Homebuilders can do these four things to move boomers from sales prospects to buyers
By MATT SAULS
People will forget what you said and what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel, the saying goes. This fact of life is why successful marketing, especially for 55+ lifestyle communities, is about selling experiences rather than just products.
Delivering the right kind of lifestyle communities and choices to Baby Boomer homebuyers requires the elevation of current standards of community placemaking and customer experience. Eight trillion dollars, or almost two-thirds of the nation’s home equity, is held by the 75 million people who comprise the boomer generation. While 50 percent of these home shoppers over the age of 55 would consider living in an age-restricted community, research shows that 53 percent of them cannot find the kind of compelling and vital community they desire.1
So, what is the proper strategy for getting Baby Boomers to move from the interested list to signing on the dotted line?
Get Attention Early
It is important to start marketing and holding events well before sales commence at a 55+ lifestyle community. Boomers require more time to make new home decisions than all-age buyers. According to MetroStudy and Zillow, they were found to take an average of 18.9 weeks to search for a home.
In general, people typically respond better to a no-pressure customer atmosphere than to a cold sales pitch. The latter approach rushes the buyer’s journey – awareness, consideration, and finally, decision – while thoughtful pre-sales get-togethers and other entertaining marketing engagement efforts strengthen the feelings of connection in the first two stages.
To start forging those initial bonds at Altis, the master-planned 55+ lifestyle community in Beaumont, California, Pardee Homes initiated a number of group events with potential homeowners so they could meet and start to get to know each other.
“The meetups have been a fun and engaging way for our team to connect with people on our interest list,” which was more than 3,000 people strong and growing in the week leading up to the grand opening in November 2018, according to Mike Taylor, division president of Pardee Homes Inland Empire.
Show; Don’t Tell
The “Show me; don’t tell me” rule applies to the marketing of 55+ lifestyle communities. When developers have amenities built before the homes, it gives potential buyers an opportunity to start meeting people and experiencing the lifestyle via various activities and events. There is nothing like the real thing, after all.
For example, Altis currently hosts weekly events and get-togethers for buyers and prospects at The VuePoint, the 16,000-square-foot residents’ club that serves as the epicenter of the community, even though its first residents will not move into their homes until early summer. More than 100 people attended the St. Patrick’s Day party where Boomers connected with each other over holiday-inspired food, drinks, and entertainment.
Events such as these allow buyers and prospective buyers to experience first-hand the community’s social hub, including an outdoor gathering and lounge area that features a kitchen, BBQ bars, islands with seating and sinks, a fire pit terrace, a 1,200-square-foot Butterfly Shade Structure with an integrated sound system, and a 12,000-square-foot event lawn looking toward the San Gorgonio Mountain Range.
Be a Resource
Baby Boomers may be the most savvy homebuying generation, but they will still have questions and concerns. Moving is still one of the biggest transitions one can make, even if it is the third or fourth time around that proverbial block. It is important to provide buyers with resources that will help address worries and calm fears.
Tapping into the excitement from the new Netflix series, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” one homebuilder sponsored a session on tips to reorganize and declutter. Other popular generational focuses include wellness, second careers, and home and garden hobbies. At Altis, a lifestyle facilitator provides Boomers with unprecedented access to experiences as well as to experts and other residents who share similar interests and concerns.
Nothing elicits favorable feelings from Boomers quite like family. When they see a lifestyle development that puts a strong emphasis on family-friendly amenities, such as neighborhood parks with outdoor kitchens and seating, biking and hiking trails, and lots of green grass, it is easy for them to envision quality time with their grown children and grandkids.
Having family support and buy-in, whether it comes from their kids’ approval or the grand- kids’ smiles and laughter, helps calm nerves
and increase confidence in the decision-making process. For example, at Altis, two sisters who were not home shopping but had a family connection to Pardee Homes ended up falling in love with the place, and each bought a home after attending the lifestyle community’s grand opening in November.
Effective strategies for moving Baby Boomers from the interested list to buyers in your 55+ lifestyle community should go beyond the logic of the location. It must feel right as well. Homebuilders can make the right impression and earn Boomers’ appreciation by hosting engaging pre-sales events, having amenities available before homes are completed, providing lifestyle facilitators, and catering to boomers’ family focus.
1. Source: John Burns Real Estate Consulting, “Product and Consumer Insights Study 2016”
Matt Sauls is Vice President of Marketing and Product Development for Pardee Homes’ Inland Empire division.