The market for housing communities intended for those ages 55 and older recently got a big makeover, marked by a much wider selection of amenities, homes and target buyers than in the past. Developments featuring hiking and biking trails, big-name entertainment, athletic sports, community gardens and upscale and solar-powered homes are in. Golf courses and country clubs are no longer required features.
Top developer Del Webb continues to build massive projects with resort-like features, adding in more modern perks like a BMX pump track. Smaller developments target niche populations, such as equestrians, small plane hobbyists or retirees from specific professions. Private beaches, pickleball, film festivals, RV clubs and serious cooking classes are popular. Safety—most developments are gated—continues to be a key sales driver.
Rules defining these “active adult communities” are changing too. In addition to traditional 55-plus developments that prohibit younger buyers, the market now includes more developments that cater to older residents but don’t dictate ages of residents or visitors.
Meanwhile, the nation’s baby boomers have aged into willing and able target buyers. The generation holds about $8 trillion in home equity—an almost two-thirds cut of the entire nation’s—and it has made 55-plus developments one of the hottest markets going for U.S. home builders. Today’s developments are attracting buyers that never would have gone for traditional golf and tennis communities.