“Just a ranch plan with big doors – right?” Wrong! Let’s first establish that there is more to empty-nester plans than that.
What are some other misconceptions or generalizations?
“When it comes to this buyer profile, small fits all” – Wrong again.
“All empty nesters have the same amount to spend on a home” – Obviously wrong.
“They all want to live in The Villages” – Many do, many do not.
“They only want single-family detached” – Not necessarily.
“Everything on one level” – Not always.
I think you get the idea…
Like all buyer profiles, the empty-nester demographic is diverse in their wants and needs. However, there are some nuances that appeal to this buyer profile.
Single-Family Vs. Attached
There is a common perception that the only appropriate housing for empty nesters is single family detached. But there are buyers who prefer an attached home. One popular building configuration is the twin villa. You get the three sides of light and proximity to a neighbor who can watch over the “lock and leave” neighbors’ unit.
Advantage of Two Floors
Busting the myth that all empty nesters want one-level living, there are many who benefit from two floors of living. The second floor is perfect for visiting kids and grandkids. The second floor can also be great for an exercise room and is the preferred location for a home office – not all empty nester buyers have stopped working. When they do stop working, the second floor is a great get-away space as too much together time can be harmful to one’s marriage. The other advantage of two-story solutions is density and affordability.
What Goes on the Main Level?
Obviously, the kitchen, casual dining, and great room are what make it the main level, but what else? Clearly, this is an easy quiz. A two-story empty nester home should have the owner’s bedroom on the main level. Anything else? If there is space on the first floor, see if you can squeeze in a flex room – especially if it can flex into a guest room. A guest room and a flex room are most preferred – but that isn’t always feasible, and it also means in a two-story home – more square footage.
How Many Bedrooms?
Some age-restricted adult communities limit homes to just two bedrooms. Hopefully, the kids are willing to host the holidays. What happens when one bedroom becomes the “snore” room? Again, while the number of bedrooms desired differs by each buyer, most consider two bedrooms plus flex as their minimum and three bedrooms plus flex as their maximum.
Make Room for the Pet
When counting bedrooms, don’t forget to carve out room for the pet. Dogs and cats are important family members for this buyer. Some say they are their surrogate kids or grandkids. While some think a special place for the dog to sleep is important, others acknowledge the dogs sleep in the owner’s bed. A nice perk for the dog-friendly house is a place to bathe them. I love adding a dog shower in the garage. It can be affordably done with a shower pan and a handheld showerhead.
If possible, avoid steps into the house and steps into the shower. One step is often more of a trip hazard than a full flight of stairs. If you have a step, be sure to include a railing or a grab bar. Ample lighting is also key for this buyer since the lens of the eye thickens as we age, allowing in less light. Include both natural and artificial lighting throughout. Finally, add step lights to all steps and even in the toilet room.
Don’t Forget the Joy
The one thing you don’t want to do is design something that feels institutional. Bright colorful interiors are a great way to add joy. Maybe even layer in a few comfort features such as heated towel racks. Everyone enjoys a few indulgences!
Is there really an “ideal empty-nester plan”? With so many possibilities, I would argue no. However, keeping a few general guiding principles in mind like those we just discussed can definitely go a long way.
Adapted from Housing Design Matters Blog