1947 saw a spike in births in Canada and the baby boom generation was born. According to Stats Canada, the baby boom generation started later in Canada than the United States and extended through to 1966. As a result of this rise in births rates, the 2006 Census recorded 3.7 million people in the 55-64 age range, the highest in Canada’s history. Now, into the new millennium, those born in 1947 are looking at retirement while those born in 1966 are in the midst of establishing their families and planning for their own retirement.
As the baby boomers grew up, they became a generation that pushed against all societal norms, from music to technology, recreational drugs to medical breakthroughs, and settled homes in the suburbs to the fluid movement of families across borders. When looking at condominium living, trying to accommodate this diverse generation can be a challenge. But as Terrance Mann in “Field of Dreams” says of the cornfield… “build it, people will come.” Well, the baby boomers have arrived and, like most of their generation, they are demanding something different.
Due to their numbers and therefore purchasing power, boomers have had a significant impact on marketing trends, forcing the development of services that specifically appeal to and accommodate their needs: websites, fashion trends, vacation packages, trade shows and importantly condominium living.
As a result, new condominium developments are taking into account the disparate interests and needs of the baby boom generation. Party rooms are built to accommodate social events catering to residents who prefer not to go as far afield. Whirlpools, once the epitome of luxury amenities, are bypassed for larger gyms or space for yoga and Tai Chi. And where proximity to downtown restaurants and boutiques once drew this generation’s interest, available space for on-site salons, pharmacies and cafes are now being drawn into building plans.
“They are looking for fresh and updated amenities and a level of care that reflects their years of attention with their own homes”
Richard Lyons, president of CPL condominium design interiors, common area refurbishment specialists based in Oakville, Ontario, knows the demands being put on older buildings as well. Boomers are coming from homes in which they’ve spent years grooming and decorating, often raising families, and establishing their own style and comfort level. They do not want to lose that sense of style when they move. They are looking for fresh and updated amenities and a level of care that reflects their years of attention with their own homes.
Having raised families, entertained friends and business associates, and with many heading into retirement, boomers do not want to feel that they will be in any way compromising the comforts long established in their homes by moving into a condominium community. Condominium corporations that keep this in mind—updating carpets, removing tiles that reflect styles long since past, freshening paint on interior and exterior surfaces, providing quality wallcoverings with both design and durability—attract both the interest and investment of baby boomers.
Younger condo purchasers, when searching for a condo, are most concerned with the specifics of their suite, the ease of commuting to work, and the newly added expense of common element fees. Take for instance Shannon Doherty, a 24 year old woman at the beginning of her nursing career. Having come from an apartment, fees for amenities, landscaping, security, and major repairs, are all new to her. The fact that there is or isn’t a pool or gym may be secondary, as younger owners can find these facilities elsewhere. Shannon knows she’ll be moving to a larger suite or house as she continues to build her career and family; her condominium is only stopover accommodations.
But baby boomers are looking to establish a new home ground. They are settling into a new stage in life and looking to accommodate more freedom while still expressing their life’s successes. Having experienced the costs, demands and often headaches of maintaining a home, they understand the need to pay maintenance fees for services that are of value to them. After three decades in a home in a well established neighbourhood, Paul Hurley, 65, became a first time townhome condominium owner.
For Paul, the attraction is that “there’s no grass to cut, snow to shovel or pool to care for – now there’s an indoor pool and someone else looks after it.” The fact that the complex was older wasn’t a concern. The amenities and grounds were well kept, something Paul appreciated. The condominium corporation knew that keeping the landscaping and walkways well tended, ensuring the outside of the buildings were repaired and painted before any significant damage developed and guaranteeing that their amenities remain in excellent working condition keeps maintenance costs down, and encourages new owners to put down roots and older residents to enjoy the facilities available.
“Both younger and older condominium owners are concerned with the value their purchase will bring them.”
In multi-level buildings, condominium corporations recognize that corridors are an extension of the home. Always mindful of increasing costs, they can take advantage of newer technologies that now provide long lasting carpets, with customized designs, allowing for scaling and fit to any corridor. Moving from painted surfaces to design enhancing wallcoverings, corporations improve the maintenance of corridors while offering an upgraded design element.
Changes in lighting, from old incandescent/fluorescent lighting to newer LED or compact fluorescent lighting, not only brighten the corridors but the corporation can take advantage of government energy saving incentives and long term savings in energy costs. As boomers spearhead many of the environmental issues, they’re concerned that their board minimizes the building’s environmental footprint and use sustainable materials. Even lobbies come under scrutiny; a guest’s or potential owner’s first impression is foremost formed at the front door. All of these changes reflect the boomer’s sense that their building is as individually decorated and maintained as their own home.
And that home is also an investment. Both younger and older condominium owners are concerned with the value their purchase will bring them. The younger and perhaps first-time owners want to be sure that they will see an increase in their market value in anticipation of a decision to move on. The boomer investor is just as concerned with maintaining the property value, but also has a concern for their ability to take advantage of the financial flexibility that can come with downsizing.
Octavio Mendonca FRI CREF, a real estate broker with HomeLife with 25 years experience specializing in condominiums, explains, “After a well managed refurbishment project which offers not only enhanced design but quality materials requiring less maintenance costs, most condominium owners experience an increase in their property values.”
As with everything else, boomers have high expectations. They demand that contractors who work in their buildings provide not only cost effective solutions but complete their projects on time and on budget, and do so with a high level of professionalism. Corporations are remiss if they overlook this critical component of the boomer’s dynamic. Boomers are picky clients, and as Richard Lyons notes “we love picky clients. They make the best referrals.”
“By building to the population—knowing what baby boomers want and accommodating them” Richard Lyons of CPL knows that condominium corporations will not only reap the benefits of satisfying a growing migration of boomers to condominiums, but they will also be increasing the value and visibility of quality condominium communities.