April 29 – Your editor just spent a few days in the City of Brotherly Love attending the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) 50+ Builders Show: Building for Beyond. While you might expect that any convention of home builders in this economic climate would be a downer, this conference was anything but. Builders, at least the obviously successful ones who gathered here in Philadelphia, are a resilient and resourceful bunch. It was obvious from their questions and comments why these builders have been so successful: they want to build the homes and communities that satisfy the changing needs of their buyers. Thank heavens!
Here are some of the highlights:
David Crowe, NAHB Economist, and Mark Zandi, founder of Moody’s Economy.com, presented their economic analysis and forecasts. According to both economists, we have reached the bottom of the recession and are starting to dig our way out. They believe that home prices still have a way to fall (perhaps 10% nationally) and that the inventory of unsold homes still needs to be worked off. When both of those issues are resolved in late 2009 or by mid-2010, the housing industry should begin to return to normal. One of the more optimistic parts of Mark Zandi’s analysis is that although home prices still have a way to fall in some parts of the country (Miami), there are several other areas where home prices have become a bargain relative to long term trends (Fort Myers, FL; Riverside and the Central Valley, CA).
The 55+ Market
Builders are very interested in baby boomers’ future housing plans. A highlight of the meeting was the presentation by the NAHB and Met Life Mature Market Institute’s latest study of the 55+ Housing Market. Currently about 71% of 55+ folks live in mixed generation communities while the rest live in some type of 55+ community (some of which occur naturally, and are not age restricted). About 11% live in pure age-restricted 55+ communities. Buyers of active adult communities are relatively affluent with an average household income of $70,000. Home and community design and living close to family and relatives are the two most important considerations for choosing an active adult communities (see related article – baby boomers reasons for choosing active adult communities).
Mark Stemen, Senior VP of K.Hovnanian Homes talked about trends he sees in 55+ housing. Chiefly those are: 55 buyers are waiting out the recession before they buy, they are thinking about smaller and more efficient homes than they were a few years ago, green communities are in, living close to work and fewer car trips are important considerations, and adaptable and universal (accessible) designs will be an essential component of tomorrow’s homes. Mark predicts that age restricted communities situated within larger developments will become more and more common, since they offer the best of both worlds in terms of diversity and facilities.
One of the most interesting sessions was the one where architects and designers discussed the latest trends in home floor plans. Obviously, with the move to smaller homes space planning becomes critical. This session explored trends in each of the major rooms/functions of the modern active adult community home. The major trends noted are a move toward flexibility, since so many 55+ buyers continue to work or have different family situations. Rooms that can be switched out to become dining, home office, dens, or bedrooms offer owners the flexibility they need. Kitchens, entry ways, light, and outdoor spaces are all areas where builders can improve their products and attract new buyers. Here’s a hint when looking at the great room of a house – is there a good spot for a TV? Seems like sometimes designers forget to leave a blank wall spot for the device people spend a lot of time watching!
This was our favorite session. Four architects and designers discussed trends in urban active adult buildings. Spectacular projects in Philadelphia, Boulder, and Seattle were discussed in detail – and half of the audience was ready to buy! In the next week we will have a more detailed article on these developments.
Best of the 50+ Housing Awards
The highlight of the show was the presentation of awards for the best communities and projects for the 50+ market. Here is a link to the 50+ design winners – if you live near one of these you should check them out!