Michael Sandler of Todd Sandler Realtors in Randolph said developers are willing to work with potential buyers to get them through the sale of one property and into new retirement units.

Rachel and John Priestman are loving the Whitman retirement home they moved into nearly a year ago, but it wasn't easy getting there.


“It took us nine months to sell our house in Scituate,” said Priestman. “We thought we'd sell quicker.”


Now, after speaking with other residents at the The Village at Auburnville, Priestman feels fortunate.


“Some of the people here waited over a year,” she said.


Indeed, today's sluggish real estate market is having a profound effect on the development and sales of retirement homes.


In Whitman, developer Richard Rosen has delayed construction of 54 units of over-55 garden housing to complement the 92 townhouses planned for The Village at Auburnville, a 60-acre site off Auburn Street.In Randolph, construction at the Broad Meadows over-55 complex is on hold pending sales of the second phase of development in Todd Sandler Realtors' complex on North Street. In Bridgewater, only 12 units have sold this year at Stone Meadow, a Wyman Family development where more than 50 units sold in both 2004 and 2005.


“Sellers and buyers are caught in a squeeze,” said Arthur Wyman, a principal in the Bridgewater development where about one-third of the proposed 339 units have sold in three years.


“We serve a niche in the market for people that are solid middle-class people looking for a lifestyle change in a community atmosphere,” he said.


That is the same niche offered in developments in Randolph, Whitman, Plymouth, Hanson, Berkley and throughout the region. Typical buyers are selling the house where they raised their family and downsizing to an environment that offers amenities for their age group.


But houses no longer sell in a weekend, a week or even a month.


Today, the average market time is more than six months and many are lingering even longer, as Priestman and some of her neighbors learned.


Earlier this year, it took a Cape Cod couple more than six months to sell their home in anticipation of moving to a Hanson condominium. They later opted out of the Hanson location in favor of a manufactured home in Plymouth.


Michael Sandler of Todd Sandler Realtors in Randolph said developers are willing to work with potential buyers to get them through the sale of one property and into new retirement units.


“At the moment, there's not too much going on, but after winter maybe we'll get construction going,” Sandler said.


Robert Saraceno, developer of Berkley's Riverbend Estates, faces the same problem.


Last week, the Berkley Zoning Board agreed to lift the over-55 requirement to help the project move along at a faster rate. The waiver, however, is conditioned on the pace of construction.


Rosen, a Realtor and developer with offices in Whitman and throughout the South Shore, said consumer confidence is key to restoring the market.


“There's a pent-up demand of people who want to buy houses,” Rosen said. “But, until we have some positive indications, everything is negative and it has a tremendous ripple effect.”


He said real estate sales are down 30 to 40 percent from two years ago despite low unemployment and low interest rates, both generally considered conducive to a strong market.


Right now, Rosen said he has five units at Auburnville under agreement, the potential buyers trying to sell their homes to make the move.


He expects the upcoming presidential election to turn the market around.


“It's going to change,” Rosen said. “It always does, sometimes for the worse, but right now there's no place to go but to get better.”


Wyman and his wife, Diane Wyman, who designs and sells the units at Stone Meadow and the family's older complex High Pond Estates, agreed.


“I think, honestly, that we're going to have a very busy spring,” Diane Wyman said.


Elaine Allegrini can be reached at eallegrini@enterprisenews.com.