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One size won't fit all: Local real estate experts see diversity in senior community

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When it comes to trends in the construction of local senior communities, RE/MAX Associates Realtor Dennis Kaiser has only seen one over the past few years.

"There aren't any," he said. "There are no trends -- no new construction. If you notice, there hasn't been anything built in San Diego for 15 years."

Kaiser, and a number of other local realtors who are certified as Senior Real Estate Specialists, said that while no new senior communities are becoming available, the boomer market is steadily moving into new or remodeled homes.

As the fastest-growing population in the country, boomers with changing needs are consistently moving house or putting reverse mortgages on their homes to pull some equity out of their most valuable asset.

Unfortunately, Kaiser said, for seniors who want to live in a brand-new senior community in San Diego, options are limited. In fact, Kaiser said he gets calls almost weekly from seniors looking for new senior communities.

"I get that all the time," he said. "People want something new. I say, 'You can't have it.' They say money is no object. I tell them I don't care."

He said builders should take notice of the opportunity to build new senior housing communities.

"I think if somebody did, it would be a great success," he said.

Meanwhile, RE/MAX Rancho Bernardo Realtor Deborah Vandeberg said the seniors who are in the housing market tend to buy older homes and spend upward of $100,000 on remodels. Many of the homebuyers are actually downsizing, she said, because they want to live in a one-story home or a different community.

"They're going for location," she said. "They want to make sure their investment holds strong. They're looking for areas that are centrally located -- UTC, La Jolla or Rancho Bernardo."

Vandeberg added that seniors are also "buying in the fixtures such as Oaks North" in Rancho Bernardo and "doing an absolutely beautiful remodeling job."

Prudential realtor Peggy Fleury said remodeling is a trend she sees in general, not just with seniors. She said the biggest mistake is to assume seniors are all one group with the same types of needs.

Fleury helps find living arrangements for some seniors, who suffer from Alzheimer's or other ailments that require them to have assisted living. Others are active people, she said.

"Some are ready to travel," she said, "while a lot of them don't want the responsibility of caring for their yard or house. "Like I say, it's such a diverse community."

Fleury pointed out that some seniors are willing to downsize from the homes where they raised children, while others want to stay put, and end up pulling equity out of their homes.

"Some of them need the equity in their home," she said. "Some take out a reverse mortgage where they can get a payment every month on the equity in their home. "It's a nice way of getting some extra money and staying in their homes as long as they can."

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