With the national housing market surging, active adults have decided it is time to participate again. As discretionary buyers, they’ve had time to “restart” their purchasing process, and many of our developer and builder clients report that with proper health precautions in place, they’ve been willing to do so. In many age-qualified communities across the nation, home sales were particularly strong in August and September.
The pandemic hasn’t changed the size of the active adult population or its motivations. The active adult buyers are a key component of housing demand, as the 65+ population will grow by a net 17 million people over the next ten years. We know one of the highest priorities for this buyer set is being close to children and grandchildren. This means that as the Great American Move takes place in hot markets from Phoenix to Southern California’s Inland Empire to Sarasota, Florida, active adult buyers are following.
They are wealthy with large homes they can sell. Our active adult developer and builder clients told us one of the biggest fears their buyers had heading into the pandemic was the negative impact on their stock portfolios and on the homes they had to sell. Those fears have largely subsided with a rising stock market where the S&P 500 is up 10% year over year (YOY) and existing home Google searches up 30% YOY, as well as the Burns Home Value Index (BHVI) up 5.5% YOY.
4 Keys to Success
Active adult buyers are ready to buy now, so make sure you have inventory. Builders we spoke with in the active adult space told us standing inventory numbers are low, and some are tripling the number of standing inventory homes they produce to satisfy demand. Some are also simplifying what they offer in their homes, a process that streamlines housing production and keeps new home prices more attainable. Despite their wealth, these buyers are still prudent about how they spend their money.
Design elements that appeal to primary buyers also appeal to active adults. Per JBREC’s Consumer Products and Insights survey, more than 70% of new home shoppers between the ages of 55 and 69 included a member who worked at least part time. Work-from-home spaces were always critical to this buyer and are even more so today. Indoor/outdoor spaces are top of mind for active adult buyers, particularly those who live in warmer climates. Opportunities to live in the “healthy” outside while still maintaining cover is a big reason why open corner sliders and outdoor living rooms are immensely popular among this buyer set.
A strong virtual presence is essential. Active adult buyers are not afraid to use technology to search for a home; they rely on it. Active adult developers and builders around the country reinforce that their buyers are doing extensive research online before ever coming to the sales office, and we’ve heard reports of conversion rates among prospects in this space tripling post-pandemic. With travel more restricted and the market expanding rapidly, some active adult buyers are tying up their lots and homes efficiently via builder websites before ever visiting the neighborhood. Empire Communities in Atlanta told us, “We leveraged our virtual platforms, created new virtual platforms, optimized our online campaigns and online sales consultant initiatives, coached the sales teams to get out of their comfort zones, and shifted into a ‘we got this’ attitude.”
Active adult buyers still want to visit sales offices before they buy. While technology is helping buyers become educated, developers were universal in their opinion that this buyer cohort still want to make its final purchase in person. This means that an on-site sales office, decorated models, and well-organized system for coordinating appointments are still critical for selling homes to this buyer profile. Our clients across the country told us that with proper safety precautions in place, active adult buyers prefer visiting sales offices or models in person.
While the first-time and move-up buyers have clearly been the headlines of the housing market resurgence, the active adult buyer is starting to reemerge. We are assessing active adult housing across the country and watching product trends and buyer preferences. Let us know how we can be a resource for you.