Question:  My wife and I are 60 years old looking at townhouses.  Many complexes will provide age restrictions such as being over 55 years old.  While this is common, and understandable, I was wondering the true motivation behind this age restriction?

Answer:   The decision to restrict the age of a development’s residents is made solely by the developer early in the process.  Purely a marketing-based choice, setting a minimum resident age of 55 or even 62, guides many facets of a development’s presence, beginning with predominantly favorable “single level living” architecture.  By focusing on a typically more affluent population of potential buyers, a developer profits by age restricted housing.  Host communities benefit as well.

Today’s older residents tend to stay locally, near children and grandchildren as opposed to moving to Florida retirement communities.  In 2007, Jane Marie O’Connor, president of the 55 Plus consulting firm and publisher of Mature Living Choices said, in a Boston Globe article: “Over-55 developments typically draw (buyers) from only a 10- to 20-mile radius”.

Burlington based developer, Gary Litchfield, highlights the general ripple effect of such housing – “seniors moving into over 55 developments, usually turn over their reasonably priced homes to younger families, helping to maintain a steady flow of school aged children in the community”.  “Consistency is favored by town authorities concerned with overburdening their school systems”, says Litchfield who currently offers two over 55 developments in Westminster’s Village at Old Mill and Franklin’s Hidden Acres.

Folks buying at over 55 communities generally consider the move their last. Increasing age, combined with years of enduring the responsibilities of home ownership, make amenities such as snow removal, lawn care and exterior home maintenance, attractive to older buyers. Over 55 developments tout the opportunity to settle in with like-minded individuals, and avoid noise and disruptions brought by kids playing in common areas.

Be sure to research your prospective communities by visiting at various hours in the day. This will offer a peek at the energy and activity level of the area. Being the young couple on the block, may not be as nice as it sounds.  Look for neighbors in a similar age group. After all, 60 is the new 50.

 Attorney James Haroutunian practices real estate law in Billerica at 790 Boston Road.  Contact him to begin an estate plan or with questions at 978-671-0711, hlawoffice.com or email him at james@hlawoffice.com.

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