Where Is the Market Heading? The Baby Boomer Boom A National Association of Realtors Survey Shows Boomers Have a Big Appetite for Real Estate Baby boomers have a higher rate of homeownership than the national average and one out of four own more than one property, according to a new study of the largest generation in U.S. history commissioned by the National Association of Realtors. Initial results were released in late May at NAR’s Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo held in Washington, D.C. The comprehensive study of nearly 2,000 Americans born between 1946 and 1964, conducted for NAR by Harris Interactive, also shows boomers are optimistic about the future, but many are not adequately prepared for retirement. David Lereah, NAR’s chief economist, said marketing to this generation has been and can be a challenge. “As a group, boomers are in their peak earning years and continue to wield great influence in the U.S. economy, but they are not homogeneous—there are significant variances in needs, behavior, attitudes and resources,” he said. “On one hand is an almost insatiable desire for real estate, with some owning multiple properties, and on the other, many have not adequately planned for retirement. What should not be overlooked are the discretionary spending interests of this generation, and their appreciation of housing as a great investment.” Nearly eight in ten boomers own their own homes and almost nine out of ten have owned at some point in their lives; 96% believe owning a home is a good financial investment—evidenced by their actions. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the overall rate of home ownership is 69%. For the portion of baby boomers who have never owned a home, 85% cited financial reasons but 38% simply didn’t want the responsibility of homeownership. One-quarter of respondents own one or more other kinds of real estate in addition to a primary residence: 13% own land, 8% own rental property, 7% a vacation home or seasonally occupied property, 2% commercial real estate and 3% some other kind of real estate. In addition to a higher rate of homeownership, analysis by NAR shows baby boomers are proportionately more active in the second home market, owning 57% of all vacation/seasonal homes and 58% of rental property. For the segment of boomers who own rental investment property, 34% own multiple properties: 14% own two rentals, 5% own three and a small number own four properties; however, 14% own five or more rental units. The Vacation Home Strategy Of the portion who own vacation homes or seasonally occupied property, 13% said they own two or more vacation or seasonal homes. Four out of 10 respondents who own a vacation home or seasonal property intend to eventually make that property a primary residence. Historically, other NAR survey data shows only one in five vacation-home buyers had such intentions when they first purchased the property. Lereah said this has emerged as an investment strategy. “Some boomers will take advantage of generous capital gains exclusions from their taxes when they sell their primary residence, and then place themselves in the position of being able to convert a vacation home into their new primary residence which would later become eligible for the same tax treatment,” he said. “Then, if their needs change in the future, they’ll be able to take the capital gains tax break after they have lived in that home as their primary residence for two out the five previous years. It becomes a great way to build and protect a nest egg.” For the portion of respondents who own land, the median holding was five acres. Half of those with commercial property had an ownership interest in only one property and 29% have two holdings. NAR President Thomas M. Stevens from Vienna, Va., said the survey shows one-quarter of all boomers are not satisfied with their present homes. “That means a good portion of baby boomers may be considering a move, so it’s important for the industry to understand their preferences and needs,” said Stevens, senior vice president of NRT Inc. Ten percent of all boomers said they are likely to buy additional real estate in the next 12 months; two- thirds of those respondents said they were considering a primary residence but 26% were interested in land, 19% rental property, 15% a vacation or seasonal home and 14% commercial property. Eight out of 10 boomers used a real estate agent the last time they sold a home. The things they value most in a real estate agent when they buy a home are representation of interests and coordinating with other parties in the process; explaining all contracts, forms and agreements; and management of the closing process from start to finish. In selling a home, they also want agents to establish the right asking price, show the home and negotiate all offers received on their behalf. “This tells us the Internet is great for information, but baby boomers want real estate agents to provide services, whether they’re buying or selling,” Stevens said. Mortgage Financing Impact Typical boomers have lived in their present home for a median of nine years, and plan to stay there for another five years. Two-thirds think it’s important to pay off a mortgage quickly, but at the same time 58% are comfortable in purchasing with a small downpayment. In deciding whether to buy a primary residence in the future, nearly half of the respondents that were considering a purchase said having sufficient wealth or favorable mortgage financing were factors. In terms of their current financial condition, 43% say they are financially comfortable but 37% say they have just enough to make ends meet. Only 4% said they were well-off, and 17% said they are having financial difficulty. “That clouds the retirement options for many baby boomers,” Stevens said. Nearly two-thirds say it costs too much today to truly retire and never work again, and four out of ten expect they will pay for at least some college