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Kudos to MetLife and NAHB who recently released a study about how builders were doing meeting the expectations of the mature market (Baby Boomers and beyond).  At Creating Results, we love research!  Decisions can be made based on data rather than that gut feel in your stomach or the old fall-back “we’ve always done it that way.”  In this economy, when budgets have been cut to the bare bone, research often has been the first to go.  Thanks to this study, marketers and builders have a little more insight into what Boomers and seniors are looking for in a new home.

What Mature Homebuyers Want, and Builders Aren’t Offering

The report, 55+ Housing: Builders, Buyers, and Beyond, found that

“While consumers expressed a preference for maintenance-free lifestyles, with services such as interior and exterior home repair, transportation, housecleaning, etc., few builders offer such services, which depart from their primary business of construction.” 

63% of the 1500 respondents stated their primary reason for moving was the desire for a maintenance-free lifestyle. That beat out moving to be closer to family or friends as well as a wish to reduce the cost of living.

In our work with active adult builders and community developers we have found as many definitions of “maintenance-free” as there are “green building.”  The Boomers and older homebuyers want, and in many cases need, all of the exterior maintenance taken care of for them.  This goes beyond mowing the lawn to include fertilizing, leaf raking, and mulching of flower beds; cleaning the gutters and washing the windows; clearing snow from driveways and lead walks … 

Real estate marketers need to be sure that online/offline materials are specific on what is and is not included in a community’s “maintenance-free” lifestyle.  Clear details (and more services) will speed sales.

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What Builders Offer, But Buyers Don’t Appear to Want

Creating Results’ 15 years of marketing to Baby Boomers means we understand the need for builders and community developers to communicate new features and their benefits very clearly to prospects.  Universal Design (UD) is a case in point.

NAHB’s research showed that consumers didn’t fully appreciate UD features like lever-handled doors knobs and wider doors and hallways that builders are already putting in to new homes. 

Why?  Perhaps because those door knobs are now anticipated, viewed as a luxury feature but expected to be included as standard.  Those old round ones are boring and just so passé.  And not because the market perceives them as UD-friendly but because levers are the new generation of door knobs. 

Wider doors and hallways?  My guess is that customers do appreciate them because they make the entire home feel more spacious. But value?  It’s hard for consumers to assess a value to space like this—we’re not talking the latest hi-tech feature or granite countertops here.  And, like the lever-handled door knobs, buyers don’t connect the feature to UD benefits.

The communication challenge is to educate our Baby Boomer consumers on the lifestyle value these and other features in the home and community provide now and in the future.  Whether your Boomer buyer is 62 suffering with arthritis in their hands or simply has an armful of laundry those lever-handled door handles will be appreciated.

How will you apply this research and insights to your marketing?

About The Author

Kathy East

Kathy East serves as Vice President of Client Services at Creating Results, directing a talented staff and overseeing the strategic direction of all 50+ marketing programs.