Boomers And Beyond: Opportunities For Builders

A survey by John Burns Real Estate Consulting digs deeper into what boomers want and why

March 27, 2017

A little over half of boomers say they can't find what they're looking for in a new home. They're working longer, but pension plans are dwindling, and some wishing to retire are afraid they'll run out of money. Those that do retire are as likely to head for places like Idaho as Florida and Arizona. 

These findings are part of a recent survey by John Burns Real Estate Consulting in Irvine, Calif., presented in a webinar last November. Burns consultants Steve Burch and Mollie Carmichael divided boomers into two groups: Equalers (aged 67-76) and Innovators (aged 57-66). Innovators offer the No. 1 opportunity for home builders, said Burch and Carmichael. For one thing, they're doing the most new-home shopping. Approximately 70 percent are still working. This group has high net worth and equates "retired" with "old." When shopping for a new home, they put lifestyle and location first. In fact, they'll accept a home with stairs if it's in a great location. Privacy and charm is important, and more than 80 percent want private outdoor space.

Equalers represent the No. 2 opportunity for builders. In this segment are many dual-income and blended families, and many latchkey kids. Equalers tend to accumulate lots of gadgets such as PCs, pagers, mobile phones, and large TVs. They have the lowest net worth of all boomers and their retirement prospects are a bit bleak. They are the most likely to welcome having older relatives and boomerang kids move in with them, which accounts for the increase in multigenerational households. There has also been an increase in ethnic diversity in this group.

Comfort, health, security, good indoor air quality, and convenience are among the attributes Equalers want in a new home. Smaller, more functional homes are appealing to them, and pets are an extremely important part of their lives.

Nationwide, 50 percent of boomers want a traditional home, while 31 percent prefer modern. The other 19 percent want something "in between," which implies transitional.

Here is a summary of the key findings:

  • More than 50 percent say they can't find what they want.
  • They love locations that are walkable to shopping, entertainment, and other amenities.
  • They're looking for smaller and more functional spaces, both indoors and out.
  • They want home technology that offers greater comfort, health, and savings. "Show them how this works in your models," said Burch and Carmichael. "And remember, they really want to see green in their pockets first."
  • The demand for multigenerational housing will increase due to shifts in retirement, the redefinition of "family," and increased ethnic diversity.
  • More than 50 percent want their homes to be pet-friendly.
  • Private outdoor space, including covered outdoor rooms and enclosed courtyards, is highly desirable.
  • Casual living is still considered smart, even among older home buyers.
  • New Homes should include bedroom suites for visting friends, not just live-in grandparents and boomerang kids

Burch and Carmichael also noted that the 65-plus age group is growing at a substantial rate and should reach 74 million by 2030.



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