NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Boomers are packing up their McMansions and making a lifestyle change: they're moving from their houses with room for the kids and making room for their RV. In some cases, walk-in closets are being replaced with a drive-through home.
Bud Dietrich, an architect in the Tampa Bay area, says it’s all a part of a Boomer transition.
“Boomers have spent the last 40 or 50 years collecting stuff,” Dietrich says. “What I've been seeing over the last couple of years -- which seems to be an ongoing trend that's accelerating -- is Boomers trying to shed some stuff. Boomers are trying to simplify their life.”
Prior to the Great Recession, Dietrich says Boomers were building giant houses -- used to entertain large groups of family members just once per year. Now, the generation is downsizing. Many are moving to their vacation homes as more permanent addresses while trading the sprawling family home for a condo or townhouse.
"They're happy to pay homeowner association fees to have somebody take care of the grounds and the exterior maintenance -- as opposed to spending every weekend out there mowing the lawn," he adds. "They don't want to do that anymore.”
One-in-five homebuyers over 50 are single females, according to the National Association of Realtors. Dietrich says these buyers are often looking for multiple master suites, convenient for family guests on extended stays – or even roommates.
And "active" communities, or 55+ developments, are growing in popularity.
"And they're not just in Florida," Dietrich says. "In fact, a friend of my wife's, she just moved to one in New Jersey.”
The active social life and camaraderie is what the Boomers crave most -- more than a capacious manse equipped for rearing a brood of children.
"At our clubhouse, we've got tennis courts, two swimming pools, a bocce court and dinner dances -- a lot of social events," Dietrich says. "It becomes a sort of nexus for your social life. One of our friends, their grandchildren call it camp for grandma and grandpa. It helps you stay young."
Retirees are looking for particular features in their homes, though. They want master bedrooms with adjoining seating areas, expansive kitchen and family room combinations and remote guest bedrooms so visitors have "their own wing of the house."
One-floor living is another trend Dietrich is seeing -- single-story homes of around 2,000 square feet with low maintenance allowing the freedom to travel. He cites a common scenario, a Boomer couple in transition:
"Until last week, they had a 5,000 square foot house pretty close to Tampa," he says. "A couple of years ago, we renovated a ranch house in St. Pete beach, on the water where they could have their boat and the dock behind the house." The couple just sold the larger house as well as their business and downsized to the 2,200 square-foot home on the beach. "They're going to travel a lot," Dietrich says. "It's part of making your house simple and making your life simple so that you can travel."
And that's where the drive-through RV home comes in.
"Lots of times, when people own an RV they put this big garage next to the home -- it really isn't a part of the home," Dietrich says. "I mean it's really this kind of ugly wart on the side of the house."
But architect Andrew Hinman of Austin, Texas actually integrated an aluminum trailer into a "steel-framed, metal-roofed cradle" of a Texas ranch house, with storage, two bathrooms and a screened sleeping loft and tower. The trailer and enclosure sit about 30 feet above the Nueces River.
Dietrich says it is the perfect rest-and-recharge oasis for travelers. Once ready to resume their adventures, a couple could just roll out of the house, lock up and hit the road.