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Canada's 50-plus Generation is Changing Housing Demand

By Jim Adair for Realty Times

As Canada's baby boomers get older, they will cause a dramatic shift in housing demand, and real estate companies and home improvement retailers are gearing up to cater to this powerful 50-plus demographic.

"They've got all the money," said Royal LePage Real Estate Services President and CEO Phil Soper at a recent symposium in Toronto. "They've got all the real estate, too."

There are currently 10 million Canadians over age 50, and it's the fastest-growing segment of the population. By 2010, there will be 12 million 50-plus Canadians. Royal LePage says that the "shifting mindset" of this demographic means that major changes are coming in the country's housing market.

The company recently launched the Royal LePage Seniors Real Estate Specialist Program (SRES), a designation to tell consumers that the real estate professional is trained to deal with issues of interest to the 50-plus demographic.

"Having the word 'senior' in the title is a bit unfortunate," said Soper. "This group is not interested in sitting around in rocking chairs and knitting. They are more interested in white-water rafting."

Royal LePage is the first organization in Canada to become a certified supplier of the designation. It is recognized by Canada's Association for Fifty Plus (CARP), which will provide Canadian content, statistics, research, and course information for the program.

Citing figures from a poll conducted for Royal LePage by Maritz Research, Soper said there's no real consensus of how the 50-plus market plans to retire. Some will move into smaller homes, some will renovate their current homes and others will use equity from the sale of their homes to travel. There are many more options available, and continuing to invest in real estate is one of them.

Twenty-two per cent of those polled said they will buy recreational property, and 24 per cent of those people said they would be willing to spend more on recreational property than on their prime residences.

"This is a demographic that treats death as if it's a curable disease," said David Cravit, a senior vice-president with the 50Plus Group, the online marketing arm of CARP. "Using 'there, there' marketing to these people will be fatal. They are players."

He said brokers and agents will need to come up with "customized solutions for financial, family and medical circumstances," and will require "much more knowledge of aging in place technology."

At a recent Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. conference, Ontario Regional Economist Ted Tsiakopoulos said housing demand is switching from being dominated by first-time buyers to predominantly move-up buyers. "Baby boomers will drive demand over the next few years," he said. "The majority of baby boomers were born in the early 1960s, and they will be aggressive move-up buyers." By 2011, "empty nesters" and retirees will drive household growth, he said, and seniors aged 75 plus will dominate the market by 2020.

Tsiakopoulos says the challenge for builders serving boomers during the next few years will be to provide larger housing spaces, in a world of rising costs and land constraints. He says there will be a growing demand for larger condominiums. For Realtors, he says the challenge is finding affordable detached homes in established neighbourhoods. For lenders, he says, equity-rich borrowers will be less sensitive to interest rate increases than they were in the past, but lenders will be kept busy providing financing for renovation spending.

The Royal LePage symposium also heard from two representatives from Home Depot, which has launched the Independent Living Program to make it easier for people to live independently. The retailers' own research shows that 65 per cent of baby boomers are planning renovations to their homes.

One of the key components of the program is to integrate safety with style when renovating a home for seniors. For example, while many seniors would benefit from a bathroom outfitted with grab bars and no-slip floors, many are reluctant to install them for fear of lowering the look and resale value of the home.

The Home Depot survey says that people who are shopping for safety items for the home do not want to have to visit a special section of the store -- they want these items to be treated like everything else in the story, with no stigma attached to them.

Royal LePage's poll found that 56 per cent of the 50-plus group considers old age to be in the range of 70 to 80 years and older. It found that 28 per cent of those polled are planning to sell their homes as part of their retirement plans. Of those who plan to sell, 37 per cent said they will move into smaller, more manageable homes.

People in the Prairie provinces are most likely to want to stay in their current home without making changes (58 per cent), while those in B.C. (32 per cent) are the most likely to sell up or down size. Canadians in Atlantic Canada (nine per cent) are the least likely to modify their existing homes for their retirement years, says the poll.

Published: November 16, 2006

Posted on Friday, November 17, 2006 at 01:58AM by Registered CommenterJoanna | CommentsPost a Comment | References1 Reference

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