Golden Oldies

By Christopher M. Leporini, REALTOR® Magazine

Baby Boomers entering their golden years could translate into green, particularly in the upscale and vacation home markets. Boomers–Americans born between 1946 and 1964–represent the largest generation in the nation’s history, including approximately 81 million people. Some evidence suggests that unlike previous generations, a greater number of these homeowners may remain in their home area, rather than escape to traditional retirement Meccas such as Florida or Arizona. If you’re interested in tapping into this burgeoning market, Boomers on the Horizon: Housing Preferences of the 55+ Market (National Association of Home Builders, $69 for nonmembers; 2002) by Margaret Wylde is must reading. Published by the National Association of Homebuilders, the book is targeted primarily toward builders. However, it can provide valuable information for real estate professionals interested in targeting this huge, affluent market niche.

To discover Boomer preferences, NAHB designed and sponsored a survey of approximately 900 households headed by individuals 55 years and older. National Family Opinion, a research company, collected the information for the survey, and Wylde’s company ProMatura, LLC, a marketing and consulting company specializing in mature consumers, analyzed the data. The age distribution of survey participants roughly mirrored the age distribution of Americans over 55 in the general population. About 41 percent of participants fell between the ages of 55 and 64; about 25 percent were aged 75 or older. All selected households included people who had bought a home within the past two years or had plans to purchase a home within the next two years. The second chapter also offers such useful information as current home characteristics, household characteristics, and computer use.

The survey quizzed participants on their preferences in every aspect of the home. Chapters cover community choices, lot and home size, room size and features, design preferences, home shopping habit, and acceptable home prices. The reader-friendly book includes numerous charts, tables, and graphs that make the survey results easy to understand. The book’s appendixes further subdivide results according to age brackets, sex, marriage status, and income.

“Chapter 3: Preferences for Community, Home Size and Type, and Lot” focuses on the type of home that over-55 buyers want, and how much they’re willing to pay to get it. Approximately one- third of respondents, 32 percent, expected to pay less than $100,000 for their home, 27 percent expected to pay between $100,000 and $149,999, and 21 percent expected to pay between $150,000 and $199,999. An overwhelming majority, 79 percent, preferred single story homes.

The book also reveals some interesting trends regarding home size. Most respondents preferred a new home that is equal in size to their current home, except for those with homes under 1,000 square feet, who reported that they wanted more room. The study also revealed that women living alone are more likely than other households to accept smaller homes.

“Chapter 5: Features and Amenities” gives detailed information on the exterior features and interior details that Boomers crave. The survey gauged respondents’ interests in such categories as windows, doors, kitchens, and bathrooms. It asked them to rank each amenity from the following choices: do not want, indifferent, desirable, essential. Preferred kitchen amenities include built-in shelving and walk-in pantries (74 percent indicated either desirable or essential). Conversely, the majority of respondents were hostile or indifferent to having a desk work station in the kitchen, (31 percent and 37 percent, respectively.) Dark wood and glass front kitchen cabinets are also unpopular, with nearly half of recipients saying that they did not want these features. The tables in the appendix are especially useful for this chapter, allowing you to quickly scan through lists of features.

Understanding Baby Boomers’ preferences is the first step toward targeting this massive customer segment. Boomers on the Horizon: Housing Preferences of the 55+ Market gives you a valuable source of data on what these buyers want. Use its resources to build your knowledge about this market segment. Then look forward to golden years for your real estate business.

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This post was contributed exclusively for REALTOR® Magazine.

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