Seniors want walkability, too, survey says

Seniors want walkability, too, survey says

So glad that someone figured out that older adults don’t want to be isolated with only other older adults. They want to be a part of the daily lives of people of every age.

Older adults desire accessible urban housing, too; developers should pay attention

An older woman walking on sidewalk in outside street in City Island in New York City. 

We assume millennials prefer walkability and urban living for all the right reasons: social cohesion and community, better access to entertainment, services, and jobs. So why do we assume that older Americans and senior citizens, who also value connectivity, community, and healthy living, wouldn’t prefer the same living arrangement?

According to a new study by A Place for Mom, a nationwide referral service, the Senior Living Preferences Survey, older Americans value walkable urban centers. The survey asked 1,000 respondents nationwide about their living preferences, and a majority said it was very important or somewhat important to live in a walkable neighborhood, as well as one with low crime that was close to family.

“It’s time to abandon the idea that only millennials and Generation X care about walkability and the services available in dense urban neighborhoods,” says Charlie Severn, head of marketing at A Place for Mom. “These results show a growing set of senior housing consumers also find these neighborhoods desirable. It’s a trend that should be top of mind among developers.”

A nationwide survey of seniors found a preference for walkability 
A Place for Mom

The new survey’s findings mirror what many in the industry have already discovered, and reinforce why a number of designers, planners, and architects have called for a larger reconsideration of how to design for our growing older adult population, and a focus on creating multi-generational communities in suburban centers to meet these growing needs. While financial considerations are still paramount, walkability ranked high regardless of income level, especially for those under 70 seeking senior apartments.

According to Bill Pettit, President of R.D. Merrill Co., parent company of Merrill Gardens, which develops senior living centers in the Southeast and West Coast, many developers, and society at large, assumed that seniors preferred a more rural or suburban location, due in large part to the fact that developers, looking to create larger campuses, sought out 3-5 acre plots of affordable land far from urban centers. Seniors don’t prefer campus living outside of town centers and urban centers, he says. That was a impression built on how the industry got started.

“We were creating these islands of old age,” he says, “where you’re surrounded by your peers and you lose that intergenerational connectivity. We found we were spending a disproportionate period of time busing our seniors to other places to generate that intergenerational connectivity.”

The courtyard of a Merrill Gardens development near the University of Washington in Seattle.
 Merrill Gardens

Pettit says the company has changed its siting strategy recently, developing in urban areas with high walkability scores. He sees seniors electing to live in places where they feel connected. The survey, he says, just confirms that the company’s site selection policy is correct.

“When you can walk to shopping, or cross the street to a park, and that park is filled with children and families, I think it gives you a kind of lift that sitting and playing bingo during the day doesn’t give you,” he says.

He believes that seniors, who will be living longer and healthier lives, will begin to prefer campuses and living arrangements more connected to urban centers, especially as Baby Boomers age. He’s already seeing the shift in those his company serves: today, 75-80 percent of seniors at Merrill Gardens are independent, versus 55-65 percent before the Great Recession.

“The population is also physically aging more slowly, so many older adults will be able to stay more active later in life than past generations,” says A Place for Mom’s data scientist Ben Hanowell. “Across the spectrum of care needs, older adults will have a major impact on housing development over the next two decades. As a society, we need to start paying more attention to their behavior and preferences.”

A senior population boom is poised to reshape not just the way Americans think of old age, but how developers respond and build for this changing community. According to the latest report from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, Projections and Implications for Housing a Growing Population: Older Households 2015-2035, the number of Americans over 80 will double, from 6 million to 12 million, in the next two decades. By 2035, one out of three U.S. households will be headed by someone over 65. That’s 79 million Americans, or slightly less than the population of Turkey.


How dark-sky communities fight light pollution

How dark-sky communities fight light pollution

This is an excellent article from Curbed, by Megan Barber@megcbarber about light pollution in America. I was unaware that I was living in a light polluted area until our family rented a mobile camper and drove cross country years ago when our children were small. One night we camped at Davis Mountain State Park in Fort Dallas, Texas. The location is in the mountains surrounded by hills and desert. The sky was unbelievable. The stars, the constellations I had only read about were right there in the sky like they show up in books, the Milky Way was incredible and we saw shooting stars. What a memorable experience.

