Special Features

As 70 million baby boomers reach retirement, will just any ranch do? Introducing easyHouse by Boulder Creek

By Mark Samuelson

Boulder Creek s David Sinkey joins Teri Winchester (left) and Connie Archer in front of the easyHouse ranch model at Outlook in Castle Rock.
With 70 million baby boomers headed for retirement across the country, including many empty-nest types searching here in Colorado for ranch style homes, will just any single-level plan work okay for an aging buyer? Builders all over offer ranch plans - but the builder that led the field in single-level living believes that being a ranch isn't enough - that a home designed to work for those buyers needs to go way beyond traditional ranch design.Boulder Creek Neighborhoods has been talking with its hundreds of buyers - combing their needs and experiences to find out what a ranch really needs in order for a buyer to live life to the fullest. The result is easyHouse - single level designs that have dozens of features that buyers headed into those post-50 years are going to need.

"We knew lots of competition would be coming," says Boulder Creek president David Sinkey during a quick preview. "We see other builders trying to design for this market, and while they get two or three things right, they often make compromises on the rest." In easyHouse you'll see virtually NO steps - not from the garage, the deck, nor into the shower. Doors are 3-foot-width - even closet doors and pantry doors. Kitchen islands are set well back from surrounding counters.

Stairwells are wider (Boulder Creek includes large finished lower level space standard in these); and every plan has flexible spaces - say, an office, or morning room, or for a grand piano. Homes each have at least two full bedroom suites on the main-level (some three) - situations that can work for a 'cross-generational' buyer that may have a parent coming home, or a kid moving back in. "I like the openness," said Doug Carnahan of Larkspur, who with wife Patricia got in for a look last week, after exploring alternatives to their older house for some time.

Meanwhile, whether or not you're part of the 50-plus set, you'll see considerations designed to appeal to any experienced buyer: "People who have owned homes for years have artwork, and we're showing places to put that," says Teri Winchester, who along with Connie Archer will be on hand at the Castle Rock community.

easyHouse is set to open Saturday, Sept. 6 at Outlook in Castle Rock, in the Plum Creek golf course community; and at The Lakes at Centerra, a new Loveland master plan taking shape near the Centerra shopping center. Both will feature Boulder Creek's signature low-maintenance services such as lawn care and snow removal - along with two dozen features that may be less visible, but that make easyHouse work better for fifty-plus buyers than many other ranches.

This weekend you can visit EasyHouseforLife.com to join the VIP list for upcoming easyHouse Grand Openings and information (Boulder Creek expects to bring easyHouse to from five to seven Front Range communities over the coming year).

WHERE: VIP interest list for easyHouse single-level homes designed to age-in-place, by Boulder Creek Neighborhoods; models open Sept. 6 at Outlook at Plum Creek in Castle Rock, and at The Lakes at Centerra in Loveland. Visit the web site now for advance information, and to receive details on future grand openings.

PRICE: $450,000 - $600,000, varying by location

WEB: easyHouseforLife.com

Mark Samuelson writes on real estate and business; you can email him at mark@samuelsonassoc.com.You can see all of Mark Samuelson's columns at DenverPost.com/RealEstate. Follow Mark Samuelson on Twitter: @marksamuelson

  • Metro Denver apartment supply ignoring the affordable market

    Three out of five apartments built in metro Denver since 2014 came with rents at the top one-third of the market, while only one in 15 came with rents in the bottom third of the market, according to an analysis from Zillow.
    “You are getting so much inventory at the high end you are changing the stock of the housing market,” said Svenja Gudell, chief economist at the Seattle-based real estate website.
    Zillow divided apartment rents in 15 major metros into three tiers and then assigned new apartments coming on the market into one of those three groups, with a focus on the top and bottom tiers.
    In metro Denver, 60 percent of new apartments fell in the top rent tier, where rents averaged $2,060 a month. Only 6.6 percent had rents that would fit in the bottom third, where the average was a much more affordable $1,164 a month.
    For most items, apartments included, new commands a higher price than used. That’s why an even distribution isn’t expected. Given that the analysis is a new one, Zillow doesn’t have historical data to determine what a “normal” mix should look like.
    But Gudell said the analysis suggests an apartment construction market excessively focused on luxury units.
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  • Boosted by real estate, Colorado’s economy ranks fourth in real GDP growth

