In neighborhoods like Pearland’s Country Place and Bellavita at Green Tee, a quaint but social environment draws empty nesters looking for a low maintenance lifestyle and friendships.
Known as “active adult communities,” they are two of about half a dozen of such 55-and-up neighborhoods in the Houston area. Most are made up of single-story patio homes with a central community center. It is the type of housing for which demand has been growing, real estate agents say.
“If it’s a hot property, it’s not going to last a week on the market,” said Christina Smith, a Realtor at ReMax-Space Center/Clear Lake who sells in both the Pearland senior communities as well as Tuscan Lakes in League City.
While the average days on the market for most properties is 60, homes in one of these age-restricted communities sell in fewer than 30 days, she said.
In the past two years, demand for housing overall has grown as the market recovered, but driving demand for senior housing even further is an aging generation of Baby Boomers downsizing, often into patio homes in the suburbs.
“A lot of it is parents moving closer to their children,” Smith said. Medical reasons, also, draw seniors to a suburban area with easy access to world class health care.
While the one-story with a small – or no – yard is a popular choice, active adult communities are popular options for senior living because of the social element they offer, said Champions Real Estate Group agent Michael Gealt.
“The idea is that older people make friends easier if they are in a community with other older people,” he said. “It’s a birds-of-a-feather type thing.”
Sporting its own golf course, Country Place was built between 1982 and 1997 and now encompasses 841 single-family homes and townhomes.
Construction of Bellavita at Green Tee began in 2001 and was completed in 2012, with 675 homes. Most range in size from 1,500 to 2,400 square feet, with two or three bedrooms and a garage.
While the 65-plus population in general increased by 15 percent nationwide from 2000 to 2010, according to a Brookings Institution analysis of 2010 Census data, some areas are growing much faster — with Houston, Austin and Dallas among cities with the fastest-growing senior populations.
Baby Boomers, the largest population segment, are expected to keep pushing up the senior demographic until 2020, when there will be a projected 3.5 million seniors in Texas.
Many older residents aren’t necessarily moving to senior-only living arrangements. A current trend among new homes is the inclusion of a second master bedroom — almost always downstairs, often with a full bath – for older family members who move in with their children.
One-story, patio homes are also popular with seniors.
“They like a covered patio and a nice backyard – but not too big of a yard,” Smith said. “A lot of times, those 55 and older are downsizing. They are coming from a big dream house to smaller two-and-three bedrooms, but they still want the open concept and larger living areas – so it feels larger to them.”
In age restricted neighborhoods, chores such as lawn maintenance and painting are tackled by the HOA.
“Not because the residents can’t,” Gealt said. “They don’t want to. We have trips to New York, trips to Las Vegas, ball games, day trips. People get to the point in life where they want to have fun.”