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Who is the Active Adult Homebuyer in 2020?

While the generation gap between the first-time buyers and retirees has perplexed many builders, there is a clear overlap in interest

By Julia Edinger

The two demographics with the greatest impact on the housing market right now are being increasingly compared to one another. While these groups seem to be quite different, there are actually many existing similarities.

We first addressed this overlap in the September issue of Builder and Developer Magazine, with Zack Johnston’s column, What Generation Gap?, exploring the similarities and differences.

“It’s easy for attention to stay fixated on the trends and ploys of the millennial-oriented developments, but the truth is that all buyers, from millennials to the Silent Generation, are eager for something fresh, interesting, and practical,” Johnston explained.

One of the most distinct overlaps is that both demographics are seeking smaller, energy-efficient homes. These homes are more affordable, which appeals to the first-time buyer’s shorter period of acquiring wealth and to the downsizing buyer preparing to live on a fixed income in retirement.

According to an article from Forbes predicting the overall real estate landscape, it is going to be these homes that create the most competition in markets that are short on entry-level supply.

“Smaller, more affordable homes will have extreme competition from first-time buyers, investors and downsizing baby boomers,” said Regina Cole in the piece.

Mary Cook, regular contributor and design expert, explored the idea of “Boomerennials.”

“How will the ‘Boomerennials’ — Boomers who embrace fitness, wellness, cannabis, sharing, and experiences just like millennials — impact active lifestyle housing?” asked Cook in her 2020 predictions column.

The market is already seeing these trends shift. More mixed-use developments are being planned with an emphasis on walkability. Energy-efficient features like smart home technology are being implemented and marketed to both age groups. Developments are being designed and built around experiences.

For today’s 50+ buyer, a home does not need to have the elements of high-end luxury or the megamansion floor plan that 50+ buyers were so drawn to in the past. Today’s 50+ buyer is making conscious decisions to improve the environment and their health and are looking to live somewhere that allows them to do just that.

Julia Edinger is the Editor for Builder.Media. She can be reached at