Charlie Moss jokes that his wife sold his Nashville home out from under him.
“I’m the one who made the decision,” Patsy Moss said. “I told him one afternoon that the real estate lady was coming to the house that night to talk about putting the house up for sale.”
The couple, both in their late 60s, moved to Bowling Green in March.
The Mosses’ house on Comet Drive in Nashville was part of an area developed for Ford glass plant workers in the late 1960s. They lived in it for almost 30 years but hadn’t paid it off.
Charlie Moss’ health worsened, and his doctor told him to give up laborious tasks around the yard and house. “We pay to get the yard cut, pay to get the gutters cleaned. Pay for this, pay for that. The house was almost 50 years old, so it was getting to be a lot of work,” Charlie Moss said.
They sold their house and moved into a two-bedroom apartment in Chandler Park off Cave Mill Road.
Americans age 65 and older account for a growing number of apartment-dwellers that fuel multi-family construction. Growth in multi-family housing is a natural trend, considering the way American age demographics will shift in the coming years.
Baby boomers started turning 65 in 2011. The National Multi-family Housing Council in 2013 projected that renters over age 65 will account for about 60 percent of the increase in the number of apartments by 2023.
Apartment living appeals because giving up homeownership means giving up yard work and house maintenance – and their associated costs.
Charlie Moss admits his wife made a good call. “It’s the best thing for us,” he said. The couple said they spend less on utilities, and they marvel at what they pay for rent compared to Nashville.
“We’re saving so much money,” Patsy Moss said.
A transitional community
Demographics have a profound effect on the housing market.
Experts expect a continued shift from single- to multi-family housing in the U.S. largely because of demographic changes over the next decades, according to a report by Jordan Rappaport, a senior economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
Pew Research reported overall population growth will slow. Between 2010 and 2050, the U.S. is expected to grow at about half the rate it did between 1950 and 2010.
Rappaport wrote that the housing market crash and subsequent changes to lending policies contributed to the housing shift in the short term. Post-crash, it’s harder to buy a home.
“Eight years ago, if you had $500 and you could meet some different factors, you could buy a home. The pendulum has swung back, so now you have to have skin in the game if you’re going to buy a home,” said Mike Simpson, owner of Chandler Property Management in Bowling Green.
Rappaport’s report goes on: “But over the intermediate and longer term, demographic considerations are likely to dominate.” Single-family construction will grow, but moderately. Eventually policies will have to be adjusted to prevent the “stall or delay” of the “inevitable shift away from single-family housing that ultimately may improve the welfare of the majority of U.S. households.”
Bowling Green’s demographics tend to favor multi-family housing, which makes up about 46 percent of housing available, according to the Census Bureau. With college students, young professionals and the elderly, Bowling Green is home to many groups of people in transition.
John Copeland, property manager at Chandler, sees demand for housing among varied groups of people. He manages about 1,000 units across the city.
“I feel like Bowling Green is definitely building to keep up with that rental demand. I think the appeal as folks get older is it takes you out of the day-to-day maintenance.
“In these times, it offers folks a certain amount of budget consistency.”
Forbes magazine listed Bowling Green among cities best for retirement because of the economy, below-average cost of living and climate. Factors like these attract retired individuals and couples such as the Mosses.
Simpson said Western Kentucky University and several industries create demand for apartments and rental property.
“You have (General Motors), which sometimes brings in employees for three or four years and then they go back to where they come from,” Simpson said. Students move in for the years they’re in school – maybe a few extra years, depending on their post-graduation career prospects. Leasing a residence provides the 20-somethings much more flexibility.
“I think if you really delve into it, Bowling Green has a number of transient residents that perhaps another community would not have.”
Copeland referenced the growth of the Kentucky Transpark, which has landed major manufacturing companies in the past two years, that would bring in workers who need housing.
On the other side of high demand is supply. Simpson, who has been involved in multi-family unit development and management for about 20 years, said lenders favor multi-family development over, say, strip malls because the market has been strong.
Bowling Green issued building permits for 1,741 multi-family units between 2010 and 2013, according to city data.
The bureau reported strong growth for July in the national housing market. Home builders broke ground at a rate 15.7 percent higher than in June, overwhelming predictions and revealing builders’ growing optimism. Housing starts for structures containing five or more units grew 33 percent over June and almost 50 percent over July 2013.
“There have been a lot of units that have come onto this market in the last three or four years. We’re not there yet, but I think Bowling Green is on the edge of being overbuilt,” Simpson said. “It’s not a bad thing for a renter; it’s a bad thing for an investor and a developer.”
Overbuilding leads to lower rent for consumers and loss of profit for developers. Copeland said rental rates follow unit availability. Too many vacant units, and he will drop the price with a move-in special.
Simpson said: “In a market, excess supply is always good for the consumer.”
‘I don’t want to have to worry’
When each of Charlie and Patsy Moss’ five children came of age to go to college, their parents said if they went to school, they wouldn’t have to pay a dime.
Only the youngest took the offer, and he attended WKU. The Mosses are still paying off student loans.
“We paid his car, paid his rent, paid his tuition, his spending money. He worked some, but we took care of him,” Charlie Moss said.
He has always been generous with his children, Moss said. “If they get into trouble, they know to call Daddy. ... I’m talking about financial trouble.
“One of these days when I retire, it’s got to stop. I know it’s got to stop. But as long as I can do it, I want it to last as long as I can.”
It’s one reason they never paid off their house in Nashville. Moving to Bowling Green and cutting the costs associated with owning a home are part of Patsy Moss’ plan to retire Charlie, who still reports to work at 3 a.m. five or six days each week. He’s 68. He kept his job selling meat to grocery stores and restaurants when they moved to Bowling Green and commutes 50 minutes each way.
“He says we can’t afford for him to quit. We still have some bills. ... So I’m working on that,” Patsy Moss said.
“I want to retire – I just want to make sure everything’s set,” Charlie Moss said. “I don’t want to have to worry.”
He doesn’t mind the drive, which is only 20 or 25 minutes longer. He has two Saturdays off a month, and the couple often spends them driving to Nashville.
“He likes to get on the road and just drive,” Patsy Moss said.
She recalled days they would pack lunch and take off down Natchez Trace Parkway for as long as they wanted. “It goes all the way to Mississippi,” she said. They share memories of driving all over Tennessee to buy a particular pair of shoes or loaf of bread for a friend.
It’s that kind of “silly stuff” Patsy Moss said she wants her husband to have more time for now that they’re older. Charlie Moss said he looks forward to exploring Kentucky’s back roads. He’s already bought a map.
They also have 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren to visit. They downsized from three bedrooms at their house, but kept a second in their apartment in case family wants to stay.
Patsy Moss, who’s 69, retired from her accounting career five years ago. She enjoys all the free time and took advantage of the pool during her first summer of living at Chandler Park, but said she’ll enjoy it more when Charlie is free, too.
She hopes he will retire by the start of the new year.
“Once I get him retired, I’m going to love it. ... I want him to be able to enjoy life,” Patsy Moss said. “That’s my goal in life.”
— Next Sunday: Longtime homeowners face challenges when rental housing overtakes established neighborhoods.