Baby boomer buyers crave comfort
55+ homebuyers have earned a chance to kick back and enjoy their homes. Here's
how builders can best serve this important demographic.
By Lauren Hunter
Millennial homebuyers have held the spotlight
for a few years now, but the 55+ and baby boomer demographics remain a hotbed
of home buying activity. New data from the National
Association of Realtors finds that buyers age 52 and older
account for 38 percent of recent homebuyers. Looking forward, the Harvard
Joint Center for Housing Studies says the number of U.S. households
age 65 and older is projected to increase by 11.3 million between 2015 and
And while many older Americans plan to age in
place, research from the Demand Institute U.S.
Housing and Communities Survey shows that 42 percent of
the country's 77 million baby boomers are expected to move, and 57 percent of
those plan to purchase homes rather than rent.
How can builders best serve this important
but unique group of buyers? By providing homes with the comfort, efficiency,
and smarter floorplans that older buyers seek.
"Older homeowners, in recent years, have been
able to sell their large homes in the suburbs and buy an energy-efficient,
right-sized home," says Jim Chapman, chairman of NAHB's 55+ Housing Industry
Council and president of Jim
Chapman Communities in Atlanta. For the recent 2017
International Builders Show, Chapman worked
with modular homebuilder Nationwide Homes to design a home
specifically geared toward the needs of 55+ buyers. In addition to showcasing a
variety of aging-in-place features, the home incorporated propane systems that
boosted the home's comfort and convenience.
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"The bulk of my buyers are active adults,"
Chapman says. "They all want gas fireplaces, because they want a fireplace
that's easy to light; gas heating; and definitely gas cooking — especially the
cooktop. It's faster, easier, and you can see the flame and modulate how you
Chapman adds that 55+ buyers want to spend
more time living in their homes rather than maintaining them. With that in
mind, builders can help older buyers enjoy the fruits of their labors with cozy
gas fireplaces that turn on at the flick of a switch. A
plethora of propane-fueled outdoor amenities, from fire pits to outdoor cooking
to heated pools, offer entertainment luxuries that require little cleanup or
"By this time in their lives, homeowners want
maintenance-free products they know will work when they want them to," Chapman
says, "plus the benefits of a ‘lock-and-leave' lifestyle where they can travel
for two or three weeks and come home with nothing amiss."
In addition to valuing convenience, older
buyers are also keen on comfort, according to research from the Farnsworth
Group conducted on behalf of Builder magazine and Taylor Morrison's 55+ concept
NEXTadventure Home. The
findings indicate that 81 percent of baby boomers prefer the idea
of more space in a less-populated community, over less space in a
more-populated community. Additionally, these buyers rated the kitchen, master
bedroom, and great rooms as the most important areas of the home.
Propane's comfort and performance advantages
for cooking, heating, and water heating are an ideal match for these older
buyers — especially those looking for more spacious communities away from urban
amenities such as natural gas.
"With propane and natural gas
being interchangeable, they can get their preferences even if they choose to
live in a rural setting."
The Demand Institute has
categorized 55+ homebuyers into four segments, including Comfort Seekers and
New Pastorals, both of which have large contingents leaning toward rural
According to Jeremy Burbank, vice president
of the Demand Institute, Comfort Seekers will spend the most on their next new
homes and are very interested in newer construction, making them a great target
for homebuilders. A third of Comfort Seekers (34 percent) are likely to move to
rural locations, Burbank says, and "they're very focused on the home itself: newer,
beautiful homes, nice interiors, well-appointed kitchens, and luxurious baths."
The New Pastorals segment has even more rural
leanings. "That's a significant difference about this group," Burbank says.
"They place a premium on having privacy and space around the home. They want
big yards, and perhaps a little bit of acreage." More than half of these buyers
(59 percent) are looking forward to rural living.
With the versatility of propane systems at
their disposal, builders can meet their 55+ clients' comfort and convenience
demands no matter where they choose to live, Chapman says. "With propane and
natural gas being interchangeable, they can get their preferences even if they
choose to live in a rural setting. These are the buyers I cater to, and they
all want gas — in fact, if I didn't offer gas and propane in the over-55 homes
I build, I wouldn't be in business."