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What Boomers Want in a Retirement House

Baby boomers want new homes that can stylishly accommodate the needs of aging.

The blueprints for retirement are changing, homebuilders say, with baby boomers demanding fewer stories, step-less front entrances and showers, and doorways wide enough to one day easily accommodate wheelchairs.

A survey of what the new homes of 2015 are likely to feature indicates that following the housing bust, aging boomers have more modest notions of where they’d like to live, the National Association of Home Builders says. “Affordability was number one, and with that a substantial reduction in the square footage from years past,” says Stephen Melman, the group’s director of economic services. “They also want grab bars in the bathrooms, step-less showers, and when there is more than one story – they want the ability to put a master bedroom on the first floor.”

While boomers are often said to be ill-prepared for the future, there seems to be a concerted effort to project ahead through the decades and imagine their needs as they become less mobile, Melman says. “We found that 89 percent of older homebuyers want to be able to live in the house for as long as physically possible. As the sandwich generation they watched their own parents and learned how their needs will change.”

But the builders surveyed indicated that the older home buyers wanted the houses to have the capacity to become fully wheelchair accessible “without needing ramps,” Melman says. “I think what they want to do is stay independent – and what they don’t want is the place to look institutional. They don’t want a hospital, but a home.”

Such features are also being designed to appeal to younger families as well to ensure that the homes will have greater resale value, the study found. “One thing we’re no longer seeing is all the fancy spas and kitchens – the goals seem to be more pragmatic and affordable,” Melman adds.


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    • I am recently retired and I can tell you what I want in retirement house and community –
      1) NO HOA or “managed community”, planned unit development filled with egos and underachievers during their work history who want to be on boards in retirement, no thanks
      2) Walking trials, a walking community, lots of nature, trees, wildlife
      3) No high maintenance “amenities” like golf courses, gyms, swimming pools that I have to pay to support but have no interest in using or supporting someone else’s hobbies or activities with their grandkids. If I want a pool, I’ll build one for private use.
      4) Did I say walking community and lots of trees, nature and wildlife???
      5) Peace and quiet, no leaf blowers permitted, noise ordinance that is enforced with restricted lawns/turf and rather natural environments so little pesticides, insecticides, mower and water use.

    • I am not surprised by the vast majority of individuals that want to age in place as they grow older. As boomers reflect on watching their own parents age and realistically understand that they will need assistance, it impacts what they look for in a home. Successful aging in place requires more than the right structural supports. Check out’s Senior Care Guide to learn about how to age in place safely and other options should they be necessary:

    • I built custom retirement homes for years and everyone wanted what fit their own circumstances. Some large and some small, but I never was asked to build a down scale home; they were all nice homes.

    • Buyers have always wanted new one-story houses with less square footage, but builders pushed the big square footage as they pushed prices higher. This is the number one reason clients have always been interested in resale homes…builders have not listened to the consumer for years and have been building larger homes on smaller lots for their own benefit and profit, so don’t feel sorry for them.

    • Hard to imagine new home-builders courting to this segment. I think we may see a drastic shift towards remodels and favor of single family homes. Not enough affordable land here in so cal to build a lot of single story SFRs (single stories aren’t easy to come by).

About Encore

  • Encore examines the changing nature of retirement, from new rules and guidelines for financial security to the shifting identities and priorities of today’s retirees. The blog also explores news that affects retirement, from the Wall Street Journal Digital Network and around the web. Lead bloggers are reporter Catey Hill and senior editor Jeremy Olshan. Other contributors include The Wall Street Journal’s retirement columnists Glenn Ruffenach and Anne Tergesen; the Director for the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Alicia Munnell; and the Director of Research for Pinnacle Advisory Group, Michael Kitces, CFP.