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Del Webb Plans 10 New Developments, Looks Beyond Boomers To Gen X

Senior housing specialist Del Webb, a brand of housing giant PulteGroup, is planning to complete 10 new senior housing communities nationwide over the next 18 months. The new communities will represent an incremental change in strategy for Del Webb, which has long focused on resort-style communities along the lines of its highly successful Sun City model. 

Del Webb Boulevard, Sun City, Ariz.

The planned projects call for traditional residential development — typically 500 to 1,000 units — but also communities on smaller footprints in locations closer to city centers, Senior Housing News reports. Urban locations are increasingly cited as appealing by potential buyers.

The change is being spurred by Del Webb market research. Every year for more than 20 years now, the company surveys active-adult buyers on topics that include retirement, finances, health and dating. The 2019 survey is the first one to segment the views of younger baby boomers and Gen Xers approaching the age of 55. 

Del Webb found that, while retirement is still one of the biggest drivers of home-purchase decisions for those ages 50 to 65, it is far from the only factor. Many buyers are motivated by a desire to move to a new location, embrace a different lifestyle or relocate to a warmer climate, though some simply want to remain in the same region. Moreover, not everyone wants the traditional Sun City model.

This survey was conducted in January by MKM Partners, on behalf of PulteGroup, and targeted a mix of 2,003 women (52%) and men (48%) across the U.S. and between the ages of 49 to 51 (Gen X) and 59 to 61 (late baby boom).

The new developments will be in Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia. One of them, Del Webb eTown, near Jacksonville, Florida, will feature new floor plans and incorporate various smart-home technologies that the company says will appeal to active-adult buyers.

ETown will be in the thick of suburban Jacksonville, among other single-family housing neighborhoods, as well as retail and other amenities. Houses at eTown will start in the mid-$200K range.

While aiming to serve baby boomers with its product, the company also says it is looking ahead toward the needs of Gen Xers. Del Webb expects GenXers to be active retirement housing buyers in the not-too-distance future.

“While smaller than other generations, Gen Xers deserve plenty of attention as they build larger nest eggs and assert their buying power during the prime of their careers, while planning for their next stage of life,” PulteGroup President of Market Intelligence Jay Mason said in a statement.

Seventy-two percent of surveyed 50-year-olds say they are looking forward to retirement, despite it still being some years away. Today’s 50-year-olds are also saving more of their earnings. 

In a comparable Del Webb survey conducted a decade ago, over 50% of respondents had less than $50K saved for retirement. That number dropped to only 35% in the latest survey, with more respondents indicating higher levels of saving.

Del Webb's pace of the development comes at a time when senior housing growth seems to be taking a breather. Senior housing construction starts in 31 primary markets during the first quarter of 2019 totaled 4,003 units: 2,236 independent living units and 1,767 assisted living units, according to the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care. Starts totaled 19,367 units during the previous four quarters. 

"Inventory growth appears to be cooling, due to a slowdown in construction starts, raising the possibility that demand for seniors housing might better align with supply later this year,” NIC Chief Economist Beth Burnham Mace said.