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What today’s 55-plus buyers want in a home

New research shows that for boomers, it's all about location, lifestyle and open space
  • A focus group and survey together gathered information on the preferences of baby boomer buyers.
  • The results showed that 55-plus homebuyers value amenities, community, flexibility, design -- and locations that put them close to all the action.
  • Although tradition says that many boomers are looking to downsize, the largest percentage of those surveyed indicated their preference for a mid-sized house.

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The morning sun fills your kitchen as you put on a pot of coffee. Over the counter, you ask some neighbor friends who stopped by if they’d like a cup without having to shout through walls.

Despite your home’s abundance of storage, your tennis shoes never quite make it to their rightful place but rather stay by the front door, always ready to be laced up for the nearby walking trail.

On your stroll, you wave to the people you know and later plan the afternoon in your mind: perhaps a little shopping or live music to top off the day. Why not? All the action’s only a few blocks down the road.

This may be a snapshot of baby boomers‘ typical vision as they look to buy a new home, according to research conducted by Hanley Wood, a real estate media firm, and national homebuilder and developer Taylor Morrison.

The results are gleaned from the findings of two separate studies: a focus group involving boomers and a separate survey of recent homebuyers in the 55-plus age group that gathered information on their values, preferences and attitudes.

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Courtesy of NEXTadventure

Courtesy of NEXTadventure

Baby boomer homebuying wish list

Much like anyone going through the homebuying process, the wish lists of buyers 55 and up seem to largely reflect the lifestyle they desire.

The final report from Grey Matter Research and Consulting, which combined the results of both research efforts, showed that boomer buyers value the first impression of a community and feeling welcome.

Amenities are also huge draws. Some favorites include clubhouses, pools and walking trails. But above all else, location reigns supreme as a gateway to the fun stuff: restaurants, shopping, entertainment. Proximity to medical services also ranks as an important factor.

The following are favored design elements and features among boomers:

  • Open floor plans
  • High ceilings
  • Natural light
  • Integrated indoor and outdoor space
  • Sheltered areas
  • Native plants
  • Sustainable and energy-efficient technology
  • Sufficient storage

The top three factors that influence the purchase of a home are:

  • Area/location (50.2 percent)
  • Price/affordability (37.4 percent)
  • The layout of the home (19 percent)

These factors also led the way for buyers building or shopping for a new home:

  • Quality of construction (9 percent)
  • Safer neighborhood (8.4 percent)
  • Better floor plans (8.2 percent)
  • Architecture/overall design (8.1 percent)

The top three most important rooms or areas in a home include:

  • Kitchen (82.8 percent)
  • Master bedroom (59.2 percent)
  • Great room (36 percent)

When it comes to tech, these types were most highly valued: 

  • Wireless security systems (7.1 percent)
  • Lighting that senses and adapts to you (6.3 percent)
  • Integrated home technology, including “smart” thermostats and lighting controlled by a smart phone (6.2 percent)

Interestingly, the largest percentage of baby boomers would prefer a mid-size home rather than a smaller property:

  • 18.1 percent want a house under 2,000 square feet
  • 48.6 percent want a house between 2,000 and 2,999 square feet
  • 20.8 percent want a house between 3,000 and 3,999 square feet

“Information gleaned from the focus group helps set the stage on what the 55-plus homebuyer desires in a new home and how the industry should be building its homes,” said John McManus, Editorial Director of Hanley Wood’s Residential Group, in a press release. “These influential buyers want a fresh start in a vital, connected, accessible new-home environment. And, as millions of baby boomers across the country begin the next phase of their lives, buying the right home is top of mind for them.”

The results of these studies will inform the design and development of the entirely customizable “NEXTadventure” model home, which is set to debut at the International Builders Show in Orlando, Florida, in January 2017.

Email Caroline Feeney