Marketing & Sales

Discretionary Buyers — AKA Baby Boomers — Reclaim Focus

Both "younger" and "older" Baby Boom buyers in the market tend to be classic discretionary purchasers, versus adult "rental refugee" households looking to cross the Rubicon to homeownership, or ones compelled to seek larger living space due to expanding family formation.

Marketing & Sales

Discretionary Buyers — AKA Baby Boomers — Reclaim Focus

Both "younger" and "older" Baby Boom buyers in the market tend to be classic discretionary purchasers, versus adult "rental refugee" households looking to cross the Rubicon to homeownership, or ones compelled to seek larger living space due to expanding family formation.

March 29th, 2023
Discretionary Buyers — AKA Baby Boomers — Reclaim Focus
SHARE:
SHARE:

Numbers may not lie, but they sure do play games as they determine whether to be helpful or not.

A corollary: Demographics [numbers again] may be destiny, but if they are, then how come so often these household patterns and the businesses that try to make money from them wind up in different places?

Consider data just released by the National Association of Realtors as part of its  2023 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends report that reveals a big one-year swing in generational home purchase percentages, with Baby Boom (58 year-old to 76-year-old) buyers swapping for the top spot among cohorts with Millennials for the first time in nine years:

Image courtesy of National Association of Realtors
The combined share of younger boomer (58 to 67 years old) and older boomer buyers (68 to 76 years old) rose to 39% in 2022, up from 29% the year prior. Younger millennials (24 to 32 years old) and older millennials (33 to 42 years old) have been the top group of buyers since 2014, but they saw their combined share fall from 43% in 2021 to 28% last year.

There should have been no difficulty at all forecasting this pivot. Baby Boomers, after all, had piled up generational equity gains in their homes during an extended period of dirt-cheap mortgage interest rates, low new-construction rates, and peak income cycles during the past decade or longer.

By the time Covid and its fiscal, monetary, and stimulus policy aftermaths and repercussions evolved into a high-inflation-high-interest-rate inflection, Baby Boom-aged householders found themselves to be in one of the few enviable positions of leverage in a highly volatile, softening housing economic backdrop.

Image courtesy of National Association of Realtors
  • They could choose to sell their existing home – in seven or eight cases out of 10 – at a profit, leveraging both equity gains and scarcity on the sale
  • They were less prone to employment insecurity at the end of their careers, or past retirement
  • They'd experienced high-interest rate periods in their lifetimes, so from both a psychological and a financial standpoint, they're – to a larger extent – less -interest-rate sensitive when it comes to the post-Fed step-up.
  • They also have greater geographical flexibility, allowing them to move to both more desirable and more affordable destinations than other adults, even semi-tethered to job centered options.
  • Not to mention, that in many cases, their financial wherewithal, credit access, and ability to commit higher cash deposits gives them greater sway in today's markets.

In other words, in most ways, , or job relocations, or other life-stage changes that require a move.

This becomes clear in the following table, which punches through "18 reasons why" people report as motivations for their homepurchase. For the 58 to 67-year-old group and the 68- to 76-year-old column, "desire" weighs more significantly as the operative catalyst.

Image courtesy of National Association of Realtors

The compelling question – going back to the first two assertions in this story – is less about what the numbers say, and more about what they mean. And following on that, how that translates to risks and opportunities ahead for residential neighborhood developers, architects, engineers, planners, and builders.

In other words, will the pivot to older, wealthier, less employment-centered, more flexible homebuyers come and go as a one-time phenomenon? Or does a higher-interest-rate, higher cost economic backdrop suggest instead an inflection to a longer run of mix-shift in customer segments toward the 55-plus part of the segmentation pie?

Our guess is that a 55-plus tipping point – despite a still-enormous opportunity on the younger-adult household formation spectrum over the next decade – will remain in the top spot among generational cohorts for several years to come. They have the most to trade, the most leeway in their options, and the fewest quotidian demands on their time.

Boomer homebuyers, 55+, and Active Adult are the segment that is — in terms of controlling the majority of wealth and equity in the U.S. – 'able' to buy," says Deborah Blake, principal at Phoenix-based strategic advisory firm The Ipsum Group. "We need to design communities, lifestyle, and homes that compel them to move."

What this implies for architects, marketers, land planners, community developers, and homebuilder and investor partners is that a discretionary buyer – where desire and preference trump urgency and need – will remain an outsized opportunity area as the consequences of Covid, the money-manufacturing glut, and hyper-low interest rate excesses work themselves through a volatile and complex stretch ahead.

Two parting ideas as thoughts in response to Deborah Blake's statement that Baby Boom householders – since discretion's on their side – need a "compelling" reason to move.

One is this: Rather than design homes and communities that lay out and package a wholly configured future – in features, functionality, and programming – for a potential buyer, how about community and home design planning that offers buyers an array of scenarios.

Borrowing from one of the godfathers of contemporary scenario planning, Peter Schwartz, as quoted here by Joseph Michelli:

Scenarios are not predictions; in fact, they are an antidote to predictions. They don’t tell us what’s going to happen. They acknowledge many possible outcomes; we can’t say with any certainty what the future will bring. They serve as a backdrop against which users can structure their thinking and consider their options." – Peter Schwartz, Wall Street Journal

How might architecture, engineering, technology, and construction integrate "scenarios" into 55-plus buyers' discretionary experience as homeshoppers, and in the livability they value?

Secondly, time back.  Places – homes and communities – that bend, and yield, and free up time may be one of the more compelling value propositions new neighborhoods can possibly offer a purely discretionary prospective buyer. Builders and their partners have made strides on securing time-back from the shopping and purchasing journey. Now's the moment to make time an inseparable part of livability in the new home, new community benefits array.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John McManus

John McManus

President and Founder

John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.

MORE IN Marketing & Sales

To Dial In Customers And Team Members, Get Past Outmoded Segments

A paradigm shift presents a compelling case for executive leaders in the homebuilding industry and beyond: To transcend outdated demographic models and build brands and cultures that resonate across generations.


This A.I. Taps Every Tool, Tactic Needed To Win In Spring Selling

In our first episode of TBD Player, New Home Star Marketing Director Chris Laskowski leads a deep-dive exploration into an epic new A.I. capability that puts a firm's entire institutional knowledge-base into users' hands in split seconds.


What Do Homebuilders' Worries Say About Their 2024 Priorities?

Customers – and what it's going to take to both price them in and "excite them in" -- should always rank as both the No. 1 challenge and opportunity among homebuilders and residential developer partners.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John McManus

John McManus

President and Founder

John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.

MORE IN Marketing & Sales

To Dial In Customers And Team Members, Get Past Outmoded Segments

A paradigm shift presents a compelling case for executive leaders in the homebuilding industry and beyond: To transcend outdated demographic models and build brands and cultures that resonate across generations.


This A.I. Taps Every Tool, Tactic Needed To Win In Spring Selling

In our first episode of TBD Player, New Home Star Marketing Director Chris Laskowski leads a deep-dive exploration into an epic new A.I. capability that puts a firm's entire institutional knowledge-base into users' hands in split seconds.


What Do Homebuilders' Worries Say About Their 2024 Priorities?

Customers – and what it's going to take to both price them in and "excite them in" -- should always rank as both the No. 1 challenge and opportunity among homebuilders and residential developer partners.