Building for boomers

  • Article by: NANCY CROTTI , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 22, 2014 - 2:04 PM

New homes are being developed for active adults who plan to stay put.

Let’s face it, moving is not high on most people’s list of fun things to do before they die. That’s why some Twin Cities developers are building homes that baby boomers can enjoy for the rest of their lives.

“By 2050, a quarter of our population will be over 65. Our population is aging and in particular, in Minnesota,” architect George Cundy, former chair of the Builders Association of the Twin Cities 50+ Housing Council. “The senior population is a specific market looking for a specific kind of housing, and many of them have a fairly good budget.”

One-floor living is the hallmark of these homes. Neighborhood associations provide lawn maintenance and snow removal. Builders offer the option to build out the basement with bedrooms and a bath for visiting children and grandchildren.

Builders are not necessarily marketing these homes as having universal design, but some come with three-foot doorways to accommodate a wheelchair, door handles instead of knobs for easier opening, and accessible — but attractive — bathrooms.

These home buyers don’t want their bathrooms to look institutional, according to Shawn Nelson, BATC president and owner of New Spaces, a Burnsville home remodeling firm.

“You can make an accessible bathroom look amazing,” Nelson said. “I think a lot of builders are looking at that.”

Norcutt Homes is building single-story townhomes with two bedrooms and two full baths in Woodbury’s Stonemill Farms. They vary from 1,523 to 1,636 square feet with two-car garages and an option for a third. Prices range from $318,000 to $463,000. Most buyers are active adults in their late 50s, looking for a smaller, more luxurious home, according to Jay Fletch, an Edina Realty agent representing Norcutt.

“One common thing I see with all the buyers is not necessarily where they’re coming from but rather why they’re coming,” Fletch said. “Most of the buyers either have kids or grandkids within the immediate area.”

Another Stonemill developer, custom builder Cardinal Homebuilders of Oakdale, has built five such communities.

“It’s all designed for aging in place,” said Deanne Weiner, broker at Cardinal Realty. “A lot of them have two master bedrooms and they share the laundry and the closet. Somebody snores, [so] they don’t want to sleep together.”

Homes in Cardinal’s The Nest neighborhood range from 1,430 to 3,800 square feet and in price from $319,000 to $600,000. Buyers may opt for extras such as a finished basement or a porch.

“Because we’re custom, we’ll do our best to try and work with what they’re looking for,” Weiner said.

In Maple Grove, K. Hovnanian Homes offers what it calls resort-style living restricted to those ages 50 and older in its Rush Creek development. In addition to single-story, maintenance-free living, Rush Creek has a 13,500- square-foot clubhouse with indoor and outdoor pools, spas and an activities coordinator to help residents organize events.

Buyers who want to age in place should specify their needs to their builder, according to Cundy. “Don’t be bashful about saying what you want,” he said. “There are lots of people who are willing to do it for you, but you have got to ask.”

Nancy Crotti is a Twin Cities-based freelance writer.

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