value in those “cross points of access” and want to buy in the same communities.
There are a handful of these multi-generational families now living in McPadden developments…with a family-friendly buffer of a few houses between them, of course.

Affordability, accessibility, and still lots of space for pets, people and entertaining, are just some of the upgrades that many Americans have been waiting for. It’s exciting that throughout the Capital Region, developers like McPadden, Michaels Group Homes, Malta Development, Saratoga Glen Builders and Rosewood Home Builders are recognizing the wants and needs of home buyers looking to downsize.

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