Today's 55+ market has significantly changed from what it used to be. These communities were previously thought of as seniors housing, but with the healthy, active lifestyles of today's Baby Boomers, 55+ housing doesn't have to be anything close to the boring, institutional style of seniors housing.

Active adult buyers are having the time of their life. They're kids are finally leaving the house and they're rediscovering who they are and how they want their life to look - and they have the money to do so. This demographic controls 70% of the disposable income in the U.S. While this group definitely has the funds to purchase a new home, they also don't necessarily need it, making home buying a discretionary purchase.

"With Baby Boomers, 47% of them might be shopping for a home, but only 36% are buyers," said Lita Dirks, of design group Lita Dirks and Co., during a presentation at the International Builders' Show in Orlando this week.

The main reason more of these shoppers don't make the final decision to buy comes down to the product, which is where builders can learn a few tricks to win the shopper over. Here, Dirks describes a few different ways to do so:

Make It Exciting - since this is a discretionary purchase for them, it becomes much more about the "wow" factor. What's going to make them fall in love with the home? Going above and beyond in the design and finishes, with touches or grand entry ways and pops of color are great to thrill these shoppers with all the possibilities. Offer them something new that they hadn't thought about, and likely aren't getting in their current living space.

Kip Hawkins

Include a Flex Room - these buyers are finally chasing their hobbies after all those years of chasing the kids. While the 55+ market likes to entertain and needs guest rooms, a flex space is a great way to combine uses for an office, a yoga room, a den, and spare bedroom. In the presentation, Dirks specifically mentions high-end murphy beds that can convert from sleek seating or bookshelves into a comfortable bed when necessary.

Storage - People can collect a lot of items in 55 years, so they need the space to put it all. Whie they're downsizing, they're not about to give up some important possessions. Include (and highlight with marketing tools) wherever this shopper can store their items, from extra large pantries in the kitchen to walk-in closets. Additionally, the kitchen should feature some "collectables" storage for finer items like china or specialty wines.

Outdoor Living to Match the Indoors - maximizing the space where these buyers can entertain is key, which means expanding the outdoor living to be more of a go-to. A covered, all-climate space is best, with separate living, kitchen, and dining areas, just like an indoor living space features.


Aging in Place - Most important is making aging easy without being obvious. These buyers don't want to consider or be reminded that their eyesight or hips might not be as functional as they used to be. Add touches like additional lighting with extra windows, under-mount LED strips, and light switches that glow. Also, minimize stairs. Master bedrooms on the first floor are a must-have, non-negotiable item for this buyer. All main living should be on the first floor, but stairs are OK if it's for an spare bedroom for guests or additional storage.

Customization - Again, this buyer needs this home to feel like it was made just for them to make them want to splurge. Some easy areas for added customization include island sizes and types, flex room extras like a murphy bed or entertainment center, and choices for kitchen accessories like pet-focused products, dedicated office space, or wine storage.

Low Maintenance - attention to detail is key to keeping down the maintenance. This buyer is ready to enjoy herself after years of maintaining a household. Avoid roof designs that allow leaves to clutter and use more durable surfaces like laminate instead of hardwood and quartz instead of granite. Larger tiles also remove the amount of grout necessary, keeping cleaning to a minimum.