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If there was one big take-away from the International Builders’ Show earlier this month it was that the industry is bullish on the 55+ housing market. However, some of those reasons behind that enthusiasm may come as a surprise. Mike attended several seminars and participated in a tour of two major 55+ housing projects in Orlando. Here are some of the major points from those experiences:

Lot Sizes Matter

The tastes of the 55+ buyer vary from market to market but the lot size remains an important part of the equation. Downsizers are looking for less maintenance when it comes to yard work but the product that they want varies dramatically even within the same community. Lot widths are ranging from 35’ all the way up to 55’. One of the reasons for this variety is that those interested in these types of communities need a wide range of products depending on age, size of family, and mobility. Those who have the extra funds to spend are choosing more square footage with a bifurcated layout so that visiting family members can have their own separate “suite” area away from the master suite.

Amenities are Shifting

Gone are the days that the 55+ market is looking for homes on a golf course. Golf’s plummeting popularity and the fact that the 55+ market is in much better health than previous generations have dictated a new era of amenities. More active sports such as tennis, pickleball, biking/jogging/walking trails, and full service gyms are top selling points for buyers. Fenced dog parks and wash stations are also becoming increasingly popular. The number of pet owners in the United States has grown rapidly over the past ten years and it is estimated that 47 percent of individuals over 55 have a pet.

Kitchens are Still the Heart of the Home

That old saying that kitchens are the heart of the home still rings true with the 55+ market. There are a lot more open floor plans connecting the living room, dining room, and kitchens which is a fairly popular trend in all housing products at the moment. Furthermore, 55+ homes are adding new features such as built in ovens, large islands, and lower sinks.

Don’t Count Out Millennials

Here is where it gets really interesting, Millennials are drawn to the same product as 55+ communities are offering. In fact, many developers are seeing Millennials move into neighborhoods that are not specifically age-restricted just so they can get the same amenities and home plans. There is preliminary research that indicates that Millennials, despite the size of the demographic, are not having as many children or are having children much later in life which gives them the flexibility to have these types of homes. Whether this trend will last is uncertain but for right now builders are excited about the fact that they are not having to reinvent the wheel when it comes to product.