Single-family senior? Homebuilders aim for over-55 market

🕐 4 min read

Senior Homes Characteristics

Square footage: 1,600 to 1,900

Prices: $175,000 to $275,000

Empty-nesters prefer larger living areas and nicely appointed kitchens rather than more bedrooms and spacious backyards, according to Paige Shipp of Metrostudy

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With abundant living options for people 55 and older, the Dallas-Fort Worth market is teeming with choices beyond nursing homes, ranging from pragmatic age-in-place communities to sprawling master-planned developments such as Robson Ranch.

But absent from the mix are affordable single-family homes that allow empty nesters to downsize without changing their lifestyle.

Fort Worth-based D.R. Horton and other area homebuilders are hoping to fill that void. Horton recently announced the introduction of its Freedom Homes brand, which will debut in Florida, Arizona and parts of Texas.

“We do not have any specific Freedom Homes projects currently slated for DFW, but it’s a market we are considering and may potentially offer in the future,” said Jessica Hansen, D.R. Horton vice president.

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The Dallas-Fort Worth area is one of the most underserved markets for housing aimed at buyers 55 and up, said Paige Shipp, Dallas-Fort Worth regional director for the real estate analysis firm Metrostudy.

“This is a market for people who no longer need the four-bedroom, three-and-half-bathroom house but want to be able to stay in their communities, attend their churches, get together with their friends, see their doctors and shop and eat in places that are familiar.”

Shipp said this type of housing is available in other parts of the country but has yet to gain traction in Texas. However, national homebuilder and developer Taylor Morrison Home Corp. announced recently that it is expanding into the Dallas market with its new division, Taylor Morrison Dallas, and plans to introduce two communities for “active adults.”

The new division will partner with the company’s other brand, Darling Homes, to develop and build The Tribute Lakeside Golf and Resort in The Colony and Auburn Hills in McKinney, the company announced. Both are expected to open in 2017.

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The basic footprint for “active adult” homes – a term that refers to empty-nesters, who are often still working – is a two-bedroom, two bathroom home with a study, Shipp said.

Ranging from about 1,600 to 1,900 square feet and priced from about $175,000 to $275,000, these houses share similarities with traditional three-bedroom, two-bathroom starter homes that have long been a staple for young families, Shipp said.

Empty-nesters prefer larger living areas and nicely appointed kitchens rather than more bedrooms and spacious backyards, Shipp said.

Taylor Morrison’s development in The Colony will offer one-story patio homes that will have views of Lewisville Lake and The Tribute golf course. The McKinney development will offer one- and two-story homes in a gated community.

Low-maintenance, single-story houses are the most sought-after among empty-nest buyers, Shipp said.

D.R. Horton’s Freedom Homes will offer “primarily single-story homes, located in low-maintenance, age-restricted communities specifically designed for the active adult buyer,” Hansen said. “We expect many of these communities will be gated.”

While no developments of this type have been announced in the Tarrant County area, Shipp said it is just a matter of time.

A Metrostudy report on consumer groups found that the 76126 ZIP code in Fort Worth has the highest percentage of potential buyers for these types of homes in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The North Fort Worth/Alliance area, which is one of the D-FW hotspots for homebuilding, would be a prime location because of its proximity to shopping, restaurants and medical facilities, Shipp said.

“Schools are no longer important to these people but they don’t want to be in the middle of nowhere,” she said.

The aging of the baby boom generation has spawned a robust market for living options that meet the needs of this vast segment of the population. Especially popular are “aging in place” communities that offer independent living, assisted living and then memory care or nursing care options, if needed, so that older people could potentially live in one location for 20 or more years.

Other options include mastered-planned retirement communities such as Robson Ranch in Denton County and Frisco Lakes by Del Webb in Collin County.

Apartment complexes chocked with amenities are another growing segment of the market.

But data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living show that 81 percent of the 26.8 million U.S. households headed by older people in 2013 (the latest figures available) were owner-occupied and 65 percent were owned free and clear.

“People want to own and live in their own homes,” said Lynn Motheral, president of the Greater Fort Worth Builders Association. “They want to live in neighborhoods but they don’t want to deal with a lot of little kids in entry-level neighborhoods.”

The demand for this type of housing is here but the logistics haven’t been worked out yet, Motheral said.

“The industry is looking at where they are going to put these houses,” he said. “It’s going to happen, it’s definitely going to happen.”

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