It’s all about style, functionality and personalized pizzazz
If you think of homes for the 55-plus contingent as “plain vanilla boxes,” think again. “A jewel box” is the way designers and developers characterize retirement homes today. And despite the emphasis on downsizing and square footage what matters to this group is personalization and having a home that ticks off all the items on their wish lists. Whether it’s design, the arrangement of rooms, colors or kitchen cabinets, they know what they want and quite often are not willing to compromise on what is important to them.
Since almost all of these potential buyers have previously owned one or more homes, they have a good understanding of what they want in their next home. Julie Whitley, manager, Architectural Design & Coordination, Red Seal Homes, says, “By the second meeting, retiring buyers and baby boomers begin to talk about what they’ve always wanted and how they want to include them in this next home.” And, she adds, “It’s not like it’s big huge things. The attitude is ‘Finally I want to live like I want to live. I don’t care if it looks weird to somebody else.’”
“They want a place that allows them to be themselves — not cram their lives into somewhere that they do not fit. They are all different, and all want to thrive,” observes Jay Kallos, senior vice president of architecture for luxury builder Ashton Woods Homes.
An open concept great room layout is preferred by 86 percent of those looking. “They entertain. With that, they request flexibility, and a plan with large enough spaces so that they can define them with their furnishings,” says Kallos.
Often, changes in ceiling heights or materials will define spaces in an open concept plan, while archways carve out private niches without interrupting the overall flow.
Size Doesn’t Always Matter
Does size matter? Not as much as one would think. Square footage is only one of multiple determining factors. “Smaller spaces are not a deterrent, so long as they are well-appointed with modern, luxurious designs and quality features,” says Pell. These buyers are also quite willing to pay a premium for finishes, enhancements and upgraded products they consider important. Some of the features for which they are willing to pay a premium include solid core doors, upgraded entries and decorative garage doors, Many will also splurge to ensure the master bath is a spa-like retreat.
Brands still play into choices. “They are influenced by brands. If it stands for quality, that will influence their decision. They are more educated, and they are going to go for what they want,” explains Chicago designer Mary Cook. “Because they’ve got more disposable income, they will get what they want.”
Timeless Not Trendy
What doesn’t matter to 55-plus new homeowners? “Trends,” says Spicher. “This generation is not concerned about the color of the year. They are very concerned about building a home they love, with colors they enjoy.”
Kitchens are trending white and grey, but often the materials and tones selected by boomer buyers are different. The might be rustic, wood tones or other colors. “They were not all white by any means,” says Whitley, recalling kitchens clients have done recently. “They are all different. I think it’s because they have gotten to that point in their life where they have owned multiple kitchens, and perhaps one was more rustic and another contemporary or transitional.” Ashton Woods 2018 National Homebuyer Survey found some potential buyers moving away from all white kitchen cabinetry with 45 percent of baby boomers preferring all wood cabinets.
Also, according to interior designer Heather Scruggs with Trendmaker Homes, kitchens across the board are moving told bolder colors. “New, bold colors are the hottest kitchen trend now. Many kitchens have painted cabinets in ranges of blues, bright white and greys.”
In the end, what matters most to this group is excellence. Spicher says, “If I had to narrow it down to a single ask for an entire generation, I would say they ask for really good, thoughtful design.
Camilla McLaughlin is an award-winning writer specializing in house and home. Her work has appeared in leading online and print publications, such as Yahoo! Real Estate, Unique Homes magazine and Realtor magazine. She has also freelanced for the Associated Press.