Right now, two key generations account for just about half of all Americans. Both groups, baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 and echo boomers (aka millennials or generation y) born between 1982 and 1999, are experiencing major life changes. Echo boomers are heading off to college and entering the workforce, while baby boomers are looking toward retirement with an empty nest.
A lifelong resident of Highland, Ron McFarland of McFarland Homes has been answering the call for people who want to downsize their home and simplify their lifestyle right here in northwest Indiana for more than a quarter of a century.
The developer of numerous master-planned communities in his hometown and neighboring towns including Cedar Lake, Crown Point, Griffith, Merrillville, Schererville and St. John, McFarland, who estimates he has built more than 1,500 homes, recently shared some of his insights into the local housing market with The Times.
One of the most important demographics in American History – the Baby Boomer Generation – is rapidly reaching retirement age. How does the fact that a good number of them are now choosing to continue working well into their ‘60s affect their choices when it comes to housing?
The reasons we hear for wanting to move vary greatly. We’re certainly seeing a lot more people right now who have been living in the home where they raised their family over the last several years are now ready to explore their options as the housing market begins to show some consistent signs of recovery.
Many of these prospective buyers who were in a wait and see mode over the last several years have had the opportunity to explore a number of different options for when the time is right, and it seems that this spring is proving to be the right time for a number of reasons.
Some buyers say their existing home is older and just too large, resulting in way too much up keep and maintenance. In some cases, an existing home’s master bedroom is located upstairs, and the utility room is on a lower lever so, requiring the navigation of up to two sets of stairs when doing laundry. In other cases the hallways, doorways, bathrooms and eating areas are just too narrow and tight, especially when compared with what buyers can find with new construction today.
In your opinion, what are the hot buttons for baby boomers in search of their next home?
Ease of Access is very much in demand . . . one simple 4” step into our homes and everything you need is on one level. That’s extremely appealing to the baby boomer population.
It’s not that our typical buyers struggle with mobility at all. Actually, it’s generally just the opposite - they are very active.
Even so, as they near retirement they begin to appreciate and see the value in the sum of several small items that can quietly enhance their day-to-day living. Things like no stairs to contend with, wider doorways and walkways, lever knobs or a decorative grab bar in the shower. Today’s larger, open great room and kitchen designs along with Florida rooms naturally enhance the flow of guests during family gatherings.
When requested, we also make additional modifications to our designs that make the homes as handicap friendly as possible - 2’10” wide interior doors, roll-in showers in the master bath and handicap doorway thresholds just to name a few.
Beyond that, I think the final driving factor in determining it’s time to move is very often the many advantages of a Home Owners Association to maintain the lawn, irrigation and snow removal.
Based on your years of experience in servicing the needs of this demographic exclusively, what advice can you offer baby boomers who are looking to make a move here in northwest Indiana this spring?
You know, the one thing we always encourage our homebuyers to do is compare. That’s the only way you can be sure you know exactly what you are dealing with – whether it’s existing housing stock or competitive new product – in order to find exactly what you want. We actually provide a Builder Comparison Checklist in each of our communities and invite people to take it with them when they go check out other options. It’s our philosophy that when you carefully compare standard exterior and interior features, the decision to purchase a McFarland home will easy.
Next, depending on the importance of customization and/or personalization options, you’ll want to discuss any unique needs you may have. In choosing new construction, many baby boomers have very specific ideas about what they want in a new home, and at this stage of their life, they should definitely be able to have it that way. That’s why we are always willing to work with our buyers to make any changes they would like whenever possible.
You’re currently building in three distinct locations, why did you choose these three areas?
We always try and hit different price points, and right now we have three of the best locations in the area that make building a brand new home very achievable at just about every price range:
• Luxury townhomes priced from the $230s are available in Peninsula Point, which is an exclusive enclave in beautiful natural setting near the new St. John the Evangelist Parish just east of US 41 in the heart of St. John.
• Townhomes priced from the upper $170s and paired ranch homes priced from the $190s are available in the master planned Gates of St. John, which is just a few miles north on US 41 and east of off 231.
• Paired ranch homes priced from the upper $130s, ranch townhomes from the upper $120s and two-story townhomes from the upper $150s are available just five minutes south on US 41 in Monastery Woods.
For us, it’s a matter of whether it fits. We know the northwest Indiana community, and we’re glad to be here. We’ve been doing this for quite a while, and we plan on being around for a long time. A good builder has experience, is flexible, provides real value and always stands by his work. There are plenty of McFarland homeowners for you to ask about the quality of our product and dependability of our customer service for years to come.