While non-stop talk about Millennials may make Baby Boomers feel like having a few “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!” outburst of their own, there’s no need for generational rivalry. Why? Because Baby Boomers still hold more than their fair share of sway. Let’s take a closer look at why the Boomers remain a force to be reckoned in the home improvement industry, and where their mighty dollars are headed next.
Getting Reacquainted With the Baby Boomers
All this fuss over the Millennials may have caused some to discount the Baby Boomers — people born between the years 1946 and 1964 — from their business strategies. To that, we have one simple word: don’t. For starters, there are still plenty of them — 75.4 million to be exact, according to the most recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau. And while the Millennials may have finally surpassed them in number, they’re still way ahead of the GIs, Silents, and Gen Xers.
In fact, not only does Baby Boomer home improvement spending significantly outpace all previous generations at corresponding ages, but it also accounts for nearly half of the country’s total home improvement spending, according to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Study’s (JCHS) 2015 report, “Emerging Trends in the Remodeling Market.”
But that’s not all: Baby Boomers also remain the largest consumer group in the country with a whopping $7 trillion in wealth and more discretionary income than any other generation, according to BabyBoomer Magazine. How did they get so rich? Not only did they fare comparatively well during the housing downturn thanks to a combination of equity and appreciation, but many of them are still working and generating income beyond the conventional age of retirement. Need more proof? Consider this: While nationwide spending on home improvement projects fell by more than 15 percent between 2007 and 2013, spending by the 55 and over set fell by less than nine percent.
Have we got your attention yet? (Oh, and take that, Marcia!)
Aging and Updating in Place
With so much cash and plenty of inclination to go along with it, the Baby Boomers are expected to continue to be major players in the remodeling market in the years ahead despite their gradual shift out of peak home improvement spending years. In fact, throughout every phase of their lives, Baby Boomer spending on home improvement projects has consistently represented approximately half of their total spending — consistency which bodes well for the next phase.
And what is that phase? For an increasing number of Boomers entering their retirement years, it’s all about “aging in place.” Just how important is the Baby Boomer preference to stay in their homes? According to a study by the Demand Institute, 63 percent of Baby Boomers have no plans to move again. Ever. Aside from the healthcare market, the impact of this trend may be seen no more clearly than when it comes to home improvement.
But the aging in place movement is only part of it. A significant subset of the Baby Boomers are just entering their 50s when home improvement activity is still in its prime. According to JCHS, homeowners in this demographic will spend approximately 30 percent more than the rest of the population on home improvement projects. Call it a case of history repeating itself: The older portion of the Baby Boomers are credited with the record-breaking home-improvement expenditure numbers seen during last decade’s housing boom.
Meanwhile, many Baby Boomers who do opt to move may not be downsizing as might be expected, but are instead planning on “upsizing” to their dream homes: While 54 percent are indeed planning to move to smaller or less expensive homes, a staggering 46 percent will seek out larger or more expensive homes. But whether upsizing or downsizing, Boomer homebuyers share some common priorities: high-end finishes and optimal convenience.
Home Improvement Trends for Boomers
According to the Demand Institute, 39 percent of Baby Boomers are planning for major home improvements in the next three years alone. So they’re richer than other generations, staying in their homes or relocating to dream homes, and ripe to spend. Which begs the question: Where will those dollars go?
According to the JCHS, Baby Boomer homeowners prioritize replacement projects (roofing, windows, siding, doors, and other systems) over “discretionary projects,” including upgrades to baths and kitchens. And unlike the DIY-self Millennials, they’re willing to splurge on professional installation.
And while some Baby Boomer home improvement spending will indeed go toward aging-related upgrades focused on reducing maintenance, lowering upkeep and enhancing accessibility, many of their top reasons for renovating overlaps with those of Millennials and Gen Xers, including increasing the value of their homes (78 percent), making repairs (78 percent), becoming more energy efficient (66 percent), and updating the styles of their homes (65 percent).
Reaching Boomers Where They Live
One additional thing to keep in mind? Marketing to Baby Boomers involves understanding not only what they want to buy, but also where they live. We’re not talking about their physical addresses, but about how they spend their time, obtain information, and are ultimately motivated to make purchases.
Compared to social media-minded Millennials, Baby Boomers spend less time on Facebook and Twitter and significantly more time watching television, reading print publications and listening to the radio. However, this is not to say that Baby Boomers don’t keep pace with technology, because they do– albeit, a slower pace. The takeaway for business looking for their cut of the booming Baby Boomer business? As with Millennials, there’s no single best method for reaching them. Rather, a targeted, multi-channel approach mixing convention with the cutting edge is most likely to get results.