Changing trends among retirees moving or planning to move south are surveyed annually in the Ideal-Living retirement seminars conducted in select northern cities. They provide excellent insight into design of product offerings as well as marketing and selling techniques. President Dave Robertson revealed profile data from their 2012-14 participant surveys at the 2014 Southeast Builders Conference in July. The characteristics and opinions of over 10,000 participants were summarized who were all over age 45 (56% ages 56-65) and 79% were married . Two-thirds of the respondents were from mid-Atlantic, northeast and north central states.
The key reasons for considering a move to a southern state were milder winters (40%), lower taxes (27%), lower cost of living (23%), outdoor recreation opportunities (11%) and less traffic and congestion (8%); reasons that have not changed much over the years. More specifically, they were searching for communities that catered to their primary interests of walking (87%), travel (68%), swimming (60%), beach (58%), biking (57%), history/culture (46%), gardening (40%), and golf (32%). The significant trends here are the continuing decline of golf and the rise of history/culture interests; more successful retirement communities are shifting their amenity priorities to appeal to these changing trends.
Baby boomer retirees are spending more time examining their own preferences for retirement living before beginning to shop in earnest. They listed preference for a location offering nearby shopping (77%), travel accessibility (65%), health club (53%), weekly activities (51%), gated entrance (51%), fine dining nearby, an adjacent small town (45%), 55+ age restricted (32%), nearby university/college (32%). Some of the shifts in this list of priorities are the importance of travel, fitness and the charm of small towns. Age restriction remains about the same despite the younger profile of current retirees. Another important factor is that rural and city/urban locations were preferred by only 23 and 24% respectively.
The participants in these recent retirement location seminars varied from prior participant surveys we have examined. They were younger and they were more affluent — 70% claimed current home equity amounts over $200,000, and two-thirds wanted a home over 2,000 square feet in livable area. They were prepared to make a purchase decision within the next two years (over 70%), assuming that the economy improves and current house prices of existing homes increase. But retirement home preferences were quite diverse with 55% requiring a maintenance-free dwelling, 49% wanting a new custom home, 44% preferring a condominium/townhome, 52% looking for an existing home, 24% content with a patio home and 23 percent preferring a lot for later construction. Only 7% indicated interest in an investment dwelling (suggesting that the vast majority were ready to move, subject only to employment termination and economic growth).
Over 70% of these participants indicated that they do their research on-line prior to any visitations — the digital era now includes all age groups (although few communities appear to be catering directly to assistance with rapid equipment and software changes). Sales persons can anticipate that new retirees will be very knowledgeable prospects when they arrive at communities that they have pre-selected as fulfilling their retirement needs. This is why we believe that Dave Robertson’s consumer surveys are vital information for developers and sales professionals. You can contact him or one of his associates at (800) 735-0321 for more information.
David F. Parker, August 2014.