Manufactured Housing Communities and the 55+ Older Market

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People are now living long after retirement. According to the 2007 period life table for the Social Security area population, those on the cusp of retirement, ages 55‐64, are expected to live on average 21.34 more years. Living in a manufactured home community represents an ideal lifestyle choice for many in this demographic. The following represents some real advantages that manufactured homes offer the 55+ market:

‐ Manufactured homes can be customized to fit the needs and wants of every homebuyer. This includes interior floor plans, exterior designs and custom kitchens, baths and living areas.
‐ Manufactured housing, especially those located in land‐lease communities, are less expensive to purchase and maintain.
‐ Manufactured homes offer convenient one‐story living and can be built for accessibility.
‐ Manufactured home communities provide a unique setting where smaller yards require less maintenance, while individual home sites maximize privacy.
‐ Manufactured home communities provide a secure, friendly, relaxed environment with a strong sense of ‘community’.

How can manufactured housing communities benefit 55+?

Manufactured housing communities allow residents to own their own home while leasing the land, thus eliminating the expense of property taxes and allowing homeowners to enjoy amenities and well‐maintained common areas. According to a report prepared for the Commission of Affordable Housing and Health Facility Needs for Seniors in the 21st Century, advantages of land‐lease properties are that “the resident can own the home with a lower down‐payment than virtually any
other housing alternative because the cost of land is not included in the transaction. The resident can also benefit from appreciation, provided the home is well maintained in a well‐ located and maintained park.”

In addition, and no less important, is the sense of community engendered by the manufactured home lifestyle. By providing many opportunities for social interaction through organized activities, such as clubs, fitness classes and social events, communities encourage resident relationships. Safety and security are top concerns for many residents. Many 55+ communities are gated and provide on‐site security as well as neighborhood watch programs. By providing a sense of security, spaces to personalize, interesting destinations and places to walk, and the options of having pets, manufactured home communities have the potential of
encouraging active living for 55+ individuals.

What can community owners offer to attract the 55+ market?

Age restricted manufactured housing communities, typically called 55+, offer many advantages with many different types of land‐lease communities to choose from. They can be large communities with numerous amenities or smaller and more affordable family‐owned communities. There are communities located all over the country and in every price range. Common amenities include swimming pools, clubhouses, health clubs, and tennis courts.

We know that most people begin their housing search online. To capture the attention of those looking online at housing options, 55+ manufactured home communities need to have attractive websites that provide lots of information, including pictures of the community (not just individual homes), information about lease fees, and testimonials from homeowners. In addition, an attractive and informative website should highlight those services and amenities that are important and attractive to seniors. Jensen Communities (www.jensencommunities.com), offers a great example of a website that is user‐friendly. In addition to outlining important information related to the advantages of living in a manufactured home, the website provides prospective residents with a comprehensive list of special amenities found in their communities.

Jim Ayotte, Executive Director of the Florida Manufactured Housing Association, states, “to make an emotional connection with prospective homebuyers, every community’s website should have a detailed description of their value proposition, with quality pictures of homes and individuals. Homeowner testimonials are a great idea.” With over 900 55+ manufactured home communities, Florida represents a top destination choice for many. In Mr. Ayotte’s view, the range of options available in Florida’s 55+ communities is limitless. Those in the 55+ market are undoubtedly attracted to Florida’s warm climate, sandy beaches, suburban or rural settings (depending on preferences), excellent health care and affordable cost of living. Many of Florida’s 55+ manufactured housing communities have swimming pools, community centers, health clubs, tennis courts and executive or professional golf courses. Seniors are looking not just to buy a home but to buy
into a lifestyle. Ayotte also explained that he expects the 55+ community industry to expand over the next ten years as the baby‐boomer generation reaches retirement age. Experts have indicated that baby‐boomers are very active and many are expected to continue working after they retire. Community owners that focus on the 55+ market need to be poised to meet the unique needs of this large demographic.

Manufactured home communities continue to be a popular option for a growing segment of the aging U.S. baby boomer generation. In the last decade, the median age of the nation has increased from 35.3 to 37.2 – an all‐time high as determined by the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2010, 17.3 percent of Florida’s population was age 65 or higher. This trend is expected to continue as more seniors flock to Florida and other warm weather retirement destinations. For seniors, 55+ manufactured home communities provide an affordable housing choice with great lifestyle advantages. Clearly, this niche market is a great opportunity for seniors and community owners alike.

Source: MHI, Summer 2011 "Connections"