Top 10 Home Features Baby Boomers Want — and Don’t Want

Filed in 55+ Housing, Housing Trends by on April 4, 2019 9 Comments

Much like the average home buyer, buyers in the baby boomer generation like laundry rooms and energy efficiency, and dislike elevators and wine cellars. Baby boomers, however, tend to have stronger opinions about what they do and do not want in their homes, as indicated in NAHB’s recent update on What Home Buyers Really Want.

The 2019 edition is based on a survey of 3,996 home buyers, both recent (purchased a home in the last three years) and prospective (expecting to buy a home in the next three years). Respondents rated 175 features on the following four-tier scale:

  • Essential: Unlikely to buy a home without feature
  • Desirable: Seriously influenced to buy home if included
  • Indifferent: Would not influence purchase decision
  • Do Not Want: Not likely to buy a home with feature

No. 1 is a laundry room, which 94% of baby boomers want. All three ENERGY STAR categories also made the list — topped by ENERGY STAR windows at 91%.

Baby boomers trended in line with overall home buyers with two exceptions: Baby boomers are more likely to indicate what they want (based on higher essential/desirable percentages noted in the chart), and a full bath on the main level (displacing a double kitchen sink).

An elevator is the feature baby boomers are least likely to want, as 80% of baby boomers are looking to purchase single-story homes. It’s important to remember, however, that a niche market usually exists even among the most generally unwanted items; in this case, 10% of baby boomers consider an elevator desirable, and 3% think it’s essential.

With the most undesirable features, baby boomers again paralleled the interests of the general home buyer population. The biggest difference is that a two-story family room ranks fourth on the unwanted list for baby boomers, compared to ninth for all buyers. In every case, though, the share of baby boomers who explicitly reject the feature is at least 5 percentage points higher.

Baby boomers also ranked their most desired community features:

  • Near retail space (72% ranked essential or desirable)
  • Walking/jogging trails (66%)
  • Typically suburban (65%)
  • Walkable community (62%)
  • Park area (61%)

The suburban environment supports 55+ buyers’ general locality preference, as 67% prefer to live in the suburbs versus 8% who prefer the city. Housing affordability may be a driving factor in that as well, as the number of “exurbs” — locations just beyond more affluent suburbs — continue to rise.

These factors are important to consider in developing new homes as the number of 55+ households is projected to grow from 54.9 million to 66.3 million, or approximately 47.1% of U.S. households.

For inspiring 55+ development ideas, visit the recently updated Best of 55+ Housing Awards website.

This post was adapted from an article in the Winter 2019 issue of 55+ Housing Online Magazine. Dr. Paul Emrath is vice president for survey and housing policy research at NAHB; Rose Quint, who also contributed to this information, is assistant vice president for survey and housing policy research at NAHB. The survey department conducts a number of regular surveys, such as the quarterly survey for the widely cited Remodeling Market Index.

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  1. Jake says:

    I wonder how much crossover exists between boomers and younger generations? I’m guessing almost nobody really wants to pay for an elevator or a wine cellar. Conversely, I’m sure boomers, gen-x, millennials, etc., all want a laundry room. But I’d assume younger generations are significantly more tolerant of higher density development (e.g. >6 units per acre) than boomers are.

    • David Koster says:

      I agree that there is a significant amount of crossover. Price is going to be a driver. A boomer and younger generation buyer are going to make similar decisions on unnecessary costs. Plus I have found that the generations live remarkably similar with the exception of formal spaces (although most boomers don’t want these either) and some technology enhancements.

  2. jean says:

    I see Bathtubs going away. I think that is a mistake….

  3. Steve says:

    I wonder what Millenials and Gen X are wanting or not wanting?

  4. Laura Mirecki says:

    Of the people I know that are 50+, they’re either building a single level home or looking for one. They’re moving from a 2 story with master in second floor to a single with master on main floor. And laundry rooms in the basement is passé ! First floor of course.. there’s a need to avoid stairs and injury. Finally, they still like having some land for their dog or bird feeder or to be able to sit outdoor.. just less of it. Less is more!

  5. Pete says:

    Regarding home elevators… I think it really depends on how the question is framed, but if even just 3% of baby boomer home buyers find a home elevator to be essential, that means one in 33 new homes MUST have one, and if 10% of baby boomer home buyers find a home elevator to be desirable, then another 3 out of 33 new homes SHOULD have one. That’s about 1 in 8 total. And that doesn’t take into account whether it’s a low-end home or a high-end home (for new high end homes it might be 1 in 4, new low end homes very few). The other aspect of this is that 0% of baby boomers (or anyone) WANTS to get older and experience physical mobility issues but 100% of us WILL get older and experience those issues. Planning ahead is a good idea!

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