The Future of 55+ Housing

(NAR) -  The numbers are looking up for the 55-plus housing market. But there’s a question of how long these numbers will be available, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

At a briefing during the group’s annual conference, NAHB Vice President of Survey and Housing Policy Research Paul Emrath was upbeat about the recovery of housing targeted toward seniors and baby boomers. He noted in particular that builder confidence in new, single family homes in the 55-plus market tripled in the third quarter of 2012 as compared to the same time in 2011.

“Everything is up, year-over-year,” Emrath said. “It’s an indication that we’re starting to dig out of the hole we fell into in 2009.”

In NAHB’s forecast, boomers and seniors are projected to grow their share of the market over the next few years. By 2020, the group expects the market share of U.S. households in the 55-plus age bracket to grow more than four percent, to 46.6 percent.

Yet Emrath warned that the future of NAHB’s reporting on boomer and senior markets is in peril because the Census Bureau changed the way that they collect generational information.

“The forecast that you just saw is at risk right now,” Emrath said. “When I get back to Washington, I’m going to spend a lot of time writing letters trying to persuade [HUD and the Census Bureau] that they were misguided in removing these 55-plus questions from their surveys.”

In addition to the economic data, Emrath hit a few of the boomer and senior highlights of NAHB’s new consumer preference survey, called What Home Buyers Really Want. The group asked respondents who have bought homes recently or are thinking about buying soon about their housing preferences across a wide range of issues. Emrath noted that older buyers are not downsizing, as many believe.

“For every age bracket, people want a bigger home than they currently have,” Emrath said. “The degree of upsizing gets very small when you get to the 55+ market, [but] I don’t see a lot of evidence of downsizing here.”