I am so pleased to be able to share this article about light-polluted skies and what Dark Sky Designation means to a community and the development of Sumit Sky Ranch, a Dark Sky planned development. Enjoy, Sylvia Shelnutt, Real Estate In a Nutshell Online

Enjoy, S

Sylvia Shelnutt, Real Estate In a Nutshell Online

Ninety-nine percent of Americans live under light-polluted skies

Beginner’s Guide to Buying Rental Property

Beginner’s Guide to Buying Rental Property

Below is an excellent article from Realtor.Com describing pros and cons of investing in rental property. Many people seek to obtain a real estate license in order to invest in rental property. That is kinda like putting the horse before the cart. What a potential investor needs to know is outlined below in this excellent article by Jamie Wiebe. By studying the big picture, deciding how much time you want to invest in the project, studying the tax deductions, analyzing the yearly record keeping, and realistically looking at the financial liability will give you the details you need to decide if buying a rental property is the investment for you. After deciding if you really want rental property as an investment you can then investigate if you need a real estate license to find your investment. Many people realize that they do not want or need a real estate license to buy rental property unless they plan to change their career to selling real estate.

Beginner’s Guide to Buying Rental Property

By Jamie Wiebe | Oct 28, 2016

If you’re lucky enough to own one home and have cash to spare, you may consider buying rental property. After all, collecting rent from tenants every month can be a nice way to pad your pocketbook and dip a toe into the world of real estate investment. But as the saying goes, with great reward comes great risk. Here’s everything you need to know about the process before starting your search.

Research the rental property market

Before purchasing a rental, do a deep dive of research into the market where you’d like to buy (® can help point you to all kinds of properties). First-timers should probably start with their own area of residence, suggests real estate trainer Dean Graziosi.

You should know the major employers, what drives people to move there, and the economic outlook for at least the foreseeable future, he notes.

You should also watch out for your own financial future. Maybe you can justify stretching your budget for your primary home, but when you’re looking at investment property, every cent matters. Don’t dig into your savings just because you like the backyard—now is not the time to let flights of fancy take hold. Remember, this is a money-making venture, not a place you will live yourself, so your own personal preferences should take a back seat to what makes good ol’ dollars and cents.

Figure out your cash flow and costs

Working out the cash flow of a rental property isn’t just a simple equation of rent > mortgage. You also need to consider the other operating expenses, like HOA fees, taxes, repairs, and property management fees. Will you be paying for utilities, or will that be the tenant’s responsibility? Keep in mind your new rental property may not be occupied 100% of the time—and that needs to be factored into your business plan, too.This is called determining the capitalization rate (or “cap rate” for short), which “estimates the net stabilized return on an investment, in comparison to projected income from alternative investments,” says Alex Cohen, a commercial specialist with CORE in New York City. Translation: This can help you decide between good, great, and terrible deals.

Find financing for your rental property

Most banks require at least 20% down for an investment property, especially if you own multiple rentals. Even if you’re able to buy with a lower down payment, think long and hard before purchasing a rental property without much money down. With so many variables in play, from potentially unreliable tenants to a broken dishwasher needing immediate repair, you need a strong financial base before investing. (You can find out how much house you can afford with the mortgage calculator.)

However, there is a mortgage bonus when purchasing a rental: Your bank may consider the potential income stream from this property when determining how much you can borrow. This can allow you to purchase a larger or nicer home, since the odds are good that your rental revenue will help you foot the bill.

Managing the rental property

Once you’ve purchased your rental property, you’re ready for tenants! Next, do you want to be a landlord or hire someone to manage your investment? Newbie investment owners should consider a property manager, who will handle all the annoying nitty-gritty details of owning a rental property. For a fee, a third party will draw up leases, collect rent, deal with maintenance issues, and take over the nasty parts—like evictions.

Before choosing a property management company, be sure to do your research. Get (and contact) references. An excellent manager makes owning rental property a breeze, but with a bad egg, it could be a nightmare, turning your rental property into a terrible investment.


Obtaining a Georgia Real Estate License: What You Need to Know

Obtaining a Georgia Real Estate License: What You Need to Know

I often receive calls from people considering obtaining a Georgia real estate license. They contact me through the Georgia Real Estate Commissions list of approved real estate schools. I explain that I only provide the Georgia pre-license course online through an affiliation with The CE Shop and registration is as simple and quick as clicking the link on the top right side of the menu on my website or They can start the course as soon as they register on either site.

However, that isn’t what the caller really wants to talk about. They want to talk about real estate and ask questions. They are trying to make a decision regarding a career change and they need information. They want to know what is involved in obtaining a Georgia real license. They ask, how much will it cost? How to get a job in real estate?  They may think they want a career change, but they need details.  I wrote an article that gives an excellent description of what a person should know when contemplating a career change into real estate here:

To answer to some of the many questions I am asked regarding obtaining a real estate license in Georgia, I am writing this article including detailed information regarding taking the pre-license course, passing the state real estate license examination, providing the numerous documents required to take the state examination, obtaining the Georgia real estate license, and discussing some of the numerous cost involved.

