Aging Vancouver homeowners overwhelmingly want to stay where they are

Seniors living in large houses may be thinking about taking in boarders to help with their retirement.

David Zalubowski / AP

Vancouver’s senior homeowners are planning to age in place for as long as they can, and Vicki Lingle has hatched a plan to do just that.

Rather than rattle around her mostly empty family home alone, she has filled her spare bedrooms with lodgers younger than herself.

When she and her husband Wayne McIlroy purchased the house, they considered it a potential revenue generator, but his unexpected death accelerated the timeline.

“My husband and I always worked for ourselves, so we had no pensions,” said Lingle, an interior design instructor. “The plan was always to use rent to supplement our income. What we didn’t plan on was Wayne dying so soon.”

Vicki Lingle takes in boarders to ensure she can stay in her family home. “I love having young people around, because they bring a lot of energy and creativity.”

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Local seniors are slightly more likely to cash in on their homes and buy a smaller place than their counterparts in Toronto, Montreal, and Calgary, according to a new report from Mustel Group and Sotheby’s International Realty Canada.

“About 40 per cent expect to sell at some point, which is higher than the national average,” said Don Kottick, CEO of Sotheby’s. “They may be thinking they have more equity in their homes, which will allow them to buy a condo and have something left over.”

While it is possible for Lingle to sell her house and live in a condo, she would miss the company and the cash flow.

“I’ve done the math and the rent I collect makes this work,” she said.

Lingle rents rooms downstairs and on the main floor, and recently her son has moved home to pursue his studies.

“I love having young people around, because they bring a lot of energy and creativity,” she said. “I spent about two months living in this house alone before I saw an up-and-coming musician who needed a place to live.”

She appreciates the company, the music and the security of always having people in the house.

“When you live by yourself, you have to work at socializing, getting yourself out, walking through the shops, calling people,” she said. “I’ve got a full house with people to talk to, but not too much as we all have busy lives.”

About half of the baby boomers who own homes considered their future needs when they chose the home that they are in, prioritizing proximity to a grocery store, access to transit, and neighbourhood safety.

About one-third sought a single-level living space, with a main floor bathroom and a main floor bedroom. Condo owners reported having an elevator as their main priority.

Perhaps that is why 86 per cent of boomers plan to stay right where they are until, as many put it, “I go out in a box.”

“As people age and people want to stay in their homes, we will need to figure out how to provide them with supports and health care,” said Kottick. “That is going to create pressures and challenges for governments and developers.”

Vancouverites appear to value walkability in their neighbourhoods more than other Canadians, he said.

Among those aging homeowners in Vancouver who do foresee selling their home, about 87 per cent plan to purchase another principal residence and the majority of them plan to buy a condo, the report says.

Single-level, ranch-style detached homes are relatively rare in this market, so there are few comparable options.

“Condominiums have clearly become a destination for aging boomers, especially because they can offer accessibility and single-level living,” he said. “That means boomers are going to continue to create demand for condos in competition with families and younger adults.”

Seniors who choose to age in their multi-bedroom family homes are blocking families from using those properties more efficiently.

“All those homes with three empty bedrooms are taking living space out of the market, and people are going to have to find that space somewhere else,” said Kottick.

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