Thursday, September 22, 2011

Solving New Hampshire and Maine

The demographic makeup of the populations of both New Hampshire and Maine appears to be getting older rather than younger according to recent studies. How might this effect the real estate market?

At a recent meeting of the Business & Industry Association of New Hampshire, Peter Francese, Director of Demographic Forecasts for the New England Economic Partnership, presented the latest trends in population swing. His statistics show that households with residents aged 65+ are expected to almost double in New Hampshire within the next 10 years, making NH the second “fastest aging” state, behind neighboring Maine, in this category. The same study projects a drop of about 30,000 NH households among the 35 – 44 age group.

This information is, or should be considered, significant information for the real estate community. Instead, so far it is lumped in with other negative statistics, and without going for solutions. It’s time for some aggressive planning and thinking in response to this.

From my viewpoint, this is potentially devastating to New Hampshire and Maine. Putting this information out there that the middle age groups are leaving these states is harmful to everyone there who owns a family style home, whether they are looking to sell right now or not. A 4-bedroom home on the same block as a school won’t sell to a retired couple in their 70’s needing to be near a care facility.

Frankly, the next study to be done should be one to determine how this came to be. Seniors have been moving to Florida, Arizona, California, and other year-round sunny and warm climates for many years. Were it not for this study, I would not have had any idea that Maine and New Hampshire are places where senior living is on the rise.

Granted, I’m not looking at senior housing, but from constantly seeing real estate advertising and marketing around the country day after day, I can tell you that I don’t recall seeing anything targeting the senior market for these areas. This tells me that people entering their 60’s or 70’s have not been made aware of this either. Instead, the years of seeing and hearing about how many people retire and move (or take over their second home) in FL, CA, AZ, and others, will keep the senior mindset in that direction.

Maine and New Hampshire’s Chambers of Commerce, developers, and real estate companies would have to spend and produce a ton of publicity to attract the attention of seniors in the Midwest and the north thinking about retiring and moving to an area with good senior care and facilities in a big hurry. Otherwise, as the seniors currently occupying these homes pass on, it’s going to be difficult to find potential buyers.

Francese’s comments to the Economic Partnership included his saying that these states need more families to move there or stay there.

This puts the challenge in the hands of the real estate professionals in those states as much as the builders and developers. And it’s not an easy challenge, especially after reading the CoreLogic report earlier this month that showed an increase in the number of “under water” homes in New Hampshire for the 2nd quarter of 2011 to more than 40,000. That amounts to about 19% of all mortgaged properties in the state.

My first step would be to look closely at the schools and the attractions in New Hampshire and Maine. Find the achievement statistics and use publicity and social marketing to promote success for students attending schools in as many areas as the statistics will make favorable. Determine which attractions, activities, and shopping areas have the most appeal to the 25 to 54 age group. Research which businesses in these areas have the most employees within that age range and promote their successes.

Instead of sitting back and letting the demographics change and further damage the economy in these areas, take action to change the trend. If those involved continue to sit back and let this happen, the area may eventually be known as “Old Hampshire”.

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