Real Estate - Residential

Some Opt For Smaller Homes, Rentals

By Cece Nunn, posted Sep 8, 2017
Nancy Krauss, and her husband, Paul, stand in the living room of their apartment at One Midtown in Wilmington. (Photo by Michael Cline Photography)
Nancy and Paul Krauss were attracted to Wilmington because of its arts community.

After Paul Krauss retired as an art teacher, and the couple spent several winters in the Cape Fear region. They moved permanently to the Port City from upstate New York in 1995.

Eventually, the Krausses decided to move to One Midtown, an apartment complex on Independence Boulevard.

“My husband’s health was failing, and the house and the yard just became too much to take care of,” said Nancy Krauss, who is 75. Her husband is 83.

In their apartment, they enjoy the lack of the same kind of responsibilities that come with home ownership, she said.

“Every time something goes wrong, you don’t have to worry about it yourself. You can pick up the phone and call maintenance, and they’ll come fix it,” she said.

Retirees are a major part of the demographics, along with millennials, driving the ongoing demand for multi-family rental housing locally and nationally. While later household formation and transience are part of the picture for millennial renters, some retirees seem to gravitate toward renting and smaller dwellings in large part because of the convenience factor.

Kaye and Leo Torrens, who are in their 80s, moved to Myrtle Landing Townhomes in June, downsizing from 1,850 square feet in a condominium to 1,200 square feet in their two-bedroom rental townhome.

“We don’t have to worry about the roof; we don’t have to worry about the air conditioning and the gardening. And if anything goes wrong, we just call the landlord,” Kaye Torrens said.

“The larger place was too much to take care of,” Leo Torrens added.

The Torrens moved to Wilmington from Long Island in 1994. Before his retirement, Leo Torrens worked in computers for Northrop Grumman Corp., and Kay Torrens’s last job was as a bookkeeper for the Deer Park Library in Long Island.

They sold their home in The Cape in Bermuda Dunes in Wilmington two years ago and moved to Turtle Cay before deciding to relocate again to Myrtle Landing.

“The nicest part about it is you have a variety of people of all ages, and it’s fun to hear the children,” Kaye Torrens said. “They get in the pool and they laugh, and you know, they play games. It’s just great.”

The Torrens said they also enjoy not having any other residents above them or below them.

Mark Craven, community manager at Myrtle Landing Townhomes, said that’s common feedback from residents, that an advantage of living there is the lack of noise they might have experienced elsewhere.

“They don’t hear their neighbors. It’s quiet and comfortable,” Craven said, describing residents’ comments.

The Torrenses’ preference for a mix of neighbors goes both ways, he said.

“Younger families tend to buddy up with some of the older families. It’s nice to see. It’s a good blend,” Craven said.

In general, he said, “People that are here don’t want to be in an apartment, and they don’t necessarily want to be in a single-family home so this is that perfect in the middle where you still get the apartment living with the amenities and where we take care of everything.

And yet again, you don’t have someone above you and below you ... you’ve got a little bit more space and privacy and freedom.”

Although renters have increased, homeownership remains high among baby boomers and retirees, and that’s one of the major reasons home sale numbers are still strong in the Cape Fear region in recent years.

While some prefer rentals, other retirees are downsizing by buying condominiums and other smaller properties.

Landfall resident Bill Bryden, who is preparing his home for an eventual sale, is among that group. Bryden retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1985 and then retired from Lockheed Martin 17 years ago.

He’s selling his 4,400-square-foot Landfall home because he’s buying a condominium at River Place, the mixed-use project that will mark the redevelopment of the Water Street parking deck in downtown Wilmington. His River Place condo will be 1,700 square feet.

Bryden and his wife, Mary Lou, who died in February, bought a lot in Landfall in 1991 but didn’t move into the house until 2000. He said it’s been a strange feeling to be on his own.

“It’s different; it really is. And I’m just now getting used to it, but one of the ideas with the condo … I could walk out the front door, lock it, tell the doorman or concierge or whoever’s there that I’m going to be back in six weeks, and that’s it. Whereas here, somebody’s got to take care of the plants, lawn, make sure things are done around the house,” he said.
“There will probably be a different set of worries, but it’s not the same set. I’m really looking forward to more freedom if you will.”

Bryden, a past Wilmington Railroad Museum board president who continues to volunteer at the museum, is looking forward to being in the downtown environment. He remembers when he and his wife lived in a flat in London when his company sent him there years ago. They were only three blocks from Hyde Park.

“We really enjoyed it. We enjoyed the fact that we could just walk out the door to a restaurant a half a block away or to shopping on King’s Road two blocks away. ... That’s why I think I’ll enjoy the condominium for the same kind of thing, just the convenience of being downtown,” Bryden said.

Demand for smaller homes and rental dwellings is expected to remain high. While the number of baby boomer renters, for example, is still small, there were 15 million renters among people in their 50s and 60s in 2015, up from 10 million in 2005, according to a Chicago Tribune article last year that cited research from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.

At Myrtle Landing, 69 of a planned 144 units are complete.

“Just about as soon as they finish a building,” Craven said, “we are moving people in.”
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