Just as the Baby Boomer generation drove countless cultural trends as they came of age, they’re now reinventing retirement — or non-retirement for some.
Since there are more than 80 million Baby Boomers, there are of course plenty of variations in their plans for pre- and post-retirement.
“In some ways, our surveys of people age 55 and older haven’t changed much since the 1990s,” says Valerie Dolenga, director of corporate communications for PulteGroup. “One big cultural shift we’ve seen in the last few years that’s particularly different than what we saw 20 or 25 years ago is the desire to be close to family, especially their kids and grandkids.”
Older Buyers More Likely to Want New Homes
The National Association of Realtors’ 2016 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends report found that older buyers are more likely to buy new construction rather than a previously owned home. Eighteen percent of the oldest buyers, ages 71 to 97, purchased a newly built home, compared with 16 percent of Baby Boomers and 14 percent of all buyers, says Jessica Lautz, managing director of survey research and communications for NAR.
“These buyers want to customize their homes and to avoid renovations, particularly plumbing and electrical work,” says Lautz. “They also appreciate community amenities found in new communities and opportunities to socialize.”
Where Baby Boomers Want to Move
The 2017 Del Webb Baby Boomer Survey found that the top three most desirable destinations for Baby Boomers are Florida, Arizona and the Carolinas.
“For all three locations, a key consideration is the cost of living,” says Dolenga. “Baby Boomers also cite a great climate and access to health care as important considerations.”
However, while 38 percent of those surveyed said they want to move to a different state, 26 percent say they want to stay in the city where they currently live and 34 percent want to move to another town within their state.
NAR’s research found that the oldest homebuyers move the farthest, but even they move only a median of 25 miles.
The National Association of Home Builders’ survey of recent and prospective homebuyers ages 55 and older found that only 7 percent want to move to a central city, with the rest of buyers evenly split between wanting to live in the suburbs or a rural area, says Paul Emrath, vice president of survey and housing policy research for the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).
Top Reasons Baby Boomers Move
Del Webb’s survey found that 39 percent of Baby Boomers cite retirement as the reason to move, followed by 33 percent who cited the need to downsize and 30 percent who want to move to a better location.
“Older Baby Boomers still want to move to a better climate eventually,” says Dolenga. “But even though Baby Boomers expect to retire at age 63.7, most younger Baby Boomers want to move close to their current job at first since they plan to continue working for a while.”
Younger Baby Boomers say they expect to stay in their newly purchased home for 20 years, says Lautz, while older Baby Boomers anticipate staying 15 years.
Multigenerational homes are most popular among younger Baby Boomers, 20 percent of whom bought or plan to buy a multigenerational home in NAR’s most recent survey.
Even if they aren’t moving in together, the desire to be near family has increased in recent years.
“The number one reason Baby Boomers cite for moving in NAHB’s surveys is to be closer to family and friends,” says Emrath.
Most Desirable Amenities for Baby Boomers
While Dolenga hesitates to call grandchildren a “community amenity,” she says 30 percent of Baby Boomers listed proximity to their grandchildren as the No. 1 amenity they want within walking distance of their home.
“Previous surveys have found that having grandchildren nearby wasn’t a priority, but this desire to strengthen the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren appears to be growing,” says Dolenga.
The two other top amenities are access to water — either a beach, a lake or a river — cited by 24 percent of those surveyed; and access to a park or green space, cited by 20 percent of Baby Boomers.
“Just like other buyers, Baby Boomers want walking trails, parks and to live close to shops,” says Emrath. “What distinguishes older buyers in our survey is that they are more interested in having outdoor maintenance included in their homeowner association dues.”
Prime House Features for Baby Boomers
When discussing favored features for their new home, Baby Boomers want similar amenities to other buyers such as a laundry room, hardwood flooring, an open floor plan and outdoor space, says Emrath. He says one difference is that older buyers prefer one-level living and are less interested in having a basement.
“Our survey found that Baby Boomers love to entertain and want an open floor plan to accommodate that,” says Dolenga. “In addition, they have lots of stuff. So even though they want to downsize, they also need lots of storage in the kitchen and the garage.”
Outdoor space is also important, says Dolenga, with most buyers wanting a front porch, as well as a patio and a small private yard with an outdoor kitchen or a fire pit.
The Baby Boomers’ reputation for enjoying an active and fun-filled life seems like it will go on forever, even into their retirement years.
Michele Lerner is an award-winning freelance writer, editor and author who has been writing about real estate, personal finance and business topics for more than two decades.