March 25, 2013 at 12:33 PM ET
Charlie Rocque knows a great real estate deal when he sees one — at one of the largest retirement communities in the nation, Century Village in Boca Raton, Fla.
"I bought an apartment that not long ago was valued at around $75,000, and I picked it up for $20,000," Rocque said. "The value comes in surroundings, it comes with the club house, it comes with the peace of mind that I have some place I know that if I need to go there I can go there."
Home values in the area have fallen over 50 percent from the height of the housing boom, according to Zillow.com. Now they are starting to rise again, and that has buyers of all ages flooding in, even into retirement communities.
Roque is 56 years old and works full-time.
"This is my little get away place. It's very quiet where I live; my particular apartment it's very quiet and I like that," Rocque said.
Alexander Fabian, age 61, also saw the opportunity. For him, Century Village gives him a second home.
"I bought because I was here for a year prior, and what I was paying for rent, it was kind of crazy, so I might as well buy, so I live here and I have a home in Vegas, also," Fabian said.
In the last 12 to 24 months, the average age of a new buyer at Century Village has gone from the mid-70s to the low 60s, according to Ben Schachter of Century Village Real Estate Inc. Schachter, well under the retirement age, owns six condos in the Village.
"People are looking at this in terms of their long-term future," Schachter said. "They recognize that with the time value of money they are better off investing now, taking advantage of 20, 40, $60,000 price points, because if they look back just a half a decade ago, prices were three to four times what they are now. They're looking at the market as it increases, as the economy is strengthening, and they want to buy now while it's the best opportunity to do so."
Residents of Century Village must either be 55 years or older or be married to someone that age. However, buyers can be any age, and that has many younger investors jumping in. They are taking advantage of good rental income and the peace of mind from knowing that they already have a place to retire. Ten percent of Century Village residents still work part time or full time. This younger set has already brought changes to the Village.
"We have classes that never existed before: Zumba, yoga, tai chi, unbelievable recreation for these very healthy seniors because they are younger," Schachter said.
The community offers tennis, two pools and a full-service gym. As for the group activities, they still tend to skew older. At a water aerobics class, late one Thursday morning, the sun was shining and the water was flying through the blaring rock music, but mostly grey haired heads bobbed back and forth.
"I'm in touch with people around here, but I don't associate with them a lot as far as socially here in the club house," said Rocque. "Because I'm not around. I'm always working."