Baby Boomers
Real Estate

Arizona draws more Baby Boomers than every state but Florida

(Source: AZCentral): Catherine Reagor – Sunshine, affordable housing and lower taxes are drawing more Baby Boomers to Arizona.

Many in this huge group don’t want to retire like their parents but are picking the same state to do it in.

A couple of new rankings show Arizona, and particularly several Valley cities, are the most popular for Baby Boomers to move to after they stop working full time.

  • Arizona ranked second behind Florida for drawing the most people over 60, according to personal finance firm Smartasset. It analyzed the latest Census data from 2015 and found Arizona grew by 27,576 retirees. It also attributed the state’s low property taxes to the trend.
  • Mesa topped the list for U.S. cities with the most new residents over 60, drawing 3,442. Phoenix ranked No. 4 with 1,470, Chandler No. 5, with 1,458, PeoriaNo. 7 with 1,310 and Gilbert  No. 8 with 1,002.
  • Tucson ranked No. 1 and metro Phoenix No. 4 in the nation for the best places to retire, according to apartment researcher Zumper. It analyzed crime, weather, demographics and health-care stats as well as rents for its ranking.

Started with Sun City

Phoenix began to draw retirees in droves when Del E. Webb opened the first Sun Cityon the city’s western edge in 1960.

Sunshine, golf, affordable homes and the recent invention of inexpensive air-conditioning attracted retirees to the Valley.

The Valley’s Sun Cities multiplied over the next few decades. Other “age-restricted” retirement communities with links, clubhouses and restaurants followed, including Sun Lakes in Chandler and Trilogy in Peoria.

Robson Communities’ Pebblecreek in Goodyear is now the top-selling Valley community for buyers 55 and older, according to Belfiore Real Estate Consulting.

Homes in the Valley’s big retirement communities have gotten bigger and more upscale than in the original Sun City, and golf courses have become smaller and fewer. The nation’s 76 million Baby Boomers are driving those trends and others.

Building for Boomers

As Baby Boomers began to turn 50, builders started to try to figure out what this huge population nearing retirement would want.

It wasn’t clear then that Arizona’s sunshine and affordable home prices would be enough.

What was clear was many Baby Boomers didn’t plan on really retiring and want something different than their parents did at 60.

Sun City’s developer decided to mostly ditch the name that had become synonymous for retirement among Baby Boomers’ parents.

Developer DMB, known for its high-end communities including DC Ranch in Scottsdale, decided to build for the huge group of potential homebuyers. In January 2015, it launched Victory at Verrado in Buckeye, and 250 people lined up to buy a home in the age-restricted community.

The demand from retirees reminded some of 1960, when hundreds lined up to buy in the first Sun City.

DMB’s research found hiking, yoga, dining and wine tasting were important to Baby Boomers ready to stop working full time or at least going to the office five days a week.

Sales are up 26 percent in in Victory this year, according to DMB. About 40 percent of its buyers, with an average age of 59, are coming from Arizona. But 20 percent are from California, 6 percent from Washington and 4 percent from Illinois. Home prices start below $400,000.

Homebuyers in Victory have told me they picked the community because it isn’t walled off like older active-adult communities, and they can walk out their front door to hike in the White Tank Mountains.

Redefining retirement

Arizona retirement living has evolved from just inexpensive homes next to golf courses, though home sales are up in the original Sun City and adjacent Sun City West.

A growing number of Baby Boomers are buying new, upscale condominiums in central Phoenix and Scottsdale.

Other Baby Boomers are also downsizing to smaller homes closer in, to be near hip eateries, sports venues and cultural draws.

Communities farther out like Victory are drawing buyers who prefer the outdoor lifestyle.

Baby Boomers are changing retirement living. But like their parents, they are still choosing to do it in Arizona.