At a certain age, many well-heeled homeowners start thinking about downsizing.
But what they end up in is often anything but small.
Real estate professionals are seeing more wealthy SoCal retirees go from extravagant estates to nearly as extravagant town houses and condos. The properties — many of them larger than 3,000 square feet — cost millions of dollars.
Older clients "still want a luxurious lifestyle, just not the size," said Joseph Montemarano, previously an associate at Partners Trust and Real Estate in Los Angeles. Big single-family homes are simply too cavernous once the kids move out and "are very expensive and tedious to maintain."
Germiniano and Angeles Tubao raised their two sons in a four-bedroom, 3,000-square-foot home in Bonita. The retired Navy man, 80, and former nurse, 81, lived on the 1.5-acre property for 30 years, tending to their pool, orchards and gardens.
But now their children have families of their own in Point Loma and Imperial Beach. So the Tubaos, currently living in downtown San Diego, are heading to the city's waterfront, where they plan to move by the end of the year into a three-bedroom, 37th-floor condo in the nearly finished Pacific Gate by Bosa complex.
The luxury residential building will feature sweeping views, heated stone floors in the master bathroom, controlled-access elevators, 24-hour attended lobby and apartments almost as large as the Tubaos' former house.
"We love the idea of being able to walk to so many great places," the couple wrote in an email. And because they like to travel, living in a condo will enable them to "simply close our front door and not worry."
Irrespective of income, the elderly tend to decamp to homes that are slightly smaller but even more expensive, according to an October report from Zillow Group. The so-called Silent Generation of 65- to 75-year-olds sells homes with a median size of 2,100 square feet for $220,000 — and then turns around to buy 1,800-square-foot homes for $250,000.
This demographic — compared with Generation X, millennials and baby boomers — is the most receptive to yard-free living, Zillow found.
Baby boomers are "very agile and very enthusiastic," compared with previous generations of retirees, according to Alison Whitaker, a certified senior real estate specialist with Sotheby's International Realty.
They often had to take care of their own parents, many of whom ultimately died in their longtime homes.
"This group doesn't want to burden their kids with having to clean out the big house," Whitaker said. "They want to be more mobile, to live out their last years."
Several years ago, Montemarano and Partners Trust co-founder F. Ron Smith and associate partner Joanne Lindsay listed a 12-residence luxury town-home development in Brentwood featuring units that were 4,000 square feet each, with four bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms apiece.
With private garages, elevators, screening rooms, tall ceilings, formal dining rooms, large open kitchens and family rooms, pre-wired security systems and automated lights, the properties were "almost like miniature estates, just without the garden and pool to maintain," Montemarano said.
"Calling it a pied-a-terre is a misnomer — it implies that these are small," he said. "This was super convenient — all of the luxury, none of the maintenance."
The Partners Trust team geared the town homes toward buyers looking for an easier lifestyle, including young jet-setters and older downsizers.
"They didn't want to give up their house to live in a condo — they didn't want the shared hallway and elevator and community garage," he said. "A town house is the best of all possible worlds."
"Anyone could live in these places, but they're very functional for someone who's elderly," Whitaker said. "They're assuming this is going to be their last stop, so they're thinking about accessibility."
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