Empty nesters flock to downtown Indianapolis

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Renee and Jay Walter lived in Avon, where their daughter grew up on a suburban street with friends, attended school and played sports, and when their offspring flew the coop, the Walters knew it was time for them to fly, too.

“It took me an hour and a half, two hours, by the time you drove, got your groceries, packed them in the car, went back home,” said Renee, recalling what her weekends were like in Hendricks County before moving to downtown Indianapolis. “We’re here like a block away, I can ride the bike, I can walk and literally it takes me two minutes to get there and it cuts down a lot of time.”

The Walters are liked thousands of empty nesters and baby boomers who have abandoned the suburbs for downtown living, free of the responsibilities and commitments.

“All the yard work, cleaning out all the gutters, painting and just taking care of the general maintenance along with pushing snow in the winter, I had enough of it,” said Jay. “It was time.”

That time was three years ago when the Walters traded in their 4600 square foot home outside of the I-465 ring for a three level house less than half that size on the canal in downtown Indianapolis at Watermark.

“I wanted to stay in a house,” said Renee. “I wanted a home that has an attached garage, easy access in and out with groceries and shopping and just a little bit of a yard because we do have a dog.”

Will Lonnemann of F.C. Tucker sold the Walters their new home.

“A lot of the empty nesters who reach out, it’s an exploratory thing. They do think about maybe renting first to see if they like it or they know, ‘Yeah, let’s go do it, let’s change our lifestyle up and get something downtown.’

“I think it’s growing more in the past ten, eleven years because they’re seeing their friends do it and they’re seeing downtown grow with businesses and restaurants and things to do.”

Lonnemann said many suburban homeowners have paid off their mortgages, cashed in their equity and are ready to buy downtown.

“I’m always surprised how many people pay cash for a house that is not a cheap house,” he said. “Full price or above offer is not uncommon.

“105%, 110% is not uncommon.”

Lonnemann said many residents moving back downtown rent for a year and find they love living in the heart of the city but regret not making the commitment a year earlier as prices have jumped 37% in five years.

Catherine Esselman tracks real estate for Downtown Indianapolis, Inc.

“There’ll be 30,000 downtown residents by the end of 2017, we’re anticipating, with the numbers we’re growing,” she said. “The median sale price for single family homes for last year 2016 to date was $307,000. For a condo it was $295,000. And that’s a median price point so it shows that there is room on either side so you can sell that house in the suburbs, take that investment and be able to reinvest and have a lifestyle that better suits your timeframe where you’re at.

“17% of the residents that were moving into downtown apartments were 50 years old or older,” said Esselman. “35% of those surveyed were coming from outside of Marion County and I think closer to 25% were coming from out of state.”

Amenities such as Circle Centre, dozens of restaurants, sporting and entertainment events, memorials, parks and museums as well as walking access to IUPUI and the Cultural Trail are driving the return to downtown.

“It’s time for us to do our thing and for us to be a kid now so it’s time to come downtown,” said Renee Walter, “and ride our bikes, we walk, there’s just always something going on downtown here, so we’re empty nesters and we’re not going to be bored. And we’ve got a new friends we’ve met downtown who are our age and younger and older.

“Living here kind of gives you that suburban feel but at the same time you’re downtown.”

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