Baby boomers represent a large portion of the rental market. As they hit retirement age, many seek to downsize, move to more walkable communities, and reduce their financial burden by renting, rather than tying themselves down to a long-term, costly mortgage.
Rental properties also come with less upkeep — a big plus for residents as they age.
Those aren’t the only perks this seasoned generation is looking for, though. In fact, according to Alan Losada, president and COO of Miami-based Meyers Group, boomers are actually quite particular about what they want in a property.
“Baby boomers have more experience searching for homes than younger generations of multifamily clients, so they are confident in what they want,” Losada says. “From appliances to amenity spaces and everything in between, baby boomers typically are more set on what features will provide the most value in their living experience.”
Here are just a few of the amenities that boomers are looking for, according to experts:
Exercise-related amenities are at a premium for most renters. In fact, findings in the 2020 NMHC/Kingsley Apartment Resident Preferences report revealed that for the 55-and-older generation, fitness centers are high on the list of property amenities. And more than half of them want instructor-led classes available.
But it’s not just traditional gyms they want. Pools are also in high demand.
“Many boomers I’m working with want pools,” says Michael J. Franco, a Compass real estate broker who specializes in multifamily properties. “People love swimming for exercise as they age, and I have had clients look at specific buildings only because they have a pool.”
Outdoor exercise amenities, such as walking trails, bike paths, tennis courts, and even just park-like spaces, are also popular among this cohort, especially since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Security is of huge importance to boomers, according to Kimberly Byrum, managing principal, multifamily, at Zonda, the parent company of Multifamily Executive.
“Security has always been an important issue for renters. For those 55 and up, these renters also prefer in-person attendants/guards in addition to cameras. Our research shows that the 55-plus renter is willing to pay for the 24-hour coverage,” Byrum says.
And according to Regina Castle, new construction specialist at 1400 Monroe—a multifamily development in Chicago—in-unit security is a priority as well. Specifically? They want app-based security systems and doorbells—ones that allow them to see who’s at their door remotely, using only their iPad or phone.
Baby boomers may want to downsize from their larger, single-family properties, but they don’t want to scrimp on space either.
In many cases—and especially given the pandemic—older renters want fairly large rentals, ones that children and grandchildren can visit comfortably and where work-from-home space is ample.
“COVID has made work-from-home the norm, so home offices or spaces capable of multitasking are requirements,” says Gerard Splendore, a real estate broker with Warburg Realty in New York. “Flex spaces that can function for online meetings or one person accomplishing computer tasks or reading are also necessary.”
Depending on their age, some boomers may also be interested in extra bedrooms—places a loved one or future caregiver can live down the line.
“Costs of assisted living have gone up exponentially, so being able to age in place is a huge positive,” Castle says.
It’s not just interior space boomers are seeking, though. As Castle put it, “Personal outdoor space has become such a coveted amenity.” In the NMHC/Kingsley survey, 90% of respondents 55 and older want a patio or a balcony to enjoy access to private outdoor space.
And in today’s landscape, plentiful outdoor amenities are highly attractive. Older renters are particularly interested in places they can socialize safely (and distanced) while the pandemic blows over.
“In light of COVID, baby boomers have preferred to exchange indoor gathering spaces for outdoor spaces when possible,” Losada says. “People are looking for areas in their apartment building where they can safely gather with a small group of family or friends outside, whether that’s a pool deck, terraces, or patio area.”
Easy access to local culture is another much-coveted rental feature, according to Castle—in particular, walkability to restaurants and theaters.
Peace and Quiet
As a generation largely accustomed to the privacy of a single-family home, boomers expect their rental to offer the same sanctuary. The NMHC/Kingsley survey found that soundproof walls and noise-reducing windows are a must-have among renters 55 and older.
More Renters Are on the Way
Multifamily developments have long been a draw for older generations—particularly those looking for low-maintenance, rich-in-amenity experiences. But with the current market (and how difficult it is to find a single-family home in it), boomers may likely flock to rentals more than ever. The question is: Will properties be ready for them?