Rise of the Single 55+ Home Buyer Part 2: Why are Home Buyers “Urbaning Up”?

By Andra Abramson I November 19, 2019

Let’s say you are a single home buyer over the age of 65 and you are looking for a new home. In your mind, you have a bunch of “must have” criteria that you know will make it easier for you to age in place and stay in that new home as long as possible, hopefully for the rest of your life. According to the groundbreaking new study on solo agers (the 22%–and growing–group of Americans who are over age 65 and aging alone without the help of a spouse, partner, or adult children) conducted by the team at Immersion Active last October, these are the things you would most likely have on your “must have” list:


·     Walkability and/or effective public transportation options

·     Easy access to health care, shopping, and public services such as libraries and senior centers

·     Local social activities and ways to get to know your neighbors


You may notice that all three of these requirements relate to the new home’s location and community setting as opposed to the features of the new home itself. Looking at these 3 key requirements, it is easy to see why many solo agers might prefer an urban or suburban location as opposed to a community built out in a more rural area. In fact, the study showed that solo agers preferred urban and suburban locations by more than 5 to 1, with only 19% of respondents willing to consider a move to a rural area.


Digging deeper into the survey showed that having access to the benefits a community provides are often more important to this group than actual housing options themselves. Solo agers repeatedly told us that they are looking for opportunities to connect to others living nearby via social activities, volunteer opportunities, and daily living. In fact, when asked, “What amenities would make a place undesirable to live?”, a lack of desired stores and services was the most cited reason, with 56% of respondents choosing this option. These respondents specifically cited the need for walkable communities with easy access to health care, shopping, services such as libraries, and volunteer opportunities. Overall, the tendency to “urban up” or move to communities where the need to drive is diminished and neighbors are close by was one of the most intriguing findings of the survey.


The focus on location over housing type presents both a challenge and a huge opportunity for property developers, builders, and community managers. While finding the right piece of land to build on may become more difficult when scouting locations close to transportation and existing infrastructure, knowing that the home type is less important to these home buyers gives builders and developers free reign to create new types of housing, including high-rise apartments, condos, and attached villas, that place many more units on the same amount of land. The key to success for these developments lies in creating a community and lifestyle that the home buyers believe will meet their need for social engagement and will serve them throughout the rest of their lives.  


For more on who the solo agers are and why builders and developers should keep them in mind when planning new communities, read part 1 of our blog series: Rise of the Single 55+ Homebuyer Part 1: Meet the SoloAgers or check out the white paper for full details. And keep a lookout for Part 3 in our series where we will delve deep into a new housing trend this survey uncovered that has the potential to dramatically transform how homebuyers will think about housing for generations to come.  


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