I’m a fan of people watching. Airports are prime spots as are downtown shopping areas. I am particularly fond of seeing people meeting and parting, and imagining the next chapter in their stories. Of course I never get to find out what happens next.
The Blogosphere has opened up a new form of people watching for me, albeit a virtual one, and the plus is that I can find out what happens next. A case in point is Ronni Bennett’s terrific “Time Goes By” blog—“what it’s really like to get older.”
At 69 years of age Ronni decided to move about as far as possible within the continental US, from Portland Maine to Portland Oregon. (And while you might think the location decision had something to do with the “Portlandness” of it, that was just poetic coincidence.) On her blog, she has been chronicling her move. These posts offer insights for those marketing real estate to Baby Boomers and beyond.
Emotions Dominate When Searching for a New Home
A cross-country move is unusual for Baby Boomers and beyond. The 2009 study by MetLife and the National Association of Home Builders found that 67% of those aged 65-74 plan to age in place with only 12% expecting to buy another home.
Yet the overwhelming reason seniors move is to be closer to family and friends. Ronni was born in Oregon and her brother lives there so this is very much a “going home” move. I think Ronni put it perfectly in a February post:
I have often thought that as we grow into our late years – the winter of our lives, if you will – there is an emotional pull, for those of us who have wandered away, to the homes of our youth.
Whether the draw is family or friends or the familiarity of your hometown, most of us tend to agree with Dorothy and Toto that it’s nice to get home. Or, as Ernestine, one of Ronni’s regular readers, posted in her comment:
Bottom line is whatever years we have left on earth – we need to be where our heart leads us.
As we age we’re more likely to listen to our hearts. Seniors base more decisions on emotions vs. logic and that is exactly what Ronni experienced as she blogged the day she took that big step of listing her home for sale.
So I made the decision on the spot Saturday while the agent was here.
The decision wasn’t without prior thought and consideration. Yet, when it came to taking that first concrete step of moving, emotions ruled.
Three Lessons for Marketing 50+ Housing
What can builders and developers of new active adult communities, owners of CCRCs, Assisted Living Facilities, Realtors, and others involved in housing Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation learn from Ronni Bennett and her readers?
1. Listen. Take the time to hear what mature homebuyers or renters are truly seeking. How long do they expect to be in their new home? What do they need (short and longer term) to be comfortable? Feel safe? Connected? Happy?
Marketers can start the conversation with an interactive website tool or a simple printed/PDF worksheet that poses key questions. Then, listen – the answers will help you understand the motivation to move or even serve as the springboard for discussing different floor plans, finishing options, etc.
2. Make the move easier. Reading this blog, the “work” of moving becomes clear. As Ronni described her books and how she tackled which to take and which to sell, I shuddered. I’m having a hard time letting go of books I read to, and then with, my daughter, who is now in high school.
Paula, another “Time Goes By” follower, noted “most elders struggle terribly with moves–either avoiding them or being forced into them.” Moving and downsizing are hard both physically and emotionally. There are many ways to show your prospects that it is doable:
• bring in speakers (such as this May event at a CCRC),
• add a “Make Your Move Easier” section on your website,
• offer referrals to movers and storage services, or
• run a special promotion offering free downsizing services with your next three sales.
3. Talk frankly about the money. This is critical regardless of the type of move. Can your prospects afford what they need? What they want? Moves are so stressful; your sales and marketing team can try to reduce the financial worry.
Worksheets such as this one can be very helpful for the mature homebuyer and sales team. Many of our active adult community clients also have sponsored financing seminars.
So what happens next for Ronni? Her big move is scheduled for mid-May and – thanks to her blog – I get to find out what happens next. Safe travels!