By Lew Sichelman. The huge baby boom generation -- all 81 million of them -- was the driving force behind K. Hovnanian's shift in focus from the entry level market to move-up and luxury housing in the 1990s. Now, the big, Red Bank, N.J.-based builder is following the boomers once again, this time as they head into their senior years.
Sales in Hovnanian's Four Seasons active adult communities account for 30 percent of the company's deliveries in its tri-state northern region: New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. Expectations are that the brand will eventually produce three out of every 10 sales for the company in California, Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Texas.
The publicly traded company delivered 9,394 homes in fiscal 2002, which ended Oct. 31, for a volume of $2.43 billion. Projections for fiscal 2003 are for at least 10,500 deliveries valued at more than $2.8 billion, according to the company's most recent estimates.
"The demographics speak for themselves," says Michael Villane, vice president of marketing and sales. "The potential of the active adult market in the coming decades is enormous."
What the numbers don't say is that many of the 55-and-over demographic are ready to move -- but not necessarily to warmer climates, and certainly not into smaller houses. Hovnanian is capitalizing on the fact that boomers are not growing old but coming of age. And that is reshaping the products and price points Hovnanian offers.
Seniors "are not ready to slow down at all," says Villane. "They've gathered quite a bit of equity and are ready to reward themselves with amenities they've always wanted.
"But they want to remain near their families and friends -- and their doctors. Many have time shares or homes they can visit in warmer climates for a few months."
Hovnanian, like most builders, has had to be opportunistic in finding properties to develop and as a result has no set formula for determining the size of its adult properties. Some, like the new 375-home Four Seasons at Sea Oaks on the Jersey Shore, are rather small. Two bedroom, two-bath ranches start at $221,950 and three bedroom, two-story units start at $299,950.
Other developments, like the 562-acre, 1,300-home Four Seasons at Kent Island on Maryland's Eastern Shore, due to open this fall, are more substantial.
One thing that distinguishes the brand is the goal to make each Four Seasons community indistinguishable, at least from one another. "We want the same look and feel," says Villane. "If you were blindfolded and then taken to one of our communities, you wouldn't be able to tell if you were in Northern Virginia or New Jersey."
Upscale is another important feature. Active seniors have the money to buy what they want, and Hovnanian allows them to spend it. Not only in soaring ceilings, fantastic master baths, media centers, and an array of personalized options, but also in terms of sheer space.
Two- to three-bedroom, two- to three-bath models range in size from 1,400 to 3,600 square feet, with the 2,800 to 3,000 square feet models being the most popular choice. Seniors, the company has found, "are still looking for room."
Last, but far from least, is the all-important amenity package, the centerpiece of which is the clubhouse. Some Four Seasons properties have a golf course. Some have tennis courts. But they all have clubhouses. Again, there is no set formula as to the size of the building. At Four Seasons at Gold Hill in York County, S.C., the clubhouse is a mere 10,000 square feet. But at Kent Island, it will be a whopping 27,000 feet.
No matter the size, though, each is outfitted with pools, a fitness center, club rooms, library, computers, and practically all else someone who's just reaching his prime could want.
"Four Seasons buyers are buying a lifestyle," says Villane. "And social activities are a large part of that lifestyle."