We know millennials are a big demographic the real estate industry has its eye on, as more and more become ready to buy a home, but there’s another group that may also be important to watch for first-time homebuyers – those who are over 50.
An exclusive club is forming in cities like New York of these first-time homebuyers who are in the later stage of their lives. The median age of first-time buyers in 2015 was 31, according to the National Association of Realtors. Only 7% of newbies were in the 55-to-74 age group, while less than 1% of first-timers were 75 and above. Later-in-life buyers in New York fall into several categories. Some have grown tired of landlord fickleness. Some come into an inheritance and decide to put it into real estate. Others come to the conclusion that their rent-regulated apartment is somewhat of a trap. There are also those who could have and should have bought earlier and who suddenly realize that they’re not getting any younger.
“There are people who wait their whole lives to buy,” said Kathy Braddock, a managing director of William Raveis New York City. “They sit on the sidelines and say ‘not now, not now, not now.’ But,” she continued, “as Phase 3 of life comes, people see things differently and they’re more comfortable about pulling the trigger. They get to a point where they think, ‘I want to own property before I die — and not just a cemetery plot.’” Better late than never, right?
Of those older homebuyers who make a purchase feel that they have come upon a “financial maturity” that they didn’t have before being a homeowner. “Until the situation presented itself, this wasn’t something I was dreaming of my entire life,” said Michelle Beshaw, who had to find a new place to live after having her rent-regulated walk-up of 27-years reclaimed by the landlord. “But I’m very grateful to be an owner.”
According to many in the real estate business, the “must have” and “no way” checklists of older first-timers differ greatly from those of younger buyers making their initial entrance into the market. Nicole Beauchamp, a saleswoman at the brokerage Engel & Völkers New York City, said her older clients are less likely to consider walk-ups, anticipating a time when they won’t be able to walk up. And they may put a premium on an apartment with a live-in super or a doorman. Plus, older buyers are looking for something to see them through a much longer period (through retirement) than other younger buyers.
From a broker’s perspective, she added, “there’s more ‘therapy’ involved with older clients. They might find a space that works but they aren’t familiar with the neighborhood and it’s far from where their friends are. You have to help them decide if they want to reinvent themselves at this point in their lives.”
Do you have any experience with working with a client over 50? What are some tips you have for other agents who may be working with an older homebuyer?
Read more about the personal stories of older buyers here: