Thursday, March 1, 2007

Housing Boomers

By Nanette Overly, Epcon Communities

As the nation’s largest demographic ages, a new housing product emerges to change the way — and the where —Americans retire

The Baby Boomer Generation is once again exerting its gravitational pull on the housing market.

Today, as Baby Boomers enter their 50s and 60s, they are healthier, more active and more engaged in their lives and their communities than previous generations. When it comes to deciding how and where they will live, Boomers aren’t in the rocking chair — they are in the driver’s seat.

Home Sweet Home
According to research, 37 percent of Boomers will move to a new home within the first year after their youngest child goes off to college. Increasingly, however, these newly mobile Empty Nesters are breaking away from traditional expectations. They are moving across town, rather than across the country. They are ready for a more manageable lifestyle, but shudder at the idea of a traditional “retirement” community.

In fact, a recently published AARP survey revealed that, when it’s time to retire, 90 percent of today’s 50+ Americans say they would either stay in their current home or move to one very nearby. In short, a significant majority of Baby Boomers would prefer to “age in place.”

A few homebuilders, such as Epcon Communities, are recognizing this trend, and are providing an expanded range of innovative housing options that combines the comforts and conveniences of a resort lifestyle with the aesthetics, amenities and independence of a single-family home; not thousands of miles away, but right down the street. These new Boomer-oriented homes and communities are a testament to the vital importance of location, as astute homebuilders recognize that proximity to children and grandchildren is a driving force behind many real estate decisions.

Home is Where the Hearth Is
New Boomer-friendly housing options incorporate a number of design and development strategies to cater to this demographic. They recognize that, to this nostalgic generation, the idea of home and hearth as the iconic center of family and social gatherings exerts a powerful emotional appeal.

These design considerations for Boomers speak to leisure, comfort, quality and convenience, such as the following new design techniques and amenities:

• Ample open space and tall ceilings (which create a sense of “volume”) are very popular.
• Minimizing unnecessary staircases through single-story layouts is a common strategy.
• Well-deserved small luxuries, such as twin vanity sinks have gained favor.
• Kitchens are important, and are highly functional with expansive counter space.
• Laundry and utility rooms are convenient and accessible, without becoming too prominent or intruding into the living space.
• Wasted, excess space is not desirable, but space for hobbies and other pursuits can be a nice bonus.
• Hallways are wider, but not to accommodate a wheelchair; rather, to allow the exercise devotee ample room to walk one’s bicycle into the house.

As is the case with all of Epcon Communities’ more than 200 communities in 31 states, these new communities feature elegantly designed residences that present the appearance of a detached home when viewed from the street, providing all the conveniences and efficiencies of a condo while exuding the aesthetics and vibe of a freestanding house.

Active Adults
Working out and staying active are very important to Boomers, and access to a high-quality fitness center is a necessity, rather than a luxury. New communities also now frequently feature integrated or adjacent walking trails.

Exterior landscaping is attractive, but managed and maintained by professionals, freeing up valuable personal time.

Swimming pools are important to the Active Adult, providing a place to relax and unwind, another option for exercise, and a venue for entertaining the grandchildren.

Access to community clubhouses and public spaces is another welcome feature, providing usable common space to host receptions or activities.

Ultimately, this new and increasingly popular residential format enables Boomers to simultaneously assert their independence and relieve some of the everyday burdens and tedium of housework, yard work and other mundane responsibilities. These residences, convenient to restaurants and other amenities, allow homeowners to enjoy the pride and satisfaction of hosting events and welcoming guests, while providing the freedom to be able to “lock the door and go,” to travel on a moment’s notice.

Baby Boomers may need to change where they live, but they don’t have to change how they live.

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