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A Moving Decision : Most Seniors Prefer to Stay Put in Their Homes, but When They Don't, They Head Out of the Big City

May 04, 1989|DICK TURPIN | Turpin is a former real estate editor of The Times.

Perhaps one of the most discussed options for today's 50-and-older Southern Californians is one dealing with where they want to live out their years.

Most prefer to stay put in their homes of long standing, but others have moved or are considering escaping L.A.-area crime, smog, traffic congestion and the 3.36-million "overpopulation" of the big city.

The California ZIP Code Guide, published by Western Economic Research Co. in Encino, shows that the 10 largest concentrations of older residents in the state are in such places and cities as Laguna Hills, Yucaipa, Hemet, Sun City and sections of San Francisco and Los Angeles. Seal Beach, La Mesa and Long Beach follow closely.

Perhaps the recently passed Proposition 90, which permits homeowners to sell their homes and take their home-county tax rate with them to another county, may appeal to future retirees. However, at least 15 of the state's 58 counties have rejected options to accept such transfers of tax rates on grounds that it would increase population and other related problems or have a negative impact on existing budgets.

One purpose of the bill was to free up older homes and allow younger families to buy them. At the same time it was designed to allow older families a chance to retain their usually advantageous tax rate, established by action of Proposition 13 in 1978.

To obtain fresh if limited data on choices being made by retirees and oldsters, a brief mail survey was created specifically to provide answers to questions dealing with 16 categories of home ownership, moving, helping offspring buy a home, finances, avocations, voting and car ownership.

The single-sheet form was sent to 55 men and women, including those approaching 65 and possible retirement, those who are newly retired, others recently retired and others who ranged in age up to 85. Forty-eight, or 87%, of the questionnaires were returned and tabulated.

The selection included mostly middle-income people, many of them natives or longtime residents whose careers were spent in the Los Angeles area, and whose jobs were in sales, management, construction, aerospace, manufacturing, secretarial, education, law, journalism, photography, public and community relations and graphics.

Their generation lived through the Great Depression, World War II and the Korean War, the rebellious '60s, the Me Generation, the recession of the early '80s and the yuppies.

Most of them--48%--were between 65 and 70; 29% were in the 70-75 bracket. Those between 75 and 80 represented 10%. Others in single-digit percentages were those under 65 and over 80.

There was a very high percentage of home ownership, 90%, and 16% of those respondents also owned a second home. The remainder were renters.

For 82%, their financial status was comfortable, and 17% of those also said they had discretionary income.

Their time of residence here ranged from 26 years to 80 years, and their places of present residences are in five Southland counties--Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Riverside and Ventura.

Their homes or former homes were in such Los Angeles neighborhoods as Cheviot Hills, West Los Angeles, San Pedro, Mt. Washington and Los Feliz.

Others lived or live now in Pasadena, South Pasadena, Burbank, Glendale, Manhattan Beach, many San Fernando Valley communities, Lakewood, Long Beach, San Marino, Santa Monica, La Canada, Orange and San Diego.

A number who retired in recent years, moved from the metropolitan area to Laguna Beach, Dana Point, San Marcos, Coronado and Palm Desert. More recent retirees chose Oxnard, Port Hueneme and Sun City.

Those who have just moved or are planning to move numbered 17% of the respondents, most of them to San Diego County. Three others are on the verge of moving to towns there. All say they want to escape the crime, smog congestion and traffic woes of Los Angeles, although conceding that some areas of San Diego County are no longer pristine. One Glendale resident has just moved to Kansas City, Mo., to be near "his wife's relatives," he noted.

Following the trend of home buying, more and more parents and families are helping their sons and daughters buy homes in high-cost areas such as Los Angeles and Orange counties.

This survey group appears to be quite representative of that trend with 58% of the respondents reporting that they helped their offspring buy a house. In a category dealing with offspring "coming home" for financial, divorce or separation reasons, 13% were effected, and of that number, 7% were reported to have come home "temporarily."

Conversely, most parents--71%--indicated they do not want to move nearer to their children. One respondent said the only condition under which he would move from his San Fernando Valley home would be if he won big in the state lottery.

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