At the risk of sounding immodest (who, me?), it worries me that so many major developers are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in property developments that go bankrupt simply because they didn’t check with me first. Real estate is just one of my many fields of interest. For example, take the Muskoka residential/golf communities that didn’t meet the developers’ expectations. Muskoka Bay, launched in 2002 seemed like a slam-dunk. Build plenty of lovely retirement homes around a world-class golf course (it works in Florida, doesn’t it?) targeted at the Baby Boomer market and just wait for the profits to roll in. Oops! It didn’t happen.
Red Leaves, Touchstone and other cottage-country resort-style residential developments are encountering problems because they misread the market. I am your typical Boomer target market and a living, walking testament to what we do and do not want in terms of retirement real estate. I’ve lived in two different locations in cottage country over several years, one of which was on a golf course, and chose to move back to Toronto. The last home we owned was in Victoria Harbour across the bay (as in Georgian) from Skyline Developments’ ambitious new development on land purchased from Canadian Pacific Railway in Port McNichol, Ontario. During the time we lived there, we watched the project break ground with a lovely sales office on the water and a couple of beautiful, large homes soon followed. Then, the air went out of the balloon. A couple of years went by with no activity. There was plenty of discussion about the project among our neighbours in Victoria Harbour. The lots alone cost around six hundred thousand dollars and the infrastructure needed to support the development was a distant dream.
Here’s what the developers didn’t take into consideration. Not all Baby Boomers are rich and can afford vacation property. Even those who can, recognize that living two hours away from cancer centres, major theatres, great restaurants, libraries, shopping destinations, doctors and dentists we’ve gone to for years is complicated. I know from experience. When we lived in cottage country I had to travel two or three times a week on the gawd-awful Highway 400 to Toronto for appointments (family doctors are difficult to find up north), to shop for specialty items or simply to visit my Boomer friends scattered around the Greater Toronto Area. We tried maintaining a small condo as a pied-à-terre in the city but this is an expensive proposition and owning two places is not without problems. So we consolidated—sold the property up north, sold the condo in the city and bought a nice detached “bungaloft” in a development with eleven homes in the GTA. Grass-cutting and snow-shovelling services are provided through a reasonable monthly maintenance fee managed by our residential association. And I’m much happier.
Ever since I started blogging two years ago, I’ve been complaining about the lack of affordable residential accommodation being built to accommodate the retiring Baby Boomer demographic. I’ve sent my blog postings to developers and anyone else who might be interested but no one is listening and they’re missing out on a great opportunity. Here’s a link to a detailed explanation to what we want (Build it and Boomers will come). Here are some further comments:
- While many Boomers love to golf, the cost of being a member of a golf club is becoming prohibitive. When we were working, golf memberships were often paid for by corporations. Now that the cost can no longer be expensed, Boomers, who are quite capable of doing the math for the cost of membership and cost per round with cart are choosing “pay as you go”. We may be retired. We’re not stupid.
Living close to your children and grandchildren is lovely but they have busy, independent lives of their own and we can’t build our lives around them. Boomers like to keep company with other Boomers and different age groups mixed in to keep things interesting, while living close to urban amenities.
- As we get older, we’re less inclined to want to drive at night, to drive long distances or eventually to drive at all. Public transit is a necessity as we age. It also offers the convenience of not having to negotiate traffic jams or pay extortionate parking fees. Many of us are also downsizing to one vehicle. This means we have to live in an urban area.
- Unfortunately, getting older often means more trips to the doctor. The greatest number of doctors, specialists andhospitalsare located in cities.
While living in a cottage country resort community sounds like nirvana, it is not the ideal lifestyle we envisioned. Cottage life is wonderful but on a full-time basis it comes with constraints many Baby Boomers are not prepared to deal with as we get older. If you’re considering investing millions of dollars in resort-style golf communities in Muskoka, talk to me first—after you’ve read my earlier blog — Build it and boomers will come. I have some other ideas worth considering and as a very average Boomer I know what I’m talking about, if only a developer would listen.
For further insights into the Boomer perspective on business, fashion, mind and body, book and movie reviews, order my book, BOOMERBROADcast. It makes a great hostess or birthday gift as well as just a fun read.