Last Updated on July 18, 2023 by Luke Feldbrugge
As a real estate agent, you already know the Baby Boomers. You have experience working with Baby Boomers; sold them houses, helped them sell their houses – you have history. You know what makes them tick, but do you really? Let’s take a deeper look into one of the largest generations in American history and figure out what they want (these days) when it comes to real estate. It may provide the insight you need when working with Baby Boomers in the future.
A good way to start any conversation with Boomers is to quote one of their gurus, particularly a business guru like Warren Buffet or Stephen Covey. In this case, we will go old school with:
“Demographics are the single most important factor that nobody pays attention to, and when they do pay attention, they miss the point.” — Peter Drucker
Boomers love gurus. We will get into why later. This generation is still making waves in the current real estate market, even though many have now retired. Whereas they have been famous for buying McMansions, usually in the suburbs, they are now downsizing. The National Association of Realtors reports that the median size of the home purchase
made by Boomers is 1,900 square feet.
They are also selling their larger homes. NAR also reported that Boomers make up 43 percent of all home sellers. Consequently, real estate professionals, have two opportunities when working with Baby Boomers: sell their current house and then find them a new, smaller home.
Need any other reasons to concentrate your real estate marketing on Boomers? How about the fact that they have more real estate wealth and need less financing than the other generations out there. Boomers have nest eggs, savings, retirement funds, a higher household income and a lot of equity accumulated. When they go hunting for new homes, they are in a position to get exactly what they want. When working with Baby Boomers, a big part of what you need to do is pay attention to what those specific wants are.
The 6 Characteristics of Baby Boomers
The Baby Boomer generation was born between 1946 and 1964. Those numbers aren’t exact, but they are close enough. That means Boomers are currently between 59 and 77.
When we talk about the attitudes and motivations of different generations, it’s important to remember that we are talking about a large demographic–about 76 million Boomers. That means anything we say about them will necessarily be generalizations with a capital G. So if you are a Boomer and some of these don’t resonate, that’s a natural part of trying to describe a whole generation. Thanks for your patience.
Up until recently, the Boomers were the largest generation in United States history. The Millennial buyers recently eclipsed them, but the Boomers, as an age group, got a lot of attention from their parents and the nation as a whole. They were so important and high profile, Boomers were made “Man of the Year” by Time magazine 1966.
Everything that Boomers considered important, the nation paid attention to–from Haight- Ashbury to Woodstock. That trend has not stopped. The Boomer agenda is still the national agenda.
It probably goes without saying, but when working with Baby Boomers you really need to pay attention to them, but we are going to say it anyway. You are a professional, and you know how much attention clients need. With this target audience, however, they may need more than you expect. If you can afford to, err on the side of “too much attention.”
The kind of attention you pay to Boomers is also critical. The majority of Boomers will likely want face-to-face attention or a phone call rather than a text message or email.
Just because they want personal, less digital attention, don’t assume Boomers aren’t regular internet users. A recent NAR report states that 95 percent of older Boomers and 98 percent of younger Boomers use the internet, search engines and social media to initiate their home searches.
As Boomers were growing up, in the wake of World War II, they were the subjects of a great deal of optimism from their parents and their communities. They were told they could be anything they wanted to be, and they believed it. We mentioned that they paid attention to a lot of gurus – from Jack Kerouac to Deepak Chopra to Oprah Winfrey. They also bought a lot of self-help books. And when the Army decided to start recruiting Boomers in the 60s and 70s, they hit upon the brilliant slogan “Be all that you can be.”
Boomers are rewriting the book on retirement. Because of their belief in themselves and their potential, they are going into retirement healthy and energetic and ready to experience life as completely as possible. Think pickleball rather than shuffleboard. They are also very mobile, so when they sell, they may move to somewhere:
- Closer to family
When helping them with their real estate needs, a great way forward is to dream big with them. The days when people settled down and retired are evolving into something a lot more active.
Boomers grew up being fiercely idealistic and that hasn’t really changed. Living by their ideals is an offshoot of their pursuit of self-actualization. They knew if they stuck to their ideals, things would get better for them and for their country. The anti-war movement in the late 60s is just one example of how they acted on their ideals. They have a deeply ingrained belief system.
If you can tap into their ideals and get them to talk about them, you will be able to help them find the ideal home much faster. Boomers will often talk about their vision or mission. That’s when you know you are listening to the ideals they hold dear.
The one drawback to this is that, when you hold onto your ideals, you have a hard time compromising. Compromise, to a Boomer, feels like a betrayal of their ideals, and they will resist that. This can come into play during negotiations with non-Boomer potential buyers or sellers, so be prepared to help them see both sides of the story.
4) Group Oriented
Because they were such a large generation, they became accustomed to having lots of their own generation around them. Crowded classrooms, crowded playgrounds, crowded sports teams were all part of their childhood. They are very comfortable in groups and understand the power of groups. This ad from Coke captured the group mentality, and the idealism, of Boomers almost too well.
They are still most comfortable with their fellow Boomers, and moving out of neighborhoods that are “too young” is a reason many give when they are selling their single-family homes. When working with Baby Boomers, they will likely want to find communities that have more people like them, so when you are helping them search, a community already populated by Boomers will have a strong pull for them.
5) Challenge Authority
Boomers have always had trouble with authority. It became most apparent during the protest marches in the late 60s and early 70s, but they never really stopped questioning authority. They were raised by a generation of parents who survived by following orders, in the military in World War II and during the Great Depression. When things started to settle down, Boomers started asking hard questions about hierarchies and rules that didn’t make much sense. In this ad from Ameriprise, Dennis Hopper summed it up: “You don’t turn your dreams over to the authorities at age 60.”
When working with Baby Boomers, you want to differentiate their path forward from the way their parents retired. Their decisions about where to live are going to be very different from the previous generation and will challenge conventional wisdom. Show them you understand that.
The Boomers understood, that as a generation, whatever they paid attention to became part of the national conversation. Consequently, they learned to focus their attention and change things – from the Vietnam war to the workplace to their kids. When they focused their generational attention on things, they changed things.
Now that they are focused on retirement and where they will live during this next phase in their life, that too will change. They have free time and they have money and they are determined. We’ve already seen how Boomers have changed the housing market, time and time again. In coming years, they will do it again.
Homes for Heroes
Homes for Heroes has been helping and rewarding community heroes for more than 20 years – about a generation’s worth of thanks. We also work with, and reward, retired heroes. People who worked as a member of our six hero groups – military personnel, firefighters, teachers, healthcare workers, law enforcement and EMS – and are now retired.
Homes for Heroes can help you specialize by pointing your real estate business in the right direction – helping heroes buy, sell or refinance a home; thanking them for their service; and saving them money at the same time. Sign up today to learn more about the benefits of being a Homes for Heroes local market specialist, and become the agent or lender your community heroes want to work with.
AUTHOR NOTE: Bob Filipczak is the co-author of Generations At Work (first and second edition). He speaks on generational marketing and communications to organizations. His previous clients include the University of California Davis, the Association of Patent Lawyer Firms and the Space Telescope Science Institute.