While watching a lopsided college basketball game on television four days after Christmas, I began searching the Internet for creative recreational-property house plans.

Would we consider a smaller place in the sun when our youngest child finally got out of school? If so, how would we use an actual second residence — and would it eventually become our primary home? What features and furniture would I consider to be “must haves” and what furnishings would be designated to the “wish list”? My aching knees would appreciate a first-floor bedroom but could we keep that space far enough away from the kids’ late-night visits to the kitchen and family room?

Most importantly, how would we finance the place? Would there be any dimes left when the academic world is behind us?

While deep into a next-home dreamland, my wife appeared with a measuring tape and enough energy to remodel our present home in one afternoon. The doorbell soon rang and her friend bounced in with a boatload of ideas of how to “try some things to help our spaces work better.”

The sewing machine was soon “being tried” on the kids’ former computer table along with the drawers of beads and mountains of jewelry-making supplies and artsy manuals.

What was I thinking? I should have put more credence into a study by home-building analysts that states men figure out how to purchase a property and women do just about everything else from there.

According to Doris Perlman, founder and president of Possibilities for Design, women control 80 percent of consumer purchases, direct 91 percent of housing decisions and guide 94 percent of home furnishing choices. Perlman’s research has delineated many of the specific home features that are likely to particularly attract boomer women. Their shopping habits suggest that these customers are apt to be “circular, exploring and tactile” and “do not make linear decisions.”

“Her needs for personal connection and security are key,” Perlman added. “Women don’t just buy a product — they join it.” (This is where the beads and jewelry-making come in.)

Among Perlman’s observations on what will sway baby-boomer women shopping for a home’s interior:

  • Illumination — both task lighting and natural light — is of major importance to compensate for declining vision and to add drama.

  • Women buyers are looking for strong character in home design, such as cottages with a crisp and clean look, urban enclaves with rich colors and textures, and calming and contemporary Asian influences.

  • Women who are 55 or older are cyber-savvy and use their computers for ordering and correspondence.

  • Women are very attuned to colors, while men do not care as much.

As for home amenities, older women are very focused on security. They are attracted to high-tech home security systems as well as automated home lighting systems. Women are just as busy as men and they appreciate anything that saves time. Convenience, in terms of location and saving time and effort, is a big plus. They also desire amenities that play into the needs of children. Shared areas are critical to community life, as are nearby stores, parks and recreational areas. Communities centered on a single amenity (i.e., golf clubhouse) are perceived as less welcoming for women and children.

According to a National Association of Home Builders panel featuring women in the housing industry, women 50 and older are choosing to live in communities that emphasize social interaction and convenience, enabling them to simultaneously nurture and multi-task. The experience of community is a key driver for women as well as the proximity to jobs and public transportation.

Boomer women now have more time to relax, engage in social activities and explore hobbies, making “special interest” rooms an essential feature in new-home marketing. Perlman also says that “women shop with peripheral vision: they notice everything,” and “harness the power of grandparenting.” It’s OK to include a grandkid’s room.

Grandkid’s room? Can we please have a few years before that generation arrives?

To get even more valuable advice from Tom, visit his Second Home Center.


What’s your opinion? Send your Letter to the Editor to opinion@inman.com.

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