The higher-end of the new-home market divides roughly into two groups. One is the Active Adult segment, and the other group consists of younger professionals, old money, new wealth, those who sold drilling rights for natural gas frackers, and a smattering of lottery winners. For the latter group, timing exists in a continuum of their own minds' invention--meaning, urgency doesn't play into their motivation.
For Active Adults, however, urgency, market timing, getting the most value for the most money are each factors of critical importance. Just as young adults represent a post-recessionary pent-up household formation component, so too, many late career, or early retirement adults have postponed an active adult lifestyle option, and many may be anxious to do so if it is the right moment to do so. The early stages of the current recovery have been an excellent moment for them. Even as prices have laddered up over the past year-plus, values for buyers in active adult communities are extremely strong, which means they're getting more for their active adult neighborhood dollar than they could five or seven years ago.
So, through what continues to be a lumpy, choppy, and iffy 2014 Spring Selling Season, a true bright light in new-home housing economics is the Active Adult segment, where discretionary, cash- and credit-empowered buyers are driving demand. Here, we mash-up TopRetirements.com's Most Popular Places to Retire for 2014 with our own sister-outfit Metrostudy's data to give you the inaugural "Top 10 New-Home Meccas In America’s Retirement Magnets."
To assemble this heat-map, our Katie Gloede started with TopRetirements.com's Most Popular Places to Retire for 2014, and blended that list with Metrostudy analysis on new home closings for each place. She capped closings at 100 for 1Q14 and identified markets with at least 25% of new-home closings in active adult/retired (55+) age range. From this group, Katie ranked the top-10 cities for new homes by percent increase in new-home closings 1Q14 vs. 1Q13. Here's the heat-map
Then we take it further.
When a segment or geography is hot and markets otherwise are uneven, home builders with cash get understandably covetous. The No. 1 evidence of this covetousness is the drive for marketshare in a metro area. There's nothing like marketshare that can help a division or a single- or several-market builder achieve better gross margins, because marketshare pulls more local and headquarters overhead costs through the system; it allows for greater leverage among local subcontractors, and it increases the odds of hearing about and landing better lot deals than competitors get access to.
So, here we have a rankings of the top five for-sale home builders for 2013 in the fastest growing new-home markets in the TopRetirements.com bucket of best places for retirees. There are definitely a few surprises, and among them, we imagine more than a few potential mergers and acquisitions conversations occurring among single-market power players and the big publics who crave these private powers' market impact.
Just this morning, we get word from Wall Street Journal staffer Joshua Jamerson that William Lyon Homes has acquired one of the private regional power players in the No. 1 fastest-growing market among the most popular places to retire (paywall).
The pressure's on now for home builders of all stripes to prove they've got the chops for pace as well as raising prices. A number of home builders who hadn't historically pursued strategically segmented active adult development and building programs have teemed into the space. So, we're betting that a few of the fast-moving, market-impacting private companies in this line-up will wind up as acquisition targets sooner than later, ... if they're not in the throes of such discussions already.