Property taxes, cost of living top senior concerns in Illinois

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Senior citizens like living in Illinois, but many say they are worried about property taxes and housing affordability, a survey commissioned by Illinois REALTORS® shows.

The poll of 600 seniors aged 55 and older showed that two-thirds (66 percent) were deeply or somewhat worried about paying their property tax bills. Their qualms about paying property taxes outpaced concerns over saving for retirement and paying for healthcare.

Despite their worries about property taxes, more than two-thirds (68 percent) said they found the quality of life in Illinois as excellent or good, and the data suggest that if they had to move 56 percent of the seniors surveyed would choose to stay in the state.

The findings are part of a survey conducted by pollster American Strategies. Illinois REALTORS® commissioned the survey to better understand the impact the state’s aging population will have on housing and to prepare the association’s members to better serve senior clients. In addition to the survey, the association’s Senior Housing Working Group created a guide for policymakers to refer to when looking to make their communities senior-friendly.

By 2030, nearly a quarter of the state’s residents are projected to be 60 years old or older, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The growing number of seniors in Illinois presents challenges for communities seeking to enhance livability for older residents, and has broad implications for the state’s housing market.

REALTOR® Dana Hybl

REALTOR® Dana Hybl

“We know that as people age, their housing needs change,” said REALTOR® Dana Hybl, SRES, chair of Illinois REALTORS® Senior Housing Working Group. “This survey shows how important it will be in the next few decades for policymakers and developers to craft communities which provide the right housing choices and services for senior citizens.”

The wide-ranging poll asked seniors about what they were looking for if they moved, whether they intended to buy or rent in the future and if they planned to downsize.

Among the findings:

    • Three-fourths of those polled (76 percent) said they were concerned about the cost of living in the state, including 44 percent who said they are very concerned. Yet, 33 percent of respondents said they were very confident they can afford the home they want in the future.
    • Eighty-one percent of seniors surveyed own their homes and 17 percent said they rent. When asked what they would do if they moved, 35 percent of respondents said they would likely rent.
    • One third (34 percent) of respondents said they plan to downsize the amount of living space they have if they move. Thirty-nine percent of women say they plan to downsize, versus twenty-nine percent of men.
    • Having a main-floor bathroom ranks as one of the most desirable attributes (69 percent) for a home, according to the seniors surveyed. They also said a home with minimal maintenance (51 percent), single-floor living space (47 percent) and an attached or underground garage (46 percent) were important factors when choosing a home.

Underscoring the changes an aging population is having on housing was the finding that nearly one-third (30 percent) of older adults live in multi-generational households. That includes 23 percent who live with their children and 10 percent who live with their grandchildren.

REALTOR® Chris Read

REALTOR® Chris Read

“The fact that so many families have multiple generations living under one roof shows the need for local officials to make sure that zoning requirements allow the flexibility to accommodate this lifestyle shift,” said REALTOR® Chris Read, SRES, past chair of the Senior Housing Working Group.

Three-quarters of those taking the survey said they are likely to use a REALTOR® on a future home sale, making it important for Illinois REALTORS® to better understand the needs of this group.

REALTOR® Jim Kinney

REALTOR® Jim Kinney

“Often a REALTOR® is the first person a senior reaches out to when they finally make the decision to sell,” said REALTOR® Jim Kinney, SRES, immediate past president of Illinois REALTORS® who helped establish the Senior Housing Working Group. “Our members want to make sure they are prepared to guide the clients through what for them can be an emotional and confusing time as they consider what makes sense for their abilities and budgets.”

Illinois REALTORS® represents more than 44,000 professionals engaged in all aspects of the real estate business. Many of the association’s members have taken advanced training in working with elderly homeowners and earned the Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES) designation.

American Strategies conducted the Senior Market Survey on behalf of Illinois REALTORS® April 7-12, 2016. The data, drawn from 600 interviews of adults aged 55 or older, was weighted to ensure an accurate reflection the state’s population. Thirty-six percent of respondents were reached on cellular phones, and the margin of error was +/- four percent.

Find the full survey, a brochure on planning senior-friendly communities and other senior housing resources at http://www.illinoisrealtor.org/senior-toolkit.

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About Jon Broadbooks

Jon Broadbooks is Vice President/Communications for Illinois REALTORS®. He serves as editor of online and print content for the association's communications including the Illinois REALTOR® magazine and e-newsletters. He conducts spokesperson training seminars and oversees website development for the Association.

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