    Colorado had the nation’s fourth-highest percent change in real GDP — behind Arkansas, Oregon and Washington — in the first quarter of 2016, according to a Bureau of Economic Analysis report released Wednesday.
    Colorado’s first quarter annualized growth rate of 3 percent outpaced the national average of 1.2 percent. It’s also up from both the state’s 2.8 percent growth in the previous quarter and the 1.2 percent growth posted for the first quarter of 2015.
    The state’s biggest gains were in real estate, construction and agriculture. Only New Hampshire, Oregon and Washington saw greater percentage changes in real estate.
    Colorado led the Rocky Mountain region, which also includes Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming. The region saw growth of 1.7 percent as a whole, but contracted most in the area of transportation and warehousing, with mining a close second.
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  • Aria Cohousing development in NW Denver breaks ground

    The old Marycrest convent in northwest Denver served as a home to the Sisters of St. Francis dating back to the 1940s, and the new development taking its place will maintain the community lifestyle the sisters shared — without the commitment to the cloth.
    The Aria Cohousing Community is under construction to remodel the old convent — 2861 W. 52nd Ave. — and convert it into 28 condos and shared community spaces.
    “We’ve been waiting and praying for cohousing ever since we heard it was possible,” Sister Patty Podhaisky said. “It’s sort of the average person’s experience of what we do in religious life. Everyone gets to have community life.”
    DENVER, CO – JULY 21: The former Marycrest convent as photographed on July 21, 2016, in Denver, Colorado. A new co-housing community, Aria Co-Housing, will be built at the convent site at the intersection of Federal Boulevard and West 52nd Avenue. The project will include 28 condos and is slated to open in 2017. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/The Denver Post)
    Cohousing is a community of private homes centered around a shared space. The residents buy into the community knowing their neighbors will be a large part of their lives.The neighbors can also share resources, such as tools.
    “I would say both in Denver and nationally we’re seeing a growing interest in cohousing,” said Liz Babcock, manager of air, climate and water with Denver’s Department of Environmental Health. “I think it is a growing trend. With all the new development, there’s definitely a special place for cohousing that we’ll start to see more.”
    Aria should be ready for move-in by March and prices of the condos range up to $480,000. Eight of the units are marked for affordable housing — priced between $169,000-$218,000 — and two are still available. Seventeen of the 20 market-priced units are under contract.
    Developer Susan Powers with Urban Ventures said the $7.2 million project is her first foray into cohousing, but she has learned a lot about it in the last few years. Powers was under contract with the Sisters of St. Francis in 2007, but didn’t close on the property until 2012. She also built a new smaller home for the sisters nearby on a couple of acres the sisters still own.
    “We were attracted to this property because it’s eight minutes from downtown, it’s on the edge of Denver, but it’s still an area that is not as well-known as Highland or Sunnyside,” Powers said.
    The cohousing concept is an attractive one to people of all demographics, and Aria already has commitments from people in their 20s and expecting children, couples in their 50s and singles in their 70s.
    Marc Robson and his partner will be moving into Aria next year and said they were looking to downsize but also enjoy being part of a community. With no immediate family in the area for Robson aside from his partner, he thinks his neighbors will be a family to him.
    He said people often get the wrong idea of the cohousing concept — which has its origins in Europe and is very popular in places such as Denmark and the Netherlands — and that everyone will still have as much privacy as they like.
    Kellie Teter lays out condiments for a community dinner at the Common House in the Hearthstone Co-Housing Community on July 21, 2016, in Denver, Colorado. Hearthstone Co-Housing Community incorporates 33 town home units as well as a common house and common green areas. A new co-housing community, Aria Co-Housing, will be built at the former Marycrest convent site at the intersection of Federal Boulevard and West 52nd Avenue. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/The Denver Post)
    “We want to be part of the community and share our lives. It’s not a hippie commune. People are not going to just walk into each other’s units. We do have privacy,” Robson said. “We all feel our lives will be better for doing this.”
    Suzanne Leff has lived in cohousing at Hearthstone at Highland Gardens Village — built over the old Elitch Gardens near 38th Avenue and Tennyson Street — since 2004 and others moved in when the development opened in 2001.
    She was unfamiliar with the concept when looking to move, but at her friend’s urging she went to check out Hearthstone and said she felt at home, having grown up in a small town.
    Kellie Teter, center, examines some fresh herbs with Adam Alleman (R) and his wife, Tracy Alleman, while making dinner in the Common House at Hearthstone Co-Housing Community on July 21, 2016, in Denver, Colorado. Hearthstone Co-Housing Community incorporates 33 town home units as well as a common house and common green areas. A new co-housing community, Aria Co-Housing, will be built at the former Marycrest convent site at the intersection of Federal Boulevard and West 52nd Avenue. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/The Denver Post)
    “It has a really nice small town feel within an urban environment,” Leff said.
    At Hearthstone, the residents have access to a community house on the development and live in townhomes surrounding the house and a playground. The residents gather at least once a week for a community meal and each household takes turns of planning the meal.
    Leff said she is glad to see more cohousing communities pop up and that they are all special places.
    “It’s not necessarily our dream homes, but it’s a dream community,” she said.
    Thaddeus Cummins looks to a fellow community member while preparing dinner in the Common House at Hearthstone Co-Housing Community on July 21, 2016, in Denver, Colorado. Hearthstone Co-Housing Community incorporates 33 town home units as well as a common house and common green areas. A new co-housing community, Aria Co-Housing, will be built at the former Marycrest convent site at the intersection of Federal Boulevard and West 52nd Avenue. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/The Denver Post)

