30 January 2011

Not the sort of people you want to depend on for helping contribute to school taxes

Washington Post, 01/26/2011
Leisure World residents balk at $1 fee
By Katherine Shaver

Sixty percent of residents surveyed at Leisure World in Silver Spring want to change the “active adult” community’s name rather than pay a licensing fee to continue using it and the landmark steel globe, a community leader said Wednesday.

The survey, which was circulated in December, came after Heidi Cortese, the daughter of Leisure World’s initial developer, proposed charging a $6,000 monthly fee because her California-based company, RRLH, holds the trademark to the name and globe design. Cortese lowered the fee to $1 annually for 30 years, saying she needed to charge something or risk losing her trademark protection.

The Georgia Avenue community has used the Leisure World name and enormous steel globe at its entrance for 45 years.

Leisure World’s 35-member board of directors will vote on the issue in March or April after the staff determines how much it would cost to change the name on signs, trucks, staff uniforms and the entrance, said board chairwoman Marian Altman. The community has already spent $35,000 in legal fees.

Of the 2,895 residents who responded to the survey, 60 percent favored changing the name and 32 percent wanted to keep it, Altman said. Another 8 percent gave only comments. The 610-acre community has 8,500 residents age 55 and older.

If the community changes its name, Altman said, it also would change the globe logo.

23 January 2011

On the House: A boomer boom goes bust

On the House: A boomer boom goes bust
By Al Heavens
Inquirer Real Estate Columnist

A lot of home builders once assumed there would be a bottomless market of baby boomers for their over-55 communities.
You could see the dollar signs in their eyes every time they happened on one of the 79 million Americans born between 1945 and 1964.

Demographers admonished them not to lump all boomers together, noting that a large segment hadn't gone to Ivy League schools or become corporate lawyers.

Some, it turns out, actually worked for a living, or didn't, or lived from paycheck to paycheck, or saw their high-paying jobs outsourced to cheap labor markets and now were working at fast-food outlets.

When buyers didn't materialize fast enough, developments were built that boomers could retire into while they were still working, communing with their demographic in four-unit clusters or at community recreation centers. Then came 2006: The housing bubble burst, the poor got poorer, and the rich became less so.

Now, five years later, boomers are hanging on to their houses, either because they hope their lost equity will be recovered quickly or because buyers are scarce. That's what the 50+ Housing Council of the National Association of Home Builders and AARP found in separate surveys of baby boomers in late 2010.

Another finding: The recession has made buyers more practical about choosing new homes. Design considerations have taken a backseat to financial concerns, which any student of the obvious figured out three years ago.

Falling into the "no-kidding" category: Past surveys showed that selling a house facilitated the purchase of a new one. The most recent data indicate that option diminished during the economic downturn.

In 2005 and '07, the Home Builders/MetLife Mature Market Survey reported, no active-adult buyers acknowledged having to tap cash or savings to buy a house, but in 2009, 45 percent of the typical buyer's down payment came from cash or savings.

The data were drawn from the 2009 American Housing Survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In a May Webinar, Margaret Wylde of the ProMatura Group of Oxford, Miss., who produced a number of the studies I've reported on over the years, said the number of boomers "very unlikely" to buy in active-adult developments had risen from 3 percent in 2004 to 31 percent.

Tough crowd.

Those able to buy are getting much more for less, the Home Builders/MetLife study said, with fewer than half reporting that their new houses cost more than their old ones.

AARP's study reported that 88 percent of those 65 and older and 83.5 percent of baby boomers want to stay in their homes as long as they can.

That means most boomers will stay where they are in the suburbs, AARP said: "Retirement communities are now being developed closer to metropolitan areas because many are still working and don't see retirement as withdrawing from society."

There were some interesting insights on urban areas, as well, from AARP:

Many central cities are experiencing a resurgence of urban living fueled not only by young adults but by empty-nesters.

"Yuppie senior" populations emerged in places like Las Vegas, Denver, Dallas, and Atlanta.

Slow-growing metropolitan areas in the Northeast and Midwest will age, too, but more likely will consist disproportionately of "mature seniors" who are less well off financially or medically. Those populations may require greater social support, along with affordable private and institutional housing, and accessible health-care providers.

