Generation Buying Habits

Silent Generation  |  Baby Boomers  |  Generation X  |  Generation Y

The Silent Generation - Born Between 1910 - 1944

The Silent Generation is commonly referred to as the Senior Citizens age group. Senior buyers fall into two categories. The first are those who are actually suffering from the results of father time. They'll give you a list of things they can no longer do, so your job in finding them a home is well mapped out.

Openly discuss issues like stairways, counter heights, doorway widths, and space to install grab bars in the bathroom. They'll tell you what they need and want so you can go out and find it for them. When you're selling to this group, preview homes before you take them along.When people are having a hard time getting around, need a wheelchair or walker, or are just unsteady on their feet, they don't need to be dragged around looking at all the wrong homes. They won't appreciate you wasting their energy by showing them homes that are obviously wrong.

Pay careful attention to their needs, and if you eliminate a house they've asked about, tell them why. It might be because the bathrooms and bedrooms are on the second floor and the laundry room is in the basement or perhaps because of steep steps leading to the house. Maybe the garage is too narrow to allow them room to put a wheel chair in and out of the car, or the bathroom door is too narrow for the wheel chair to get through. Do your homework, tell them the straight facts, and you'll earn their respect and loyalty. This segment of the senior population may be focused on living within minutes of a medical facility.

Now take a look at the second group. What about the ones who are officially senior citizens, but have no intention of acknowledging that fact? Find out more about them and their lives. Many are still working, so see if they want to locate near the workplace. Then, inquire about hobbies and other leisure activities. They may be avid golfers and want to live near or on the course, they may want to hit the gym three days a week and have access to a swimming pool. Don't overlook the one-story necessities that may be located in Ranch Style Condominiums with maintenance free exterior. Condominiums offer the value added benefit of independent hassle free living.

Don't assume anything. Some seniors are anxious to leave yard work behind so they can pursue other interests, while others have been waiting for retirement to have time to landscape a yard and grow a huge garden. Listening is important but when you're selling to senior citizens, you should to listen to the subtle hints as well as the open statements.

Remember, in the back of their minds, they're recognizing the possibility of ill-health in the future. They know that the day could be coming soon when they won't be able to easily navigate stairways and they know that a wheel chair could be a part of their future.

If you are Marketing and selling a home for this age group proceed with caution with your choice of words such as de-cluttering. Many senior citizens remember living through the Great Depression, when they had nothing and had to make do with what they had. Resources were scarce and everything was recycled and re-purposed. Throwing something away was considered to be wasteful, and people were convinced that saving and reusing things was a measure of good character. 

They may not be able to get rid of things because it makes them feel like they are a bad person. They want to believe they are people of good character and they would like others to think that, too, so they hang onto things to prove it.

They will not be able to bring themselves to part with items that may be useful to someone else, since they consider it their duty to preserve items for future use. There is little doubt that this particular way of thinking will lead to accumulation of items that have long since outlived their usefulness.

Baby Boomer Generation - Born Between 1945 - 1962

Harris Interactive reports most baby boomers are still in the workforce, and are a driving force in the housing market. The same report concludes 42% of baby boomers would like to retire in the South, 32% in the Western United States, 15% in the Midwest, and 12% in the Northeast. Which means the bulk of opportunity for marketing luxury real estate remains in the Sunbelt.

Four out of ten or 40% of baby boomers own second, separate vacation homes. In fact, baby boomers account for 57% of all vacation home ownership, and own 58% of all rental properties in the United States. Ten percent of baby boomers plan to buy real estate over the course of the next year. Two-thirds of those will buy a new home, a second home, or commercial property.

According to a National Association of Realtors survey, baby boomers expect to use a professional realtor when they buy property. Not only will they utilize real estate agents, but they will demand excellent service and expertise from their agent. Of boomers in the rich category, 97% own homes, and 47% own other additional real estate.

Interestingly, American Demographics states that the future intentions of baby boomers regarding real estate investments, their thinking, and their attitudes are influenced by the media and outside pressures, including marketing.

Luxury properties should be suggested as long-term investments. Generally speaking, the appreciation rate on luxury houses is exceptional. Affluent baby boomers are very concerned with investment potential, which heavily affects their decision to purchase.

Location remains vital to affluent baby boomers. They desire traditional residential neighborhoods, especially if gated and exclusive. Baby boomers find large, luxury houses with panoramic views very appealing.

Younger baby boomers, those in the 45 to 50 age-group, are interested in "up-and-coming" neighborhoods. The investment potential may take longer to reach fruition, but they are willing to wait. Make sure to mention at least one nearby "destination restaurant" to younger baby boomers.

Younger baby boomers are interested in luxury apartments, service amenities, and exclusive designer interiors. Younger boomers relish the latest gadgets and chic name brand appliances as well.

Since most baby boomers are still working full-time, and are technologically capable, use email and cell phones to contact prospective clients. Phone calls and emails should be short, because baby boomers are busy and on-the-go.

Some affluent baby boomers, according to the National Association of Home Builders, desire to "age in place." This means they will not purchase new houses. Instead, they will re-model their present houses. Baby boomers in this segment want easy-to-use luxury products, such as more efficient lighting, convenient control devices, easy-grip handles and luxury cabinet hardware, adjustable shower heads, seats, bars, and luxury bathtubs with textured bottoms. Other desired luxury items include low-step showers, wider doorways, ground-floor bathroom additions, hardwood flooring, luxury carpeting.

Zero maintenance is of primary importance to baby boomers. Many of them own two or more homes and they do not want to worry about security or upkeep when they are gone. They also want energy efficiency and attractive exteriors in their properties.

