“We’ve raised more than our share of hell during the half-century we’ve been on the planet. We took to the streets to protest everything from civil rights to animal rights to foreign wars. And now, in ultimate irony, we’re at the forefront of the reaction against much of that upheaval. Over the years, we’ve witnessed a lot of history, made some of it and, along the way, produced a pop culture treasure trove of aphorisms to accompany it all.” – Howard Stern from Don’t Trust Anyone Over Thirty
Stern is, of course, referencing the 76.4 million strong Baby Boomer Generation. This generation is far from “winding down” after a lifetime of accolades, and are about to redefine what it means to be retired. Wants and needs are changing. One of the most noticeable ways this is happening is through housing; something that has changed dramatically over 60 years. Many Boomers may fondly (or not so fondly) remember being children in the ‘burbs’ or in ‘Levittowns’ across the county. Very few of those small, 1950’s style homes remain today as many were remodeled or upsized by the same children who grew up in them.
So where does that leave the Baby Boomers today? There are a few themes that the new retirees are leaning towards in the wake of still owning larger homes. They have the equity, but what do they plan to spend it on?
Community and Walkability
There is no independence quite like being able to walk to everything. It’s a factor that more and more people, of all ages, all considering. And living in town isn’t just a better way to get around; it’s a way of life. Getting to know your neighbor and having face-to-face conversations with people is a dying art. But like vinyl or reading a physical newspaper, it’ll never go out of style for those who grew up with it.
People who are young at heart cannot escape the fact their knees are . . . well . . . not. Stairs were a great idea back when Baby Boomers had kids they wanted to put to bed away from the entertainment areas. However now they’re more of an obligatory work-out than a convenience. “More than 40% of new homes have master suites downstairs, a 15% increase over a decade ago”. It’s just easier to navigate around a ranch style house than a drafty Victorian.
Keeping a perfectly manicured lawn is quickly becoming phased out. It takes work and it takes water (which isn’t as easy to come by these days). There are quite a few trends out there that offer lower-maintenance alternatives such as xeriscaping, stone gardens, and honey-bee friendly wild flower patches. Many of them are arguably better than their monotone predecessor.
Flex what? Think of it as a “bonus room”. The space is simple and can be easily adaptable to changing needs. A room that once served as an office can now be turned into a library or a yoga/creative studio. Baby Boomers gaining grandchildren may need extra space to house them when family comes to visit. Having a room that can be used for anything is unequivocally valuable.
Interestingly enough, Millenials and Baby Boomers are pretty similar in what they are looking for in the housing market. Both are down-sizing, looking for convenience, and wanting lots of light. It’s shaping the way builders think about new homes and they way this part of century will be defined in terms of style.