On the House:

Inquirer real estate writer Alan J. Heavens is the author of "Remodeling on the Money" (Kaplan Publishing). His home improvement column appears Fridays in Home & Design.

"On the House" appears Sundays. Contact Alan J. Heavens at 215-854-2472, aheavens@phillynews.com or Twitter: @alheavens.

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08 January 2011

Another good reader letter

Mr. Blechman,

Finally, someone has the stones to publish some truths about this place. Thank you. Everyone in my area, as well as, anyone who is currently employed by The Villages needs a copy of "Leisureville". It's better than therapy. I am a certified builder and have worked for these people for over 12 years. I have lived here locally for over 20 years and watched as the prestine beauty of the area that was fields of grandfather oaks and fox squirrels turn to cookie cutter houses and repeat shopping. Yes, I profited heavily in the housing boom, but I can tell you how homes were pushed to be built in 30 days start to finish and how county inspectors seemed to be "robo signing" inspection cards. This place has no bones or history like many other great places to live. It is surrounded by rampant poverty and high unemployment. It seems as if the Villagers are all bitter when you come into contact with them. Maybe they're pissed because they can't unload their home in Florida's falling house market, or they did everything and are bored. The locals hate the place and go to bed at night loathing that their local gov't is controlled completely by the developer. Roads crumble outside the borders while flower beds are replanted after every cold snap within. County tax revenues seem to be misappropriated. Recently, the local high school was consolidated with the middle school for lack of county funds - while the developer plans a new turnpike exchange and towncenter. When the developer needs an agenda pushed or funds raised, he leans on the subcontractors and business owners for "voluntary" donations. It gets old.....quick!

I agree with you. I think it's wasteful ideology to save your entire life only to live segregated by age and confine oneself to "retirement communities". The word "retirement" itself is a goal less thought of by my generation (X) and surely by the Y and Z gen. "Live now", we say. I recommend "4 Hour Work Week", by Tim Ferriss. This could very well sum up the mindset of the next generations and lead to the termination of phrases like "retirement communities".

If you plan a part two to "Leisureville", I would be more than helpful (free of charge) to fill in any blanks with my extensive experiences as an insider and as a local of 20 years.

Thanks again for a great read!


Interesting reader letter

Mr Blechman, After a recent trip down to Lady Lake Florida to pack up and move my 80 year old mother-in-law back to New England my wife and I made several unsettling observations of the area that we just couldn't quite figure out. After spending the day packing up her belongings and emptying out her mobile home we went to the Villages to spend the night in one of their hotels. The place was nice enough, but when we ventured out to eat and walk around we just couldn't keep from feeling we were in a giant theme park. We ended up eating one night at RJ Gator's and saw all these "seniors" streaming in these ridiculous outfits- both sexes easily dressed like they were 25 years younger then they were.We figured out that this must have been a stop on the "circuit" and asked our waitress about it. She laughed and said we should have seen the halloween party they had there- the outfits were "shocking", never mind the dancing. When we went back to the room I just had to find out what the Villages we supposed to be all about- We had been there before as my sister and brother-in-law moved there and it was Utopia to them. After just a little bit of digging on the internet I came across your book "Leisureville" and after reading a few pages online I had to get a copy. Being right across the street from a big Barnes and Noble at the Villages you probably won't be surprised to hear that your book was "unavailable". When we got home I bought your book and couldn't put it down. Everything was spot on- from that rag of a newspaper (that has to be seen to be believed) the piped in music, the phony downtowns, you name it. The most disturbing thing is most of the residents don't care- it's the greatest place on earth to them.You basically articulated our observations to a "T", the scary thing is learning how the place is run. We also have some friends that live in Bushnell and that place is a whole different world only 25 or so miles away. My mother-in-law is no fool and after being uprooted by my sister-in-law and told to move from West Palm Beach to Lady Lake she has finally had it. She has been in the area only 2 years and she has decided dealing in reality with the winters in New England (she is originally from Massachusetts) is better than living in a fantasy land in the Villages. Thanks for a great book, J and K, in NH