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  • US new-home sales climbed in June to more than 8-year high

    WASHINGTON — Americans bought new homes in June at the fastest pace in more than eight years, a sign that a solid job market and low mortgage rates are bolstering the U.S. housing market.
    The Commerce Department said Tuesday that new-home sales rose 3.5 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted rate of 592,000, the best level since February 2008. Purchases of new homes have climbed 10.1 percent year-to-date, despite volatile sales on a monthly basis.
    “Today’s report confirms the considerable strength in the housing market over the past few months,” said Rob Martin, U.S. economist at Barclays.
    Low mortgage rates and a healthy job market have lifted residential real estate, which continues to recover from the depths of the housing bust that began nearly a decade ago. Greater demand and tight inventories have led to rising prices and signs that housing will help overall economic growth.
    But affordability remains a problem and the potential of new-home sales returning to their historic average sales rate of 650,000 could be limited.
    June’s median sales price rose 6.1 percent from a year ago to $306,700. Just 4.9 months’ supply of new homes is listed for sale, well below this historic average of six months. Sales surged in the West and Midwest by more than 10 percent in June, but declined in the Northeast and South.
    The market for new houses is roughly just a tenth of the size of the existing-home market, where sales are also rising even as the number of listings are shrinking on a yearly basis. The National Association of Realtors said last week that sales of existing homes rose 1.1 percent in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.57 million, the best performance since February 2007. But the number of listings has fallen 5.8 percent from a year ago to 2.12 million.
    Builders remain relatively confident that they’ll continue to expand, although their optimism waned slightly in July.
    The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index dropped one point to 59. Readings above 50 indicate more builders view sales conditions as good, rather than poor. The index had mostly held at 58 this year before rising to 60 in June.
    Builders say they’re struggling to find both workers and land for additional construction. Still, the number of construction jobs has risen by 217,000 over the past 12 months as home sales and apartment rentals are helping to drive growth in an economy hampered recently by global turmoil.
    Construction of single-family houses has increased, rising 4.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 778,000 in June.
    Propelling much of this demand has been an improving job market coupled with cheaper borrowing costs.
    The unemployment rate is a solid 4.9 percent. Employers added 287,000 workers in June, a strong rebound after the pace of hiring slipped in April and May.
    Buyers have also benefited from interest rates staying close to record lows. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said the average for the benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 3.45 percent last week, down sharply from 4.04 percent a year ago.

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