Data Research from SRES

Generation X - Born Between 1963 - 1979

Riding the not-so-distant coattails of the Baby Boom generation are the members of Generation X, a home-buying force with which to be reckoned, according to demographic research.

Born somewhere between 1963 and the late 1970s, the Gen X'er group is much less concerned with formality and impressing others than previous generations. Instead, group members prefer living wherever, whenever and however they want, making homebuilders realize that new home designs must be more flexible than in the past.

What's new and different? A study of almost 8,800 Gen X'ers done for Builder Magazine shows that:

  • Half of the Gen X group already own their own homes, and although most don't live alone, they are not necessarily married to the person with whom they share living space.
  • This group can be a study in contradictions; admitting that they would sacrifice for home ownership by brown-bagging and eating out less frequently, but preferring plenty of restaurants nearby.
  • Although they value family, they would much rather use a third or fourth bedroom for a home office than for more sleeping space.
  • Formal living and dining rooms don't make sense to Gen Xers.
  • Highest on their list of priorities are abundant counter space in their kitchens, lots of storage and closet space, good energy efficiency, high-speed Web access, and a large yard.
  • House hunters of the Gen X generation could well be regarded as motivated consumers, experiencing homeownership at younger ages than even their Boomer parents did.
  • Gen X'ers likely buy homes earlier because they have a higher proportion of two-income households. In fact, many of these homebuyers become homeowners shortly upon finishing their educations. Further research reveals that Gen X often get a jump-start from their better-heeled parents, experiencing "wealth transfers" long before estates and inheritance taxes are a part of the discussion.
  • The first generation to regard use of computers as casually as the telephone or refrigerator, Gen X members use the Web for the flexibility it offers; the freedom from having to make appointments, as a way to avoid sitting through endless meetings in stuffy conference rooms, and for the ability to make better use of their limited free time.
  • As to housing preferences, they want that freedom as well. No room will go unused, but they will not permit homebuilders to pre-determine their needs.
  • They are menu-driven, that means that they prefer to be given choices from the general to the specific in everything, just like on a Web page's drop-down menu. And if they truly think they need it, they will pay for it.
  • Referred to as maximizers, Gen Xers want the most for their time, money and experience, as well as the space in their homes. If that means the trade-off between a dining room that may be used three times a year and that same space being used for a TV, VCR and treadmill.

Generation Y - Born Between 1980 - 1995

The largest U.S. age group since the baby boom will make an unbelievable impact on the housing market. Here's what you need to know to tap into this powerful market segment. Life without Google, communication without text messaging and Real Estate without virtual tours are hard to imagine for the millions of people who fall into Generation Y. As children of the baby boomers, this group is predicted to make up the bulk of U.S. population within 20 years.

That's why it's essential for Realtors to understand what makes Gen Y tick. After all, it won't be long before Gen Yers are a dominant segment of home buyers. If you want to have a future in the real estate business, you must think about the customer of tomorrow. To get a better feel for Gen Y, here are some quick facts:

Becoming a majority. Experts say Gen Y ranges in size from 72 million to 78 million people nationwide and 2 billion worldwide.

The Web is their playground. They track down their friends on MySpace and Facebook, they download their songs from iTunes, and they send e-mails from their phones while waiting in line at Starbucks. And you had better pay attention to their e-mails, because they expect a fast response

They buy young. On average, Gen Yers buy homes at age 26, three years earlier than most Generation Xers, according to a Real Estate study. Gen Y is not just some kid out of college. They are kids with parents who want to see them get off to the right start and are willing to put 10 percent down on a house and have the kid pay the mortgage every month.

They have hectic schedules. Their lives are a lot busier than their parents were at their age, they're always moving.

They do their research. Don't try to pull one over on this age group. You'd better know what you're talking about, because they will have done the research.

The Importance of Technology
It's critical to embrace technology when working with young buyers. Â Nine out of ten Gen Yers have a home, lap-top computer or iPad. Almost all 97 percent have a cell phone or iphone that is more advanced than your laptop, and 68 percent send text messages from their phone. Fifty percent listed instant messaging as their preferred form of communication.

It's important to have a well designed and informative web site in order to appeal to this age group. It's a given that young buyers will search for homes online, so make sure your site can be accessed through major search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing even accessible through facebook.

If they don't get what they want right away from the person who promised it, it's just a phone call, e-mail, or text message away to recruit another Realtor to do the work.

Is Younger Better?
While Gen Yers want a Realtor who's comfortable with technology, they also value the expertise of a veteran. They feel safer dealing with someone around their parents' age. If you identify your experience and show that you're tech savvy, that's a nice combination for young buyers and sellers. Older agents have the advantage already, as long as they don't get out-communicated by not having the right tools like a Blackberry, or iPhone. Even the most experienced and tech-savvy Realtors will fail to win over Gen Yers if they don't treat their clients like adults.

Ideas for Reaching Out to Gen Y
With Gen Y becoming a more powerful segment of the real estate market, there's huge potential in catering your business directly to this demographic.

  • Advertise listings on Craigslist... This online classifieds Web site is hugely popular with all buyers and sellers, but especially with the Web-savvy Gen Y set.
  • Do not try to up-sell... find the home they want within their price range. They will love you.
  • Know what they like... Younger buyers tend to want a home that's close to work; near a park (to walk the dog); and within walking distance to shopping, the gym, and local bars and restaurants. Easy home maintenance is also high on their list.

Data source Realtor Magazine

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