Retirees Hit the Road: But is Something Missing?

We all have retirement fantasies: Exotic places, sun all year round, and relaxation, relaxation, relaxation. It may not be a fantasy. Many retirees are now living the life of leisure…on the road.

U.S. Department of Commerce statistics reported in a recent article in the New York Times show that from 1993 to 2012, the number of traveling retirees grew from 9.7 to 13 percent. And Social Security Benefits to more than 350,000 Americans were sent to foreign addresses in 2013 – almost 50 percent more than in 2003.
Call them senior gypsies or the new explorers, many retirees are selling their homes and belongings, and taking to the road unencumbered by stuff.

Right now, baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) make up almost 25 percent of the population; many in this group are hitting retirement age in ways many experts didn’t envision: By fleeing the good life they worked so hard to build.

Take Lynne and Tim Martin, for example. As highlighted in the New York Times article and others, this couple (ages 73 and 68, respectively) have been traveling the world since 2010, living in rentals and chronicling their adventures on their website, Home Free Adventures.

As Lynne told Yahoo Finance writer Mandi Woodruff: “We looked very carefully at what our overhead was living in California, and what it cost us to wake up every morning in our house. We added everything together, and it was staggering.”

The result was a nomadic lifestyle that seems to suit the Martins perfectly. But it’s not for everyone.

From time immemorial, man has sought that place called home. For most of us, a sailboat or RV doesn’t qualify.

So consider whether you’ll miss those family Christmases, your garden, or the grandkids’ school plays. And when you find yourself craving a change, try tapping into the equity in your home, downsizing, and earmarking “Big Money” for travel and relaxation.

Finally We Have a Snapshot of a Typical Subdivision

More of us are living in subdivisions. Now, thanks to a survey by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), we know what a typical American subdivision looks like. Here are some study results, courtesy of RISMedia:

A representative U.S. housing subdivision of single-family detached homes spans 22 acres and contains 48 residential units. The median gross density is 2.1 units per acre. Approximately 4 percent of developments include dedicated retail space, and another 4 percent include non-retail commercial space.

The characteristics of subdivisions vary widely, depending on whether the development is classified as metro, non-metro, single-family, townhome, multi-family, or mixed. Mixed subdivisions that contain a combination of housing types often tend to be fairly large, with 291 housing units versus 48 in single-family-only, 56 in townhome-only, and 86 in multifamily-only subdivisions.

Generally, subdivisions in metropolitan areas occupy less acreage but have a similar number of housing units as those in non-metro areas, indicating that metro developments are denser. The median number of housing units in metro area subdivisions is 59, while in non-metro developments it is 63.

The findings are derived from a poll sent electronically to more than 2,000 NAHB members who are land developers. In total, they provided data on 533 development projects. Why do we care? The population is shifting towards lower-maintenance homes in the burbs, and especially downtown. Check out the full study at Typical American Subdivisions

Three Easy Ways to Create Great Winter Curb Appeal

Selling a home during winter can be difficult. Wherever you live, the usual curb appeal tactics – a lush garden and water features – may not feel right as the holiday season approaches. But there still are ways to spruce up your exterior with seasonal flair. Here are a few:

Work with the green around you: Thanks to evergreens, your front yard can look beautiful no matter what the season. These versatile plants come in a range of sizes, shapes, and colors, and complement every exterior house style.

For example, plant mature cedar hedges or boxwood around the perimeter, and add porch appeal with potted evergreens beside your front door. Stick in branches of berries or artificial fruit for color, and, in southern climes, “borrow” some tropicals from the garden for a splash of color against the green in your pots.

Take inspiration from holiday décor. Buy a mini-Christmas tree and pot, and decorate it. Cover the pot with burlap, and put it by your front door.

Brighten those dark days: Days are shorter in winter, so keep things bright. Employ clear floodlights to showcase your home’s architecture, or install driveway and walkway lights leading prospective buyers directly up the path to their new home.

Add some bling: Sparkle is always in style! Buy a silver, copper, or gold wreath to match your exterior, and add shiny garden globes to a lackluster garden. Keep it simple and elegant. And, oh yes, please hold the inflatable Santa and prancing reindeer until after the house is sold.

School Districts Matter to Buyers and Sellers

It’s axiomatic in the real estate industry that homes in good school districts are more desirable and fetch higher prices than similar homes in lower-tiered school districts. Indeed, buyers are willing to sacrifice or compromise on many attributes and amenities to own a property in a good school district.

It does matter

These findings in a recent Realtor.com survey of nearly 1,000 prospective home buyers bear this out:

  • More than 90 percent of respondents said school district boundaries were important in their search for a new home.
  • One out of five stated that they would give up a bedroom or a garage to live in a better school district.
  • One out of three said they would downsize to a smaller home if the schools were better.
  • Twenty percent of respondents said they would pay 6-10 percent above their budget for a better school district.
  • Ten percent would pay up to 20 percent over budget based on school quality.

Solid investments: The buying process should definitely include an analysis of the school district, whether you have kids or not. In addition to providing educational advantages, buying a home in a good school district is a sound financial investment. For families, buying into a good school district can save the cost of private school tuition. But for empty-nesters, homes in top school districts tend to hold their re-sale value through market fluctuations, and school excellence is often a good indicator of community safety, stability, and overall quality.

Interestingly, some people without children would prefer not to live near a school but, of course, will still want to know where schools are in their preferred neighborhood. You can obtain information about test scores, excellence awards, teacher-student ratios, and other school quality factors online at sites such as schooldigger.com  or greatschools.org. In addition, many state websites post school district report cards that enable you to compare and rank them.