Epcon Communities started building homes for active adults in 1986, when condo developers Ed Bacome and Phil Fankhauser realized the market for mature buyers was underserved.
In 1995, the growing Ohio-based builder established the Epcon Communities Franchising company. Ranked as the nation’s 36th largest homebuilder in 2013, Epcon Franchising now supports 71 franchisees with 107 actively selling communities in 19 states.
Starting with the mantra, “No Steps. No Mowers,” it’s what these homes don't have that attracts active-adult buyers. Epcon’s low-maintenance neighborhoods and one-story floor plans attract a range of buyers beyond Boomers, including single adults and affluent Millennials.
BUILDER recently sat down with Epcon Communities’ vice president of franchising, Tim Rini, who shared a few cards from Epcon's winning hand.
1. No Steps “All of our homes have first-floor master bedrooms,” says Rini. It’s a simple, yet overlooked solution to aging in place. Hallways are also wide enough to allow passage for wheelchairs. The result is a portfolio of ranch homes with open floor plans that, as Rini puts it, won't remind you of Grandma's house.
2. No Mower Epcon sells a lifestyle, and that lifestyle doesn’t include yard-work. Promoting what's recently been called "staycation" living, included in the HOA fees is exterior maintenance similar to what you might find in a condo building. "Active adults don't want to deal with that kind of stuff. They want to kick back more, travel more," says Rini. "We sell that lifestyle."
3. No Wasted Space “There are elements of a family home that aren’t there because they are not necessary,” says Rini. The majority of Epcon’s plans are two bedroom, with a den or sunroom that serves as flex room. It's another nod to a low-maintenance style of living that won't burden aging homeowners (or single-parent-households) with extra housework. Epcon's home designs max out at 3,000-square-feet.
4. No Peep Shows In a recent study on the preferences of boomer buyers, Epcon identified "private outdoor space" as a highly desired amenity. Epcon translated this preference into the private courtyard, now an integral part of the company's home designs. "It's an intimate space that can range from a quiet refuge to an exciting space where you can entertain, grill, and laugh out loud without fear of bothering the neighbors," says Rini.
5. No Strangers From a birds-eye view, the small lots, walking trails, and community centers throughout Epcon's developments are generous indicators of a tight-knit community. While homes are built on lots as small as 50-feet across, the HOA fills in the blanks with shared amenities such as clubhouses, party rooms, open kitchens, work out rooms, and walking trails. "It’s like coming back to old neighborhoods where people know and enjoy each other,” says Rini, "Homebuyers say they now know their neighbors again."