Cost: The real estate license course will cost around $400 for the course alone.  The course is 75 hours, either in-class or online. The online course allows 6 months to be complete but can be finished as quickly as the person can process through the material. A person taking the pre-license course must pass the school final course exam in order to be eligible to take the state real estate license examination. Testing for the final school examination is proctored and online students must travel to the school testing site to take the final school examination. If you do not pass the school course final examination you can schedule through the school to retake the test.

The fee for the state examination is $115. If you do not pass the state examination the first time you can schedule to retake the exam again at a fee of $115 for each retake. To reschedule the examination, you must make a new application through AMP Testing Center by phone or online, contact to be found on the link below to the candidate handbook. The proctor at the testing center cannot reschedule the exam.

Upon passing the state real estate examination, the cost to purchase the Georgia Real Estate license is $170. The license is issued at the testing center location. When the applicant is told they have passed the examination they must be prepared to pay the $170 to receive their real estate license.

Documents required for testing and receiving a Georgia Real Estate License: Georgia Real Estate Candidate Handbook  The Georgia Real Estate License Candidate Handbook contains all the information regarding the documents required and the document forms described below. All the information below is covered thoroughly in the handbook link. The forms mentioned below must accompany the applicant to the state real estate testing center.

Georgia Criminal Information Center Report: Within 60 days of making application to take the Georgia real estate state examination the applicant must obtain a Georgia Crime Information Center report.  The form is in the handbook and can be filled out, but it must be taken to the Sheriff’s office or police department in the county of residence to be completed. The cost of the report varies with each Sheriff’s Department or police department.

Notice: If the report shows a felony, non-payment of child support, delinquency of student loans, or any type of offense the applicant may be unable to receive a real estate license. The Georgia Real Estate Commission allows the applicant to request a hearing in such an event. If you think that there could or would be something showing on the GCIC report that could prevent you from obtaining a real estate license it is a very good idea to request the report before you invest the time and money in the pre-license course. If you elect to obtain the GICR report prior to taking the pre-license course to ascertain if you record is clear and you can receive a Georgia real estate license, remember the report must show that it was obtained within 60 days prior to taking the state examination. You will need to re-order the GCIC and pay for it again in order to meet the 60-day requirement.

Lawful Presence Affidavit: This form must be signed and notarized and taken to the state real estate examination. The form states if you are a resident of the United States or from another country and shows your lawful presence. The form is in the handbook.

A valid form of photo identification: Must be shown at the state testing center for identification to take the state real estate examination. Driver’s license or passports are the usual forms of photo identification used.

However, the candidate handbook lists other types of identification that can be used.

Sponsoring Brokers Form: A form signed by the broker verifying that you are to work on behalf of the brokerage firm must be presented to receive an active license.

Certification of Accuracy Statement: This form is to be taken to the state examination testing center but it is not signed until you are notified that you passed the examination and will receive a license.

Request for Special Examination Accommodations – Documentation of Disability-Related Needs: If the real estate state test applicant has a disability covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act they may request special accommodations for testing.

Veteran Preference Points:  The score report you receive will not include veteran’s preference points. If you are an honorably discharged veteran with at least one year of active duty who served at least 90 days during wartime, you may qualify for veteran’s preference points. You should review Rule 520-1-.04(3) of the Commission’s Rules and Regulations for the limits and requirements to obtain veteran’s preference.

I very sincerely hope that this article describes the many details involved in obtaining a Georgia Real Estate License and answer some of your questions.



Living Big in a Tiny House

Living Big in a Tiny House

Tiny houses are a new trend. My question is, could you live in a tiny house? I think the hardest part of moving to a tiny house would be eliminating things that accumulate from living to go somewhere small.

Tiny houses. They’ve been a trend for a while now, and you’ve probably heard of them – maybe even seen one in person. What’s the deal, and why are so many people so interested in living in homes that boast less square footage than the average dorm room?

The size of the average American house keeps getting larger despite the fact that the average family size has decreased. Increasing from 1,780 sq. ft. in 1978 to 2,662 sq. ft. in 2013, some people feel that houses are simply too large and expensive nowadays. With student loans running rampant and wages relatively stagnant over the past few decades, living far under your means starts to make sense.

But while we’re on the subject of size, just how small does a house need to be before it reaches the very chic “tiny house” status? Wikipedia says that a house has to be under 1,000 sq. ft. before it’s considered a part of the small house movement. Some designs, such as those by the very popular small house manufacturer Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, clock in at far under that 1,000 sq. ft. threshold. The smallest by Tumbleweed, in fact, is a mere 117 sq. ft. That’s small, I don’t care who you are.

At this point you may be trying to picture how this works. Let’s say your house is the size of the average American house – roughly 2,662 sq. ft. Now take 4.4% of that. Could you do it? No, probably not. But keep in mind there’s a lot of fat to be trimmed off the average home, be it a hallway that does nothing more than give you some more wallspace for photos or a dining room that no one really ever eats in.

