Real estate these days seems to have become one long survey, so this latest look at retiring baby boomers, courtesy of the Allstate Corp. in Northbrook, Ill., should be seen in that context.

Like most baby-boomer surveys, it doesn’t answer the question of whether people will try to remain where they live or move elsewhere when they retire. But whether they move on or stay put, many boomers expect home-related expenses such as a mortgage and home improvement projects to be big-ticket items that will take a bite out of their retirement savings, according the Allstate survey.

Nearly 40 percent of those surveyed plan to move in retirement, with almost one-third (31 percent) doing so to downsize. Seventeen percent of the boomers surveyed will move to be closer to family, while 14 percent more would like to move to a warmer climate -- especially those living in the Midwest and Northeast.

Other surveyed (13 percent) will move to have greater access to activities and amenities. Such active adult or age-restricted developments are popping up everywhere, and by the way, the new politically correct term for age-restricted is now “age-qualified.”

Whether boomers relocate, stay put or renovate their current homes, dreams of a debt-free retirement may not become a reality, according to the Allstate survey. Almost one-quarter of those surveyed expect to carry a mortgage on their primary residence into retirement.

In addition, boomers say that home improvement will be a top retirement activity, on which they expect to spend $5,800 annually.

If you think the figure is a bit too high, another survey – this one conducted by the NAHB Research Center in Upper Marlboro, Md. – found that boomer retirees are more than willing to spend money on upgrading where they live no matter where that is.

“Homeowners in age-restricted communities are more likely to add features that related to decreased mobility, such as grab bars in showers,” the NAHB survey showed. “Homeowners in mixed-age communities have added features that relate to energy-efficiency and occupant comfort, such as ceiling fans and energy-efficient appliances and windows.”

Features contributing to comfort and convenience top the list in both age-restricted and mixed-use communities, such as bedrooms on the first-floor or single-story living. Other features the respondents said would keep them safe, comfortable and independent in their homes were central heating and air conditioning and minimal and low-step entries.

People in mixed-age communities experience fewer health conditions than homeowners in age-restricted communities. The home modifications cited most often in age-restricted communities, particularly for those age 65 and older, address reduced mobility and focus on enhanced accessibility and convenience, according to the NAHB survey.

The research center survey also found that homeowners in mixed-age and age-restricted communities are satisfied with the community in which they live, and are choosing to “age in place.” The largest percentage of homeowners with no preference of community type came from mixed-age communities. The main factors influencing preferences include marital, employment and health and mobility status, the survey showed. However, as homeowners age and the main factors change, housing preferences also change.

Specifically, the data imply that people move to age-restricted communities when they reach retirement age.

A comparison of available housing features shows that age-restricted communities and residences have far more amenities and features than those of mixed-age communities. This may occur because homes in age-restricted communities are relatively newer than homes in mixed-age communities, and are intentionally designed to address the housing needs and wants of older adults.

As they age, homeowners in mixed-age communities are adding many of the features that are built into age-restricted homes.

The survey was based on responses to more than 2,300 mailed surveys. “Even those baby boomers who have the luxury of a mortgage-free retirement may experience ‘sticker shock’ from property taxes or the costs of maintaining their home,” said Peggy Dyer, senior vice president of marketing for Allstate Financial, a business unit of the Allstate Corp. “Baby boomers may alleviate some financial stress by starting to save now for the various expenses they may have in retirement.”

Harris Interactive, which conducted the survey for Allstate Financial, polled 1,400 people born between 1946 and 1961, with household incomes ranging from $35,000 to $100,000.

A sample of 200 Hispanics and 200 African Americans (56 percent female, 44 percent male) were interviewed as part of the total sample surveyed. The margin of error is ±3.1 percent for the general population, and ±6.9 percent for information specific to Hispanics and African Americans.

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