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Retirees are helping to drive the market

Ashley Ford, Vancouver Province,  August, 20, 2006

They are the new force in the B.C. housing market.

Armed with assets and better health than their mothers and fathers, retirees are leaving the urban jungle for the fresher climes of smaller towns and communities across the province.

In the process, they are helping create a heated housing market rivaling that of the Lower Mainland and blurring the lines between recreation and conventional housing.

Rudy Nielsen, the 64-year-old founder of Niho Land & Cattle Co. Ltd., which has specialized in recreational property for four decades, describes this new force as "penturbians. People who have owned a property in the Lower Mainland since 1985 and valued at over $350,000.

"They sell up and move to a smaller town, usually within six hours drive of Greater Vancouver. They choose a spot that is near a recreational facility or hospital and close to shops.

"Although we think prices are high, they have enough to buy a home, a RV and still have money in the bank," he says.

David Baxter, of Urban Futures, a Vancouver-based conservative think tank, concludes the next three decades will bring significant changes to the social and economic structure of B.C.'s towns.

Urban's study on senior's housing demand in B.C. in the next 30 years concluded increasing numbers are living in private homes and turning their backs on institutional or group living.

There is absolutely no doubt that retirees and near-retirees are having a major impact on property development and values outside urban areas, Baxter says.

The front-end baby boomers, the ones just retired or about to, are able to capitalize on their city properties, move away from the Lower Mainland and maintain their own dwellings.

Those at the tail end of the baby boom sitting in million-dollar properties are willing to remortgage and buy a recreational property with the longer-term objective of moving therer permanently, says Baxter.

Tom Pringle, executive director of the Real Estate Foundation, says, "This phenomenon suggests there are a range of needs and opportunities that communities will have to address more extensively in the next 20 years than has been the case in the past.

"Not only are the number of household heads 65  years and older growing very rapidly, but there is an increasing propensity to live as part of a couple. These seniors are likely to own their own homes and to prefer a ground-oriented dwelling."