The baby boom has increasingly turned into a boon for builders on the East End.
With the youngest of that generation set to turn 55 in 2019, developers are racing to build age-restricted projects to accommodate the new wave of empty nesters. Seniors — and those on the cusp — are eager to downsize, experts said, and enjoy the camaraderie these communities provide.
“The 55-and-older segment of the market is probably the strongest segment,” said Michael Dubb, founder and CEO of the Beechwood Organization, which is one of the largest developers of residential housing on Long Island and is developing several age-restricted projects out east. “There is a tremendous desire for people on Long Island who have lived here and raised their kids to remain on the island, but people…don’t want to worry about cutting grass, leaky basements, leaking roofs, aging kitchens.”
Douglas Elliman agent Elyse Mayer said she sees a huge level of interest in these projects from her clients. “These are active adults. Years ago, if you said senior community, people would go, ‘oh, my gosh, I wouldn’t go there. I don’t want to be with the older generation,’” Mayer, a baby boomer herself, said. “But we are the older generation now, and we’re young.”
The ability to get together with neighbors over card games at a clubhouse or a trip to the gym is a significant draw, particularly to those who are single. “I think that it’s a combination of not wanting to take care of a house and yet being in a community where they’re with their peers and they have what they want,” Mayer said.
Priming projects for the 55-plus crew
While 55-plus communities are increasing in popularity across the country, both the Hamptons and greater Long Island are particularly well-suited markets for that segment. The population of those over 55 in Long Island is growing six times faster than the overall U.S. population, according to a 2015 report from the Long Island Index. And they have money.
Developments in the Hamptons officially restricted to the 55-plus demographic include Westhampton Pines, which features a gym, indoor and outdoor pools, tennis courts, and Eagles Walk in East Quogue, which boasts a heated saltwater pool. Homes at Westhampton Pines are priced between the mid $700,000s to more than $800,000, while those at Eagles Walk are less than $400,000.
Beechwood has two projects in Southampton. Bishops Pond is a 69-unit luxury resort community completed in 2017 with homes ranging from $839,000, single-level apartments to $3 million townhouses. The Southampton Latch is a proposed high-end condo development at the site of the former Latch Inn (it’s being run as a hotel while the company awaits construction permits; see TRD’s story on page TK). Both are open to all buyers, but the company has seen tremendous interest from older adults.
“Our proposal for the Southampton Latch luxury condominium homes is not age-restricted — however, the 55-plus set is our top buyer,” said Dubb, adding that the same is true at Bishops Pond. “The market for these multi-million-dollar condominium homes are empty nesters downsizing from their estate homes or snowbirds out east for the summer.”
Beechwood’s inaugural age-restricted project was Meadowbrook Pointe, which opened in Westbury on the former site of the Roosevelt Raceway. Construction on the 720 units begin in 2006 and sales ended in 2017. That success led Beechwood to develop additional communities such as Country Pointe at Plainview, which was close to fully sold before construction even began. Residents started moving in this May. Other projects include Country Pointe Meadows in Yaphank, which has a June move-in date, and the smaller Country Pointe Woods at Smithtown, which will be opening to residents in the fall. The projects have a number of units open to anyone, but the majority are designated for those over 55 years old. Units at Country Pointe Meadows are priced from the low $400,000s to the mid $600,000s. Plainview is pricier, with townhomes, condos and villas from 1,300 to 2,900 square feet going from the high $600,000s to $1.4 million. Smithtown’s 69 homes cost anywhere from $600,000 to $800,000 and are between 1,800 and 4,000 square feet.
Other development companies such as the Northwind Group and Ornstein Leyton Realty are also investing in housing for the older set. The Hamptons-adjacent Eastport Meadows, which Northwind began in 2009, has 50 homes priced from the high $300,000s to the low $400,000s. Ornstein Layton’s sold-out Vineyards at Moriches, located in Center Moriches, has 92 semi-attached homes priced in the $500,000 range.
The prices may seem high to some looking to downsize, but Elliman broker Gary Baumann, who works extensively with empty nesters, reminds potentials buyers that they will be saving considerably on the unexpected expenses that routinely pop up for homeowners.
“Some people are selling a house that bought in the ’60s, early ’70s and looking into some of these new communities, and there’s not a big spread between what they’re going to get for their house and what the new place costs,” Baumann said. “When they look at the cost of a condo and say, ‘oh, well, it’s $450 a month on the maintenance fees,’ they don’t take into account that five years ago they spent $15,000 on the roof. And then they spent $10,000 on the heating system.”
But with American life expectancy now inching toward 80, communities with extensive options for golf, tennis and fitness, as well as social scenes that are convenient and easy to join, are more popular than ever.
One request Elliman’s Mayer often gets is for one-level homes, a rarity on Long Island. And so far, they are still hard to come by, she said. “The biggest thing, of course, is most people at that point don’t want stairs, and it’s not cost-effective for these builders to build just ranches,” Mayer said. “It would be great if they could build everyone a one-level house, even if they’re attached, but it’s not cost-effective.”
Still, empty nesters are lining up to be a part of these kinds of communities, and they share more than just the baby boomer moniker.
“They tend to be social people,” Dubb said. “The common thread is moving out of homes and starting a new life, that’s what I would say binds them together. They’re typically people that have grandchildren on Long Island and children on Long Island and a lot of them like to travel.”