The number of home buyers ages 55 and older is expected to grow over the next decade, and builders across the country are ramping up to serve them. At the International Builders' Show in Orlando, Fla., this week, the National Association of Home Builders is educating attendees about how to support the industry's efforts to cater to this segment of the market
In one session, Deryl Patterson, president of Housing Design Matters in Jacksonville, Fla., offered ideas of how to design, remodel, and market spaces so that they'll be more appealing to older home buyers. She says one important element is to avoid treating baby boomer clients as if they've suddenly developed a whole new set of living preferences. Patterson told attendees it makes more sense to think of boomers as "mature" in the sense that they are experienced buyers who know what they want. She described their mindset about their home purchase as: "I'm going to do it right this time, finally."
Here are some home features you can be on the lookout for when working with buyers in the 55-and-over age group, or items you can emphasize if you're trying to ensure your listing appeals to them.
—Meg White, REALTOR® Magazine
- Rethink the laundry room. After the kids move out, many home owners spend less time in the laundry room, but that doesn’t mean they want to ditch it entirely. As the house becomes less chore-centric, Patterson says, home owners are more prone to focus on fun. Try carving out a space for crafts or pet care if a huge laundry room feels like a waste of space to buyers.
- Boost the light. Patterson noted that as people age, the lens of the eye thickens and lets in less light. This means a 60-year-old needs six times as much light as a 20-year-old. Look for inexpensive ways to add light in unexpected places, such as inside drawers and cabinets.
- Be subtle about accessible features. Everyone wants to be able to age in place, but few want to think of a time when they’ll be physically limited. Thankfully, many features that make a home more navigable and safer for those with mobility issues aren't very obvious, such as even, level surfaces that make it easier for those using wheelchairs, canes, or walkers. Patterson also noted that many bathroom product manufacturers are now making grab bars that look more like shelves and towel racks than institutional-style safety features.
- Point out low-maintenance features. Patterson said one of the first things that comes to mind when people are looking for a low-maintenance home is the size of the lawn, but she noted that there's much more to taking care of a home than that. "I want you to think beyond yard maintenance," she told attendees. She noted that stain-resistant quartz countertops and roofs that don't have nooks where leaves can collect can be important qualities of a listing.
- Examine where the stairs lead. Steps can be problematic for those with mobility issues, but they aren't an automatic no-no for communities targeted at older buyers. It just depends on what's at the top of the staircase. A bunk room for the grandkids or an exercise room is a much better use for second- and third-floor space than a master bedroom or another place the primary resident might have to visit frequently. Also, landings and railings are both safety musts, Patterson says. "Stairs are the number one reason people go to the emergency room, and not just those over 55."