Hot housing market puts seniors on the move


(As seen on WZZM TV 13) Senior community leaders in West Michigan are rushing to meet an increase of new and prospective elder residents, and signs are pointing to a strong home seller’s market.

Holland Home, an independent and assisted living community with campuses in Grand Rapids and Kentwood, has seen a consistent upward trend in inquiries and walk-ins from older adults. Michael Loughman, director of sales for Holland Home, said the group is exceeding its projected admissions for the year by about 15%.

The majority of people Holland Home is working with have indicated a strong seller’s market is the driving force in their decision to transition to more maintenance-free living.

“What they’re seeing is things sell quickly,” Loughman said. “They’re thinking, ‘Maybe it’s now time for us to take advantage of this seller’s market — do the move we’ve been thinking about doing anyway.’”

Talk of a possible economic recession in 2020 also has senior homeowners worried they may not be able to take advantage of a strong market for long. Coupled with the anxiety of moving, many aging homeowners are choosing to take care of things sooner rather than later.

“I don’t care if you’re 26. A move is hard,” Loughman said. “If you’ve been in the house for 40 years, you may have a lot of stuff to get rid of, and with this market, I don’t have to worry about if I’m going to sell.”

Brian Pangle, president and CEO of Clark Retirement in Grand Rapids, agreed a bullish market for sellers is inspiring older people to transition to independent living but added West Michigan as a community also is attractive to people interested in living at Clark or Holland Home, or any of the other senior communities.

“When you look in Grand Rapids compared to other communities around the country, there’s more education of what it means to live in a senior community,” Pangle said. “We also see the number of older adults either staying in our community or relocating because their kids are here … kids move here, they put their roots down here, and grandparents say, ‘Well I want to live close to my grandkids.’”

Holland Home offers “maintenance-free” living, in addition to a wide variety of community amenities like swimming pools, restaurants, hair salons and convenience stores. The group has 745 apartments and condo-style homes among its campuses.

Clark Retirement has two communities in Grand Rapids offering similar amenities to Holland Home’s campuses, as well as an exercise center with a fitness coordinator, a primary care physician’s office and religious services.

Both communities mostly tend to receive people in their late 70s and early 80s.

“I would say people are attracted to worry-free living and the idea that, if I’m an 80-year-old person, and my spouse is 79 or whatever, there’s probably some health needs to be addressed down the road,” Pangle said. “If we’re both really healthy, we want to be in a place where we don’t have to worry about it.”

Holland Home currently is 99% occupied. Loughman said about 10 one- and two-bedroom units still are open.

To meet demand, Holland Home is undergoing an expansion at its Breton Woods campus that will add 46 new condo-style homes, which Loughman said are in high demand from seniors. The new units, 26 of which are already complete, will come with high-end finishes like granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances, as well as smart home technology for residents to operate lighting, HVAC and door locks via mobile devices.

“I think that’s what has driven us to exceed our goal,” Loughman said. “There’s always this misconception that we’re full. Well, we do have something available. Despite our increase, we always have some availability. When you have that many units, there’s always some sort of transition.”

Occupancy at Clark Retirement is even tighter, as the community is currently 100% full and is running a wait list for new residents. The group also is expanding with 52 new apartment homes at its Keller Lake Campus and recently cut the ribbon on 22 new units at its Franklin Campus.

“We’re in the trailing days of the baby boomers — they’re, like, 55 now — so we will likely see this 30-or-so years from now,” Pangle said. “There’s going to be a continued need for this kind of living.”

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