Pulte's Del Webb has new data out on that age-old question, "what do women want?"
The findings seem to spotlight rather what they don't want. Or at least, don't need.
This is important. The National Association of Realtors points out that a single adult female is twice as likely to buy a home--repeat buyer or first-time buyer--as a single male at any age. What's more, the NAR notes that 15.5 million women live in single-person households, and 56% of them are homeowners (compared with 11.8 million men, of which 47% own their home).
The point is the implication that women are home buyers, important ones, single or not. We toyed around with the notion that females are the "decision-maker" in home purchases for more than a decade. Now, the wake-up call gets louder (perhaps, we preferred to hit the "snooze" button a few times before recognizing it). Women are decision-makers in couples and families, and multigenerational households, and they're out and out home buyers--repeat and first-time--to an ever-greater degree of significance.
Here's one of the top lines in the latest Pulte release:
Survey results indicate that many single female Boomers prefer an active social life over an active romantic life (just 38 percent are looking for companionship or marriage).
Among those who engage in social activities, the most popular pastimes include dinners with friends (66 percent), trips to the movies (51 percent) and attending concerts (31 percent), according to the study. Other top social activities include:
- Seeing plays and musicals (30 percent)
- Seeking formal and informal education (28 percent)
- Outdoor activities (e.g., hiking, canoeing, kayaking, etc.) (24 percent)
- Attending sporting events (22 percent)
- Happy hours (15 percent)
- Dancing (14 percent)
The data underscores three big take-aways, by our lights.
One, is tone-deafness. Home building companies, residential developers, architectural firms, residential investment and lending organizations, etc., whether they're willing to truly reckon with it or not, are courting--to an increasing degree--a female universe of customers. Their organizations and their DNA have not caught up to that reality. This is not new news. This is a gentle reminder of what is largely self-evident: there'll be a widening gap and dislocation between companies and their customer base if those companies fail to mirror culture and society's shifting power-base.
Two is programming. Yes, we're an increasingly design-centric culture, and yes, many ways that shows up is inside the home. The home as a user experience, an interface, like the office, like a cafe, like a hotel or spa facility, like a library, like a comfortable bar, is what design gravitates to increasingly. But "programming" goes out of the box, into the street-scape, into the trail system, into what's happening at the community center, into the proximity of a movie theater or a coffee shop. Programming and a community manager is as important to the user experience as an open floor plan or a drop zone or flow between indoor and outdoor living space. It's part of the value proposition now.
Three, is much research is bunk. Don't believe statistics when the statistical narrative flies in the face of common sense, or what you know to be true. The psychological world is quaking now as the result of recent findings that many important, precedent-setting experimental psychological insights trace back to experiments that don't reproduce the same results.
This highlights a difference between data, which tends not to deceive, and statistics, which by its nature, is a "story-telling" science that adds highly-fallible, if endearing, human biases to the stew of data points to try to reach conclusions.
"The best thing about being a statistician is you get to play in everyone else's backyard." One of the world's most famous statisticians, John Tukey--who worked both at Bell Labs and Princeton University--said that.
This is, by way of saying, have a look at the latest series of "insights" from Del Webb with a healthy grain of salt. Or, as Michael Shrage notes in this piece that talks about how to cope with the vicissitudes of disconnects between statistics insights and data points, "Nullius in verba ... take nobody's word for it."