As Baby Boomers age

Boomers’ tastes influencing housing design, purchases

Multi-family units gaining popularity as the needs of buyers simplify.

Baby Boomers in the Fraser Valley love their single-family houses.

But they are also more likely to buy a unit in a multi-family development for their next home.

A survey released last week by Colliers International, commissioned by HJ Properties, found that Baby Boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964 – prefer living in single-family houses (46.2 per cent) over multi-family living (38.1).

But of those homeowners surveyed, 53.8 per cent said they were more likely to move into a multi-family development.

“As Boomers age, there’s a desire among many to simplify their lives, which includes alleviating some of their belongings and their space,” said Scott Brown, senior vice-president of Colliers International. “There’s also a growing need amongst this group to secure funds for retirement and investment, encouraging them to opt for a multi-family home to free up equity.”

The group (defined as those in the 49-67 age bracket) overwhelmingly cited price as the main consideration when considering the purchase of a new home.

“It’s clearly about retirement, and having enough money,” said Brown. “With 80 being the new 70, the main focus is ‘am I going to have enough money?’

“And in Surrey and Langley, that’s about downsizing.”

A little more than 75 per cent of survey respondents from Surrey cited price as a factor in buying into a multi-family development, up slightly from the Fraser Valley average of 74 per event. Proximity was the second-highest concern, at 58.5 per cent.

“When people downsize, the preference is to stay where they are,” said Brown, adding that a lower price may prompt people to move “from one part of Surrey to another, if there’s several thousands of dollars difference in the price.

“If they prefer to live in the west part of Surrey, they’re still willing to move east. And their friends are still not that far away.”

The survey discovered the biggest thing homeowners did not want to lose when downsizing was their outdoor space, and/or yard and garden. Almost half, 47.8 per cent, of respondents from Surrey listed their greenspace as the most difficult to leave. Location to shopping, restaurants and other services ranked second at 37.4 per cent.

“It’s surprising how much people value their yard,” said Brown. “Even with older people. It’s tied to their identity.”

Many new developments are taking that into consideration, Brown said.

For example, HJ Properties’ Esplanade – the final phase of the Waterstone condominium development near the Surrey/Langley border north of 64 Avenue – has made greenspace a priority.

“There’s a community garden, so people can still get their hands in the dirt,” he said. “And the density has been kept low, so there’s walking trails and terraces that back onto the greenspace.”

Whether the survey, and others that are similar, will change the way the housing industry at large constructs new homes is difficult to say, Brown said.

“It’s too early to tell,” he said. “But this generation has changed everything as they age.”

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