Condo conga line
Downsizing seniors dance to no-maintenance tune
Downsizing poses difficult challenges for homeowners. For a certain segment of the population, the decision to accept the fact that big house is too big to maintain isn’t something that comes overnight. There are the memories to contend with, the garden that was put together with years of sweat, neighbours that will be left behind, and concerns about what lies ahead.
Then there is the physical challenge of downsizing, having to get rid of a lot of personal belongings, furniture and accessories that just won’t fit in the smaller place.
What to keep, what to use, what to store somewhere else — just in case. These are tough decisions.
Then there are those who embrace the idea of downsizing. The kids are gone and the parents are tired of rattling around in a big single-detached home when a condominium apartment will do.
Yet another part of the downsizing crowd isn’t actually downsizing, but are buying a smaller second, third or fourth home where they can hang their hats and purses when the urge hits.
And there is no particular demographic for the downsizers. Seniors, boomers, empty-nesters, successful entrepreneurs and executives are doing it.
Whether forced or not, downsizing is all about lifestyle — and life cycles — and condominiums are the housing style of choice for these folks. Vern and Ella Storey took the same route from their Okotoks home to the seniors’ centre every time they wanted to play cards or just so
One day a couple of years ago, when they turned to corner off Southridge Drive headed for Community Way, they saw a big billboard by Calvanna Developments Ltd. advertising the construction of a seniors’ housing complex called Calvanna VillageOkotoks.
“That got us talking about things,” says Vern. “Maybe it was time to get out from under all the maintenance.”
The Storeys, both in their late 70s, have been in Okotoks for 20 years and lived in a bungalow at the top of the hill on the east side of town.
There was the long driveway that needed shovelling during the winter; and maybe it was time to put behind them the work required to maintain their flock of racing pigeons.
Well, they kicked things around, talked with the developer, and finally took the plunge.
What they bought was a 962square-foot two-bedroom unit (complete with fridge, stove, dishwasher and washer and drier) on the top floor of the three-storey building — one of three in the complex. Enough room for the two of them, and for Vern to set up an easel to continue with his painting.
“It’s handy, right across from the new Centennial Arena and close to the Safeway store,” says Vern.
Paul Funk, marketing director for Calvanna, says the development has been a success because of the lifestyle options it offers residents.
He says residents are moving out of single-family homes, for the most part, but also from townhouses and other apartment projects that no longer suit them.
“They don’t want the maintenance headaches, and like the lock-and-leave security when the want to do some travelling,” Funk says. “It’s just a more casual lifestyle for them.”
Calvanna Village-Okotoks is one of a dozen similar projects for the company in and around Calgary.
Two of the three residential buildings in the complex are sold out and the final one is more than half gone.
The minimum age to move into the complex is 50, but Funk says the average age is in the 60s.
Al Schmidt is vice-president of the LaCaille Group and his view of the movedown market is from a totally different perspective and demographic.
“It’s completely fractured. There used to be a clearer picture but not any more,” he says.
LaCaille is the developer of three upscale highrises on the west side of downtown — Chateau LaCaille, LaCaille Park Place, and Five West — and all are seeing their share of the new-look movedown participants.
Many of the residents of these buildings are reducing the size of their Calgary home while maintaining homes in other locations.
“It’s not unusual for some of our residents to have a place on the coast, another down south, one close to Calgary and one in Calgary,” he says.
He talked of one resident of Five West who dramatically downsized his apartment because he had other homes elsewhere and didn’t need the large one here.
That buyer, adds Schmidt, is typical of those buying in LaCaille’s three buildings.
“They’ve had their winter place for years and no longer need that large home in Calgary, he says. “The movedown unit meets their needs here and provides the opportunity to spend the rest of their time elsewhere.”
Another resident of one of the other buildings has a 5,000-square-foot home in B.C. and has downsized from his single-family Calgary home to a 700-squarefoot apartment.
Multiple property ownership is affecting and splintering the movedown market, says Schmidt.
There are, he adds, countless reasons people decide to move down in the housing market — but there is one thing that everyone has in common.
“The common thread running through all of this is lifestyle — and condos suit the movedown market more than detached homes do,” he adds.
Vern Storey paints in one of the rooms of his Calvanna Village condo in Okotoks. He and wife Ella moved there a couple of years ago from their detached homes.
Vern and Ella Storey moved from their single-family home a couple of years ago into a Calvanna Village condo in Okotoks.