Baby boomers have always made big waves in real estate -- setting generational records for homeownership ratios, equity wealth, and mortgage debt. But what do they want to buy now that millions of them are heading over the symbolic 60-year-old line?
New consumer research presented at the annual convention of the National Association of Home Builders in Orlando provided some eyebrow-raising answers. For starters, a stunning 52 percent of all boomers aged 45 to 54 years of age expect to purchase some form of retirement, investment or second home property within the next 60 months. Fifty-seven percent of homeowners aged 55 to 64 say the same. So it's fair to say that the boomers -- 70 million-plus of them -- will play a key role in residential real estate sales, home building and new community development for years to come.
But what sort of housing are the boomers most interested in acquiring? The new study, conducted by ProMatura LLC, an Oxford, Mississippi-based research firm, covered a national sample of 2,309 boomer homeowners who have Internet connections.
Are the boomers as interested as their parents in property on or near golf course developments? Don't bank too heavily on that one. Just 1.7 percent of the boomers surveyed said yes to buying in golf course developments, and only 5.1 percent said they even want a view of a golf course.
Contrast that with moving back into the city or having a view of a city -- 12 percent expected to buy that sort of property. That's got to be good news for realty agents, developers and investors involved with downtown condo and loft conversions.
The most popular locational or environmental draws for boomers? Believe it or not, it's "fresh water" and "green space." Over 25 percent of likely movers 55 or older told researchers they either want to buy real estate directly on, or with a view of, fresh water such as a lake, river or pond. Nearly 12 percent want to buy real estate surrounded by "green space" -- parklands, fields or trees -- and 27.1 percent want to see green space out their windows.
Salt water-oriented locations get much lower marks. Perhaps worried about potential storm damage, just 8.5 percent want to be either located on, or have a view of, the ocean, a bay or other bodies of salt water.
Boomers are much more open than their parents to the idea of planned "active adult" real estate developments, according to study author Margaret Wylde, president of ProMatura. A surprising 49 percent of all boomer homeowners consider themselves likely or highly likely to move to an "active adult" community after selling the family home. Active adult doesn't necessarily mean "retirement community" in the traditional sense, said Wylde. "It doesn't mean senior," it doesn't mean "old folks, but it does mean a very active lifestyle that is tailored to the needs of hyperactive boomers themselves."
For example, large percentages of boomers in the study said a key factor in their decision about where to move will be the presence of high-amenity facilities for physical activity, workouts, sports and fitness. One out of every four boomers 45 years and older even wants to be able to walk -- not drive -- to a fitness center. Twenty seven percent want to be able to walk to either bicycling or hiking areas.
The bottom line for anyone involved in selling real estate to the boomer hordes: Make sure that whatever you're offering conveys energy and activity -- not aging -- because the boomers think they've got plenty of gas left in the tank, and they absolutely do not feel as old as they are.