Saturday, September 19, 2009

Baby Boomers Favor Convenience, Energy Efficiency in New Homes

Source: CUSTOM HOME Magazine
Publication date: September 17, 2009

By Stephani L. Miller

Americans aged 55 and older, members of the Baby Boom generation, would prefer suburban, single-story residences with amenities that provide a convenient living experience, such as high-speed Internet access (a favorite feature) for their later years, according to a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the MetLife Mature Market Institute.

The "55+ Housing: Builders, Buyers, and Beyond" survey asked homeowners and renters about their current houses and the types of houses, communities, and features they prefer as they age; it also asked builders about the specific features their newly constructed homes offer, as well as how much buyers are willing to pay for them.

According to the survey findings, builders are fulfilling certain consumer interests and needs by, for example, locating homes near community resources such as shopping and medical services. At the same time, builders are increasingly incorporating universal design features (lever door handles, wider doorways and halls, and first-floor full bathrooms among them), which interests few prospective buyers or renters. Although many Boomers cite elements of universal design as desirable home features, they don't seem to consider universal design or accessibility a priority. Ironically, they are interested in nonslip floors, larger medicine cabinets, lower kitchen cabinets, and emergency call buttons, even though fewer builders are providing such features.

Other findings of note include the following:

  • While in theory, house consumers support energy efficiency and green building, they are unwilling to pay significantly more for green homes.

  • One-third of consumer respondents would prefer a close-in suburb, while nearly another one-third would prefer an outlying suburb. About 25 percent would choose a rural community, and 9 percent prefer urban centers.

  • Consumers aren't necessarily looking to downsize their homes as they age; most reported they would like their next home to be the same size as their current home.

  • Twenty-seven percent of consumers said they are unconcerned about home building's impact on the environment; 23 percent said they are concerned, but that environmental impact will not figure into their home purchases. Only 12 percent of consumers said they would be willing to pay more for an environmentally friendly home.

  • Ninety-four percent of builders said their buyers want more energy-efficient homes, 55 percent said their buyers are interested in Energy Star-built homes, and 25 percent said their customers want homes with more recycled materials and less materials overall.

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