Not all Baby Boomers are the same. Todd Harff, a Baby Boomer marketing expert, has worked with several apartment management companies to try and crack the code of how to attract the widely diverse group of renters.
"There are more differences in their preferences at that age than any previous generation," he says. "It can be that they are 55 or 60 years old and are becoming first time parents. Or they could be taking early retirement."
While working as a Baby Boomer marketing specialist at Woodbridge, Va.–based Creating Results Strategic Marketing, Harff has found that the older renters are becoming increasingly tech savvy making internet speed in the building and website marketing more essential to attracting them.
“Yes, they want to go and see the place, but they’re going to start their search online,” he says. “They’re just not as likely to complete it online.”
However, if a community’s website is subpar or not welcoming, most Boomers won’t even think twice about stopping by.
In a recent study, 37 percent of renters older than 40 said they decided against visiting a community based on its website, according to Harff.
“You better have a good impression,” he says. “And the imagery on the website better not just show twentysomethings. They will not even get to the point of a leasing agent if the website they go to looks like a place where they don’t feel welcome.”
And once a Boomer is satisfied with the online appearance, it’s time for the leasing agent to step up and shine.
One of the biggest differences between Gen Y and Boomers is that Gen Y renters may prefer to complete the entire leasing process online while Boomers often want to go into an office and complete a lease with an agent.
“Boomers are going to want to be more experiential,” he says. “They want to visit and get a sense of what [the apartment is] like. They want to touch it and see it. I think that’s still very important to them.”
Associates in the leasing office should be knowledgeable and ready to field any questions a potential resident may have. However, Boomers can be particularly tough and have very high expectations, Harff says.
“Their tolerance for things not being right is very low,” he says. “The time they have on their hands tends to be higher, so they'll spend three hours with a leasing agent and if something is not right in their apartment they will drive you crazy until it’s fixed.”
Many Boomers also have high expectations for amenities and fixtures within the apartment home. One of the reasons is because many of them are moving from a house into an apartment and expect high-end fixtures and finishes.
“If they want to go after Boomers they need a more-upgraded kitchen,” Harff says.
Planning social events with more substance is also a must for the Boomers who plan to be involved in the community. Harff says one of the more successful causes he’s seen Boomer renters engage in was a fundraiser for a local hospital.
“No matter whether they’re first time parents or in early retirement, they tend to be in the life stage where they’re focused on what’s important to them,” he says. “That’s part of the appeal of multifamily is the lack of maintenance so they have more time to do things that bring them more meaning.”
And if a Boomer signs a lease and likes the community, he or she could be a long-term resident.
“Gen Y tends to not be as focused on the future in the sense that they’ll move to a community, and it’s not as big a deal to move after a year or so because they’ve accumulated less, and if it doesn’t work out they’ll move again,” Harff says. “The advantage with the Boomer is, if you get them to move to your community they’re going stay longer. So they give the moving process a little more thought.”
Lindsay Machak is an Associate Editor for Multifamily Executive. Connect with her on Twitter @LMachak.