February 2016 Newsletter


Welcome to your trusted location for the growing retiree market!  Existing home sales bounced back sharply in December2015, up 14.7% to a 5.46 million annualized rate, with wide sales gain of 14.6% in the South. Source:Econoday

Whether you’re interested in housing trends, customer insight or visiting your favorite beach, mountain, urban or rural area; the AARC is the resource for you.  As you explore countless sources of information, you will see that most of your work has already been done; just see our many “Seal of Approval” destinations to assist in guiding you to your next home.


Andre’ Nabors Chair, The AARC

The American Association of Retirement Communities Board Announces location for November 9 – 11, 2016 Conference – Asheville, North Carolina.

With a town slogan of “retire like a Vanderbilt”, AARC names Asheville, North Carolina as host of the 2016 Annual Conference. The epitome of Asheville is what theAsheville AARC is all about – it’s a city of inspiration, rejuvenation and self-expression.  The combination of these three characteristics makes Asheville truly special and a city in which developers and municipalities inspire to be. Daily, Asheville receives on average 27,000 visitors and is home to one of the largest private residences in the country! Recent accolades include: US News and World Reports “10 Best Places to Retire”,  TRAVEL + LEISURE #10 on its’ “World’s Best Cities” list and Frommer’s “One of the must see destinations in the World.”

Don’t miss your opportunity to see what this town has to offer while learning what you can do for yours.

Registration and more information coming soon!

Visit our 2016 Conference Page to learn more – 2016 Annual Conference

March Webinar

March 24, 2016 – 2:30pm – 3:30pm

In-migration Research Briefing: Carolinas Case Study

Pat Mason, Co-Founder Center for Carolina Living

Pat'sPhotoColor3_08Ever thought about the social, cultural and economic impact when at least 250,000 affluent “Over50’s” newcomers arrive in the Carolinas annually? Why are they coming? Are we ready? Will these families fit in? What about the quality of life as we know it?

Discover how Tourism is the “birth mother” of the Retiree In-migration Industry. Find out the latest profile research on these new money-spending families based on 6,000 recent surveys. And, why they are important to the market share and profit picture of every enterprise. Come for the insight. Take the Pop Quiz. Bring your observations.

We’ll share 30-years of fascinating trend research allowing you a peek over the Boomer demographic horizon.
The Briefing Webinar will be presented by Patrick Mason, Co-founder of the Center For Carolina Living and CarolinaLiving.com, a nationally recognized expert on tourism and in-migration trends, retiree research and destination marketing.

Learn more and sign up – AARC March Webinar


Retiree Attraction: The Carolina Condition…Cashing in on Tourism!

Pat Mason, Center for Carolina Living / February 2016

Celebrating 30 years in destination marketing, we’re often asked to observe, assess and contribute research for economic development leaders seeking low-cost options to traditional industrial/manufacturing solutions. The following represents our observations on the rationale and strategies to take advantage of migrating retirees and people of all ages.

Back in 1986, we launched the SC Retirement Communities Association. That (501.C) non-profit received ten years of grants (totaling about $250,000) from the SC Tourism Department. Those enlightened leaders also invested $53,000 on a USC research study focusing on the economics generated by the retiree in-migration economy. That activity occurred at the earliest dawn of the Boomer retirement lifecycle which, through 2030, will be a coveted and robust economic job creation bonanza for Sunbelt destinations.

The Florida, Arizona, and Carolinas experiences serve as models of how retirement as an industry has evolved. It’s fair to say that state programs to attract retirees have been low-key compared to enormous incentives mounted to recruit the likes of manufacturing and (now) knowledge-based industries. Costs per new job created range from $124,000 (Boeing, Charleston) to $1 million PMason Chart 1(Google server farm). See data Chart  for more examples, including the Del Webb Sun City Hilton Head cost per job of $2,700. And yes, the Carolinas NEED all these firms, whatever the

Some, like Florida, Tennessee, Nevada and Texas harnessed the “no taxes, ya’ll come” strategy and have seen significant market share gains. Trouble is, that approach has created considerable red ink by attracting many more, lower-middle income people who put huge burdens on the Medicaid funds, where the state picks up as much as 43% of the medical bills. Compare that to attracting the more affluent Medicare recipients, where the healthcare funding comes 100% from Federal sources.

PMason Chart 2In fact, some question the wisdom of a strategy that lowers the price (of any product) in the face of unprecedented increases in natural demand from mobile retirees with median household incomes of $112,000, triple the indigenous population. [Truth is, per capita taxes are actually higher in Florida than in either of the Carolinas.]



