The 55+ population is a large, affluent demographic that is likely a target for all builders, whether they specifically develop active-adult communities or not. To help builders get inside the head of today’s 55+ buyer, the 55+ Housing Industry Council recently hosted a webinar, “55 Builder Tips for 55+ Buyers,” to share tips on how to best meet the needs of the 55+ home buying market.
Panelists covered tips in six key areas:
- Research (presented by Bryon Cohron of ProMatura Group)
- Development (presented by Jennifer Landers of Newland)
- Architecture and Research (presented by Jim Riviello of The Martin Architectural Group)
- Architecture Design (presented by Deryl Patterson of Housing Design Matters)
- Interior Design & Merchandising (presented by Lita Dirks of Lita Dirks & Co.)
- Marketing (presented by Jane O’Connor of 55 Plus, LLC)
One important theme carried throughout the session is how critical it is to understand who the 55+ buyer is and what their preferences are in order to help them achieve their dream home.
“The 55+ buyer is a very sophisticated buyer today, so you can’t underestimate the 55+ buyer,” stated Dirks. “They’ve been dreaming of this home of their dreams that they want, and the merchandising of this home is how we’re able to create the dream and help them see that they truly can have it.”
What they’re dreaming of may differ from what developers expect. Common myths or missteps, Cohron noted, include taking a formulaic approach to home design, developing communities around golf courses, and assuming that boomers are isolated or lonely and need to have their day planned out.
Instead, Landers shared, they want to be in proximity to conveniences such as shopping, entertainment and education opportunities, with easy access to travel options. This is why college towns can be such a great option, Riviello added, with charming town centers and unique amenities such as lectures, concerts and college sporting events.
Walkability around the community is key, with ample trails and sidewalks, as well as pocket parks for relaxing or playing with pets. Outdoor living adds values to the home as well — both in terms of providing a spot to relax and visually expanding the square footage available.
When designing homes for 55+ buyers, these areas should be top priorities:
- Stairs: Never include a straight run, Patterson recommended. Instead, incorporate a landing as a rest spot.
- Flex rooms: Whether it’s a combination office/den/guestroom or a hobby room to explore or celebrate special interests, the more uses buyers can envision for a room, the more value it adds.
- Storage: This is a big plus for 55+ buyers, so smart solutions are a must. Think closets and under stairs, as well as permanent access to less-used spaces, such as the basement or an attic above the garage.
- Kitchen: This is a central entertaining spot where details are important. This includes upgraded appliances, such as drawer microwaves; large islands; and comfortable seating.
- Bathroom: Pay particular attention to the shower, with features such as a seat, handheld showerhead and a no-threshold entry. Patterson also recommended a separate toilet room for privacy, with room for future grab bars (which shrink the room by about 6 inches).
- Lighting: Design homes to allow as much natural light as possible, but also be cognizant of lighting for both mood and function. “The average 60-year-old needs six times as much light to see as a 20-year-old,” Patterson shared. Well-placed lighting can have a huge impact on spaces such as stairs, hallways and bathrooms.