AS THE HOUSING INDUSTRY REELED THIS summer, several retirement and active adult communities seemed to flourish. Pulte Homes' Sun City neighborhood in Carolina Lakes, N.C., for one, closed more than 600 homes during the 12 months ended June 30, according to the Charlotte Observer. And two of Shea Homes' Trilogy active adult subdivisions near Phoenix enjoyed a 210 percent increase in sales during May and June, compared to the same months a year earlier, reported local radio station KTAR-FM and confirmed by the builder.

The potential market for age-qualified and age-restricted homes makes some people giddy. “College towns are generally very good candidates for being retirement destinations,” László Kulcsár, director of the Kansas Population Center, told the Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World, which reports that Douglass County, home to the University of Kansas, saw its population over 55 rise to 19,159 in 2006, higher than the 18,690 that the state had projected for the year 2020.

But euphoria can be fleeting. By September, Shea was offering generous price breaks on inventoried homes in several Trilogy communities, including Rio Vista near Sacramento, Calif., which J.D. Power & Associates rated as one of the top active adult communities for customer satisfaction. Steve Hextell, Rio Vista's general manager, says that 55-and-over buyers, like everyone else, are having trouble selling their homes to purchase one of Trilogy's products. “If we expect them to take a discount, than we have to be willing to take one, too.” Still, Shea remains optimistic about the active adult market, having opened its 481-unit Trilogy at the Vineyards in Brentwood, Calif., in September, with another community, Trilogy at Mountain House in Tracy, Calif., on the way in late fall.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Charlotte, NC.