By the time you read this sentence of my column, another baby boomer will have turned 50 years old—it happens every seven seconds. The Baby Boomer generation makes up about 28 percent of the population and has some interesting statistics. According to BabyBoomerMagazine.com, this group has greater wealth than any other, controls 70 percent of the total net worth of American households, and accounts for 40 percent of total consumer demand.
This group also doesn’t want to be referred to as "senior citizens"; yet they are aging and modern comforts, especially for their lifestyle and home, are high priorities. This population typically falls into the empty-nest category. Baby Boomer Magazine writes, "With our children out of the home, we empty-nesters have more discretionary money to spend on ourselves—from the more upscale discount houses to the designer boutiques." When it comes to housing, this group wants easy, comfortable homes. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the MetLife Mature Market Institute found some interesting data when they surveyed consumers and builders in 2009. The analysis of data on housing preferences shows strong similarities of preferences between the 55-to-64-year-old-age group as compared to the 65+ group.
Technology-heavy features are of interest to the younger group, while the older group has a primary interest in finding single-story floor plans or, at least, homes that offer a first-floor master bedroom as well as universal-design features (suitable for all ages).
"The younger group of mature consumers reported enthusiastically that they want services like home maintenance and repair as part of their next home purchase, along with services typically connected to older homeowners, such as housekeeping, onsite health care and transportation," said John Migliaccio, in a press statement, director of research at MetLife’s Mature Market Institute.
For both groups, easy living is a huge housing attractor. Low maintenance inside and outside the home is very appealing. However, not all homes are conducive to this. NAHB’s vice president for survey and housing policy research, Paul Emrath, warned in a public statement that the decreased construction of communities that serve the mature market could lead to a shortage of housing for that population. The current financial crisis has caused a lack of available capital for development and construction of these communities.
A few other key findings for the 55+ demographic group come from a study released last quarter by MetLife and NAHB. A few of the findings challenge conventional wisdom. The study reported that older buyers, often thought to shop for smaller homes, are actually looking for their next home to be equally sized to their current one. At the time of the survey, the respondents’ median size home was 1,886 square feet, compared to the median 1,903 square feet many say they want in a new home. Three bedrooms (51 percent respondents) are preferred over four or more (18 percent).
Other findings include the top rated features in a home: washers and dryers, storage space, easy-to-open windows, main-level master bedroom, and easy-to-use climate controls. Also, ranking high on the list for home features is preparation for high-speed Internet. Environmentally-friendly homes are alluring but most consumer respondents in this study reported they would not pay extra for it; 12 percent indicated they would. Energy-efficient appliances and home security systems were also rated as important features.
As for location, the majority of respondents say they prefer a suburban home; 32 percent want to live closer-in suburbs and 31 percent prefer further-outlying suburbs. A rural community is preferred by 28 percent, while only 9 percent want to live in a central city.