What would you be left with if the house were trimmed down to the bare essentials and nothing else? Tiny homes make good use of every one of their very few square feet, frequently utilizing built-in cabinets and loft areas to make up for their comparative lack of space. There’s certainly no room for clutter – and, in most cases, hardly room for many possessions – but that seems to be the way the inhabitants like it. Oh, and then there are the wheels on the bottom.

Now here’s where the story gets interesting. Yes these are small homes, and yes there are certainly some communities that specifically cater to small homes and the people that love and live them such as The Meadows in North Carolina, but on the whole people seem to be roaming around in these things. They’re almost invariably built on top of a trailer, and when you’ve got wheels on your home, it’s pretty easy to give in to temptation and park your house anywhere you want it.

Is this legal? Depends on where you park, but mostly no. It’s a good way to avoid property taxes while living in a more luxurious – and attractive – space than most RVs, and for those wanting nothing more than to live off the grid it’s perfect. Park your house in a secluded area, pop up some solar panels, and tend to your vegetable garden while you kick back and live the high life.

They’re cheap, too, with costs ranging from about $20-50k as of 2012. 68% of tiny house owners live without a mortgage. The designs themselves can be perfect fodder for Pinterest, such as this bus-turned-tiny-home, and many people report that having less house has forced them out into the world, to adventure and experience things. You know, to actually live.

Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly problems. Their awkwardly tiny size means that banks won’t finance them, and they can’t be parked in most RV parks because they’re too tall. They’re expensive to tow due to their corners in lieu of rounded edges, and, since they’re built on trailers, electricity and plumbing typically works the same as in an RV.

Last year Spur, Texas, was declared the first “tiny house friendly town”, and it seems that tiny house communities have popped up all over the country.

It’s most certainly a fad, but it’s a fad that the rest of us could learn from: do more with less, make use of the space we have, and maybe even make it outside every now and then. The part about a 117 sq. ft. living space, though, we could maybe do without. If you’d rather reserve your judgement and try it out for a night, though, you could always “test drive” a tiny house for yourself.

So what do you think? Will all the love for tiny homes blow over in a few more years, or is this an interesting and meaningful new housing movement? Let us know below in the comments!

Pros and Cons of Becoming a Real Estate Agent

A real estate agent is the one who acts as the intermediary between sellers and buyers of houses, real estate or property. If you want to sell property you can get an agent to look for people interested in buying it, on the other hand, if you want to buy property the real estate agent is also the person you should approach.

Is this something you want to get into? What are the good and bad things about being a real estate broker?

Pros of Being an Agent

You Are Your Own Boss – Since you are self-employed, you answer to no one and work at your own time.

One real estate professional said since he works for himself he has complete control over his schedule.

“If I didn’t want to show a place before, say 10 a.m., I didn’t have to. Hitting the gym at 3 p.m. in the afternoon? Check. A long lunch every now and then without fear of retribution? Doable,” he says.

You Get A Feeling of Accomplishment – There is always something fulfilling about reaching a certain level on your own capacity without overly relying on others. Agents feel they can be more of themselves doing what they love.

“I started real estate 3 years ago when I was 18 and I can tell you that it is one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever done for myself. Real estate can be a very rewarding and satisfying career and has given me a lot of success at my age group,” says broker Marcelo Steinmander.

Being an Agent Makes You a Better People Person – Communication skills, persuasion skills, the ability to remain calm during a crisis are only a few of the abilities needed to become a successful agent. There are some things you learn in this line of work that will contribute to your being a valuable member of society and also of being a community leader.

Cons of Being an Agent

It Takes a Lot of Dedication – It’s not something you can just “dabble” in, says real estate professional Chris O’ Connor. It will take time and energy to learn the ropes. It’s not something you can do off-time, but all of the time.

“I’ve yet to meet a good part-time real estate professional. This is a serious profession not well-suited for people dabbling or just getting their toes wet,” he says. 

Money is Not Always Guaranteed – The property market is not always thriving all the time. Unlike other businesses it has “seasons”. 

“Real estate is tough! It sounds fun because you are your own boss and can have a lot of freedom but trying to find buyers and sellers is very hard. Not many people can afford to buy or sell their home so the market is very limited and if someone does want to buy or sell they usually already know somebody,” says real estate professional Jarom Rogers. 

It Takes Money to Make Money – Before you can even start earning as an agent, expect to spend some money. This will include licensing fees to the state, county, town or city, and a fee to join the local board of real estate professionals. You will also need a decent car to drive clients around in, as well as the car insurance for that.

Still want to make it as a real estate agent? Now you know some of the good and bad