expenses for children or grandchildren; 38% said current financial needs mean they give little attention to financial planning for retirement. “Many baby boomers are simply too busy to give much thought to planning for retirement, but they really need to develop strategies now,” Stevens said. “Many just see themselves ‘going’ for as long as they can.” Only 14% expect to receive a sizeable inheritance that will be a critical help during retirement. Half of all boomers believe it is important to diversify savings for retirement into different types of investments. In describing how they would like to retire, many boomers might be described as “dreamers.” One in 10 said they already are retired but only 26% said they would never want to work for pay again. A third see themselves as going back and forth between periods of work and leisure, 17% would work part time, 11% would start a business and 7% would work full time. Even so, 59% said it was not likely that they’d work beyond the time they become eligible for full Social Security benefits. The average respondent expects to stop working at age 65. Three out of five say their idea of the perfect location to retire is in a rural area or small town, with only 12% saying an urban or city setting, and nearly half would consider living in an age-restricted community; 38% want to be close to family. If money were no object, access to quality health care is important to more boomers than being on a golf course (38% vs. 4%). Ideally, they would like to live in a rural area with access to quality health care. “One question is how many areas actually offer those kinds of amenities in that kind of environment,” Stevens said. Half said they have a 401(k) or similar retirement plan, 39% a pension, 39% an IRA or Roth IRA, 11% a SEP (Simplified Employee Pension Plan), and 6% have investments in a REIT (real estate investment trust). Most, 83%, do not plan to withdraw funds from an eligible retirement account starting at age 59-1/2. For those who are very likely to withdraw, 75% said they’d use the funds for personal living expenses, and 51% said they’d travel; 39% would consider investment in some form of real estate. SIDEBAR Maturing Markets Driving Major Changes In the year 2025 some 25% of the U.S. population will be over 60 years of age, and an estimated 30% of Europeans will fall into this age bracket. The former USSR will be even grayer; it is estimated that the over-60’s group will comprise about 43% of the country’s population. Older consumers require different types of products and services, and companies will need supply chains that support these graying markets. Presenting research findings from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Age Lab, directed by Joseph Coughlin, MIT Center of Transportation & Logistics research director Larry Lapide summarized some of the supply chain implications at the Supply Chain 2020 Project’s one-day symposium entitled Building the Future Supply Chain Now, held in Zaragoza, Spain, this April. From a global perspective companies should expect some marked differences between national markets. In contrast to a more elderly Europe, for example, certain developing countries will be relatively youthful. Iran has more people under the age of 15 than over 50. Some companies are already gearing up for aging markets. Nike is developing customized shoes that are aimed at baby boomers. Car maker Nissan has identified the over-50 crowd as a major market for the future. There are three core innovations that companies should watch out for, according to the MIT Age Lab. Retailers will become hubs for services, not just products. For example, pharmacies could evolve into extensions of doctors’ offices with arrays of support services such as health screening and nutrition guidance. The change in emphasis will alter the product mix and lend more importance to product/service packages. Product customization will be pushed closer to the customer. Cars, for instance, will have features more attuned to the personal preferences of owners. In-car navigation systems could provide specific information such as the locations of the nearest gas stations. Retailers would be able to beam personalized sales discounts to individual consumers as they approach relevant outlets. Tailoring products in this way would require more sophisticated build-to-order and inventory management systems. The third emerging innovation is services that integrate information technology—electronic sensors for instance—with daily-use items such as appliances to facilitate an expected increase in home-based consumption. As an example, bathroom fittings could be equipped to monitor vital signs such as the blood pressure levels of occupants and transmit the data to health care facilities. Food products could be automatically ordered on-line when in need of replenishment. Some companies are preparing for these changes by entering into strategic alliances. Examples include a partnership between Panasonic and Tokyo Electric Power to create products that deliver monitoring services in the home. In a supply chain sense these changes will require greater collaboration between trading partners, and more efficient home delivery services to overcome “last mile” limitations. Aging markets will also bring challenges that are more industry-specific. In the grocery business home delivery may need to become a reliable lifeline for impaired elderly people who can no longer make trips to the supermarket. Also, as one symposium panelist pointed out, the pharmaceutical supply chain will have to become much more service oriented. Courses of treatment are likely to be more complex as older consumers use series of medications that have to be taken in the right sequence. This will require better coordination and more collaboration between drug manufacturers. For more information, see a full report on the conference at the SC2020 website at http://ctl.mit.edu/metadot/index.pl?id=2299.