Lofts — An Urban Alternative in the Active Adult Market
Arizona is the second largest active adult housing market in the nation. By most accounts, as many as 15% of the new homes sold in the greater Phoenix area are purchased in active adult communities. So it’s worth noting what some active adult home buyers are buying.
For more than 40 years, active adults in the region have demanded lifestyle amenities, planned activities and move-down, low-maintenance homes. Now that the boomer generation is approaching retirement age, all this is starting to change.
Many developers have found that the nonconformist reputation boomers earned in the 1960s now is being reflected in how they plan to retire ― and this is manifesting itself in the variety of housing choices they are seeking.
A case in point is Artisan Lofts on Osborn by Artisan Homes, a four-story, 40-unit loft building in midtown Phoenix that was originally designed to target traditional loft buyers — young professionals, single and divorced mid-level executives and artists or live/work-type buyers.
Original base prices ranged from $159,900 for a 1,050 square-foot loft to $299,900 for a 1,820 square-foot unit. The one- and two-story floor plans offered lofts without bedrooms and up to two bedrooms.
An owner-occupied Artisan Home's loft on Osborn
Designed to replicate the raw character of a renovated warehouse, the lobby and hallways feature exposed pipes and ductwork. All the lofts include authentic touches such as concrete floors, exposed ductwork and sprinklers.
Living Outside the Box
The marketing campaign promoted a “live outside the box” attitude. Our initial marketing slogan was, “We put walls between you and your neighbor, not you and your imagination.”
The campaign was successful from the very beginning. During the first month ― without any models to view or construction in progress — we had more than 600 inquiries. But to our surprise, many shoppers were significantly older than our original target market.
Artisan Homes' Lofts on Osborn appeals to urban boomers.
In fact, of our first 10 reservations, four buyers were over 40 years old and one couple was fully retired and moving out of a custom home in north Scottsdale. This trend made us realize that we needed to better understand the 50+ buyer segment and rethink our marketing strategy.
Among boomer buyers, we learned that age ― either theirs or that of other residents ― rarely entered into the conversation. The eclectic, artistic lifestyle associated with loft living was a major attraction.
‘Age’ Is a Three-Letter Word
Our older buyers also rarely used the word “retired" even if they did not work. Some were investors, one was writing a book and others still had ownership in companies but did not go into work every day.
We also have found that many boomers who purchase homes in urban buildings have “been there and done that” with the big home and big yard. They now wanted to be free from the maintenance and cost that comes with that lifestyle.
In addition, the boomer buyer is typically understated in appearance and chooses everything from cars, clothes and furniture for the quality it offers — not for the price or the prestige that comes with it.
Lock and Leave Buyers
Many are also “lock and leave” buyers. Whether retired or still working, they want to travel often and love having the ability to leave for extended periods of time ― or at the last minute ― without having to worry about the upkeep of their home.
Our research led us to a wide range of reasons why boomers buy urban loft homes:
- Many are local residents who want to move back to the city now that the kids are out of the house.
- Some like the convenience of living downtown with its easy access to the office, the arts and cultural district and the airport.
- Some want a second home close to restaurants, museums and theaters, while still maintaining a primary home in the suburbs or out of town.
- Some want to begin a completely new lifestyle and those with good interior design ability are intrigued by customizing a loft home.
Urban Boomer Buyers Spend More in Mixed-Age Developments
Attracting the senior buyer in a mixed-age development has a number of advantages over working with younger buyers.
Most importantly, the mature buyer typically has a higher net worth and large disposable income. Many active adults spend more on upgrades and custom design options than younger buyers.
Since a number of our older buyers have previously built custom homes, they understand how much custom changes cost. They also comprehend that construction delays can happen and are patient if you keep them informed.
Urban Boomer Buyers Add to the Character of the Building
As for what they bring to the character of a building, the urban boomer and older home buyer also offer many positive attributes. We found them to typically have refined interior design tastes and a greater appreciation for culture, art, music and fine wine.
They respect each other’s privacy but are the first to invite someone over for a cocktail. These urban dwellers appear to be very open-minded and will tolerate, or even embrace, alternative lifestyles probably more than an active adult community buyer.
Active adult loft owners also understand that the management of the building is important and have more time to help on committees and home owner associations. They never have loud parties or damage common area amenities. They are quiet, sophisticated and will sometimes act as surrogate parents for some younger buyers.
For a small-volume developer, a multi-generational urban community will attract seniors who do not want to live in an age-qualified development — yet want all the lifestyle amenities a retirement community offers.
By marketing the advantages of urban living ― with nearby restaurants, shopping, cultural and entertainment opportunities ― an urban site can actually offer seniors more diverse activities than any age-qualified community or suburban site. For companies looking to find a unique niche in the growing active adult market, urban housing could be a step in the right direction.
Eric Brown is the president of Artisan Homes, which builds urban single-family, rowhouse, townhome and mixed-use loft buildings. Brown — a featured speaker at Building for Boomers & Beyond: Seniors Housing Symposium 2005 from May 16-18 in the Washington, D.C., metro area — has developed Arizona Traditions for Continental Homes, the 1998 Best of Seniors Housing Award winner in the active adult community category. For more information, e-mail Brown, or call him at 602-277-5638.
Attend the 2005 Seniors Housing Symposium in Metro Washington, D.C. Area
Do you want to learn more about the fastest-growing segment of the housing market? Attend Building for Boomers & Beyond: Seniors Housing Symposium 2005 on May 16-18 in the Washington, D.C. area. The seniors housing symposium is the premier educational and networking event for industry professionals who serve the burgeoning 50+ market. For more information, click here.
‘Boomers on the Horizon: Housing Preferences of the 55+ Market’ Available at BuilderBooks.com
“Boomers on the Horizon,” available through BuilderBooks.com, can help you better build and market homes to this age group. Capitalize on the niches, needs and opportunities of this rapidly growing market by learning their preferences. To view or purchase this publication online, click here, or call 800-223-2665.
Learn More About Seniors Housing Through the Seniors Housing Council
To learn more about seniors housing, join the NAHB Seniors Housing Council. The council provides information, education, networking and recognition opportunities for its members and represents NAHB on seniors housing issues. For more details, e-mail Jeff Jenkins or call him at 800-368-5242 x8292.
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