Baby Boomers Havent Settled Yet

July 11, 2003
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BLOOMFIELD HILLS — Since this nation’s earliest dawn in the seventeenth century, Americans have been a highly mobile people.

And while the so-called baby boomer generation in many ways has prided itself on flouting tradition, as it spills into its last decade before retirement, it looks as if it will be just as mobile as its antecedents.

Maybe even more so.

According to the annual Baby Boomer Report, a national opinion survey commissioned by Pulte Homes’ Del Webb brand, the baby boomer generation has spent much of its life repeatedly relocating for better employment, better quality of life and better schools for its children.

And they’ll move again in retirement, the survey finds.

The survey’s polling indicates than almost 60 percent of those surveyed said they would move into a new residence upon retirement, with 31 percent of them saying they were likely to move more than three hours away — in auto driving time — from their present domiciles.

Webb reports that the numbers represent a big change.

In the 1999 survey, only 31 percent of the respondents — people ranging from 48 to 52 at the time — said they planned to establish another domicile for retirement.

According to Dave Schreiner, vice president of active adult development for Del Webb, the 2003 survey’s results go against conventional wisdom.

“We, and many other organizations, have historically put the number of those moving three hours or more away at under 20 percent.” The new survey, he believes, bodes well for the housing industry in general and for Pulte Homes, which specializes in building for the retirement population.

It’s possible, too, that respondents’ attitudes regarding moving have improved thanks to a slowly improving economy and continued reductions in mortgage interest rates.

Schreiner said the numbers in the recent survey are significant, considering the sheer number of baby boomers who are approaching the retirement phase of their lives.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people between the ages of 50 and 69 is expected to leap by nearly 90 percent over the next 15 years.

In 2000, the bureau estimated this population to be about 41 million and to jump to 59.3 million by 2005.

The survey ranked the most likely destinations for those who plan to relocate as: Florida and Arizona at 21 percent and 18 percent respectively; North and South Carolina tied at 10 percent; Tennessee at 9 percent; and Texas, Virginia and Colorado all at 7 percent.

For Florida and Arizona, those percentages imply waves of 12.4 million and 10.6 million new retirees, respectively, with 5.9 million going to each Carolina.

One of the questions for which Del Webb sought answers in the survey was whether the emerging segment of the baby boomer population would choose to relocate to what it terms an “active adult community.”

The company defines an “active adult community” as an age-restricted community for people 55 or older when they retire.

The survey indicted 7 percent of the age group — which is to say nearly three million people — would consider living in such a community.

Schreiner said that “with about 59 million people between the ages of 50 and 69 by 2005, these statistics mean about 2.4 million retiring baby boomers are likely to consider an active adult community in that year alone.”

“In 2002,” he added, “Del Webb branded community sold about 9,000 homes nationwide. Having this increasing consumer base is a real opportunity for the company going forward.”

The survey also plumbed what people seek in such a community.

Schreiner said that when asked which factors were more important — the community or the home — the group was split right down the middle. When asked to rank the appeal of specific aspects of a community on a scale of 5 to 1, those surveyed preferred:

** Low maintenance homes — 77 percent

** Aesthetic appeal/cleanliness — 77 percent

** Health care availability — 73 percent

** Recreational amenities — 62 percent

The 2003 survey focused on people from 48 to 56 years of age who are either employed full time or seeking full-time employment.

The firm argues that this demographic represents that part of the baby boomer generation actively planning retirement, which, therefore, provides a window into future retirement trends.

The results are based on 1,361 online responses, on a cross-sectional nationwide basis, to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive.

Del Webb — which terms itself the country’s leading developer of active adult communities — has commissioned the survey annually for seven years.

Webb’s’s parent company, Pulte Homes Inc. (NYSE: PHM), is based in Bloomfield Hills and reports having operations in 44 U.S. markets.

The firm reports having constructed more than 330,000 homes for people 55 and older. Working with Pulte Homes is Pulte Mortgage LLC, a nationwide lender.

Harris Interactive said the results were weighted to assure accurate representation of the population surveyed. The results also were given “propensity score weighting” to adjust for the respondents’ propensity to be online.

Harris argues that, in theory, probability samples of this size give a very high likelihood of statistical precision of plus or minus 5.1 points.

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