Home builders take aim at the 55-plus crowd

In just four years, roughly one fourth of the U.S. population will be 55 or over -- that translates into some 85 million Americans.

So it is little wonder that home builders are reportedly taking aim at these aging baby boomers in an effort to increase sales at a time of great uncertainty and fiscal pain throughout the real estate market.

"In general, we're seeing very positive response among this buyer group," says Chris Naatz, the Midwest-area director of marketing for Pulte Homes, in an interview with the Dallas Morning News.

There's even an on-line magazine you can buy that is focused on this particular segment of the home buying public.

Back in June of 2009, according to a news release on the website of the National Association of Home Builders, the association's chief economist, David Crowe, said, "A strong and growing number of retirees and empty-nest households are interested in either downsizing or moving to a more user-friendly home -- especially if it's near their existing community."

But he went on to caution that the market conditions, as they existed this past summer, were such that it still presented "significant obstacles" to the 55-plus potential home buyer because of the difficulties in selling their current home.

However, by last month, the association seemed to have a more upbeat prognosis. Speaking at the group's annual conference, the association's senior vice-president , Sharon Dworkin, said, "We believe this segment of the market is going to lead the housing industry toward recovery as the market turns around," according to the Dallas Morning News.

According to the Electronic Realty Associates, among the top reasons those 55 and older might want to buy a new home are: downsizing to a house that's easier to care for, moving closer to family and friends, living in an area more convenient to such things as health care facilitates, libraries and shopping centers.

Although there is more than enough pain to go around in real estate circles, throughout all demographic groups, it is also true that, for the most part, homeowners who are in the 55-plus age group tend to have built up a fair amount of home equity, making it somewhat easier for them to get a mortgage on a new place to call home.

Charles Feldman is a journalist, media consultant and co-author of the book, "No Time To Think-The Menace of Media Speed and the 24-hour News Cycle." He has written about real estate related issues for several years.
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