Here’s the current condition regarding Boomer retirees:

  1. Harris Polls document 26% of the 74 million living Boomers “say” they want to relocate at retirement (half across state lines). This is compared to 7% of their parents. Harris concludes the Carolinas are the new Florida among the younger and older Boomers.
  2. CarolinaLiving.com surveys of 130,000 willing movers over 30 years documents 53% have earned college degrees and they enjoy a median household income of $112,000.
  3. Only about 22% seek “age-qualified” communities, leaving huge opportunities for what’s called, Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCs). In the case of North Carolina, their Certified Retirement Towns (RetireNC.com).
  4. The definition of “retirement” is transforming from age, to stage of life, with many opting in their 50s and others (yours truly) more in line with the 70’s plan.
  5. Today, the propensity once “retired” is to work, part time, full-time or volunteer … for free. [A third of Sun City residents are on a payroll.]
  6. Boomer cohort psychographics vary widely creating a hazy profile. See the positive Boomer characteristics from JWT research Chart #3 below.

PMason Chart 3

Six ranked destination assets that will spur Boomer market share growth:

  1. Pristine scenic beauty and pleasant four-season climate.
  2. Cultural, historical and recreational assets.
  3. Relatively low cost of living and modest tax conditions.
  4. Top rated health care, life-long learning and employment opportunities close-by.
  5. Access to multi-model transportation options.
  6. Resources for the entrepreneurially inclined. See what Hilton Head Island economic development leaders are doing HERE.

The key driver to grow a retiree economy is healthy tourism. Destinations with strategic marketing IQ (read: job creation) who build on their existing visitor flow, will win big. In the Carolinas today about 8 million of the 68 million annual visitors are what’s called, “Turbo-Tourists.” These visitors arrive with relocation/investment motivations and much fatter checkbooks. Hotels and resorts love this affluent leisure guest segment that delivers longer stays and much higher return visit rate.

Once relocated, the “turbo-effect” kicks in, as friends and family roll-in to visit. It happens again with massive economic impact, as some of these visiting “birds of a feather” also relocate, bringing their wealth and talent.

PMason Chart 4The emerging Carolina Retirement Industry is a clean, low cost, job creation machine with
geometric growth metrics that continue thru 2030. Today, across the Carolinas, 63% of the in-migration in 2016 (we forecast to be 465,000 total gross-in, all ages) is from families over the age of 50. They arrive as Turbo-Tourists, with high propensity for long-term retirement. Chart: Carolinas In-migration Impact.

Note: The Center For Carolina Living assumed an “ageless” attraction strategy (eight years into the game) thanks to the wisdom of David B. Wolfe (now deceased), and his books, Serving The Ageless Market and Ageless Marketing. Turns out, as David proved, older people desire the same Maslow Hierarchy of Needs as young people. Made no sense to deliver a cordial invitation to just retirees. The objective is to have all generations to see the Carolinas as attractive for visiting and living. See Chart.

PMason Chart 5

What’s next?

Competition to attract retirees gets steep – including with offshore destinations where Xpat’s are incentivized and live royally.

Then, the outright “fear of moving” will restrain many who ask, “Will we fit-in to the culture, moving from the deep north to the deep south?”

We will also see more smart states awakening to the economics of 1.9 new jobs for every new household created and low cost tax base growth, by launching sophisticated attraction efforts. North Carolina is the latest example with legislation harnessing their savvy Tourism Division (part of NC Economic Development Partnership) to market Certified Retirement Towns nationally via RetireNC.com.

Thanks to the vision of Dr. Simon Hudson, Director and Endowed Chair of the USC Center for Tourism & Economic Excellence, a research grant is currently funding a study of the impact and job creation metrics for attracting retirees to SC.

Major homebuilder firms are aggressively developing shelter product with qualities appealing to the mature market. Think: EarthCraft, Universal Design, New Urban, small-palaces, multi-generational, maintainence-free high-performance homes loaded with digital communication gear in walkable locations. They come with social/cultural systems imbedded, similar to the dozens of clubs immediately available to Sun City residents.

The Pulte Del Webb, Kolter and K. Hovnanian brands are growing dramatically and continue to dominate the active adult, age-qualified sector. New iterations of the traditional CCRC formula will emerge with more rental offerings unencumbered from the life-care covenants.

In summary, we lobby for balanced economic strategies that focus on building long-term quality of life infrastructures for current residents. Examples abound where too much of a “good” thing ends up being “toxic.” Think: tourism, car manufacturing, gambling. Our vision is to have the Carolinas be a great place to visit, grow, live and do business.

Note: Regional Trends Column for Bowden’s Market Barometer (2012) – Updated 2/15/16

For The American Association of Retirement Communities

Patrick Mason is widely recognized for innovative research and destination marketing strategies. He co-founded the Center for Carolina Living in 1986 after eleven years in marketing with Marriott and three years as a marketing executive with a developer of destination resort condominium properties. Mr. Mason has been a Clemson Associate Adjunct Professor, a speaker at NAHB, AARC and ULI. He serves as a USC International Tourism Institute Fellow. The first to co-brand the Carolinas, in 2016 the Center’s Carolinaliving.com Guide and (450 page) website (redesigned and coded to be “responsive” to all devices) are projected to be used by 500,000 people interested in visiting the Carolinas for relocation. For further perspective, visit the Press Room. To schedule the In-migration Research Briefing, click HERE.

Comments are welcome: PMason@CarolinaLiving.com. Feel free to pass on to your networks.