Renovations up as Baby Boomers depart from grandparents’ choices


By Erica Batten. Renovating before selling is a must for Baby Boomers looking to downsize even if they don’t plan on moving any time soon.

Stephanie Gossett, regional vice president of Allen Tate’s Lake Norman region, said Boomers, identified as people born between 1946 and 1964, want the same amenities as those in the market for larger homes.

“In general, many of the Baby Boomers are now looking to downsize, but retain the high-end finishes they have become accustomed to in the larger, custom homes they are downsizing from,” she said. “Outdoor living areas are very popular, from patios with fire pits and built-in grills and seating areas to outdoor covered porches with full kitchens and mounted flat-screen televisions.”

“I think one thing Baby Boomers like more than anything is an open floor plan”

—Catherine Taylor

When Catherine Taylor started selling real estate in the Lake Norman area 10 years ago, the homes were relatively new. Taylor, an Allen Tate agent in Cornelius, said that the area’s homes are now outdated and many people are making renovations before selling their homes.

She said buyers in this area insist on amenities such as hardwood flooring, upgraded cabinetry, abundant natural light, open floor plans and master bedrooms on the main floor.

In some cases, undesirable features can be updated.  A formal living room can be reinvented as a home office with the addition of French doors and cabinetry.  Hardwood floors, in a variety of new finishes and styles, can replace carpeting and vinyl.  Walls can be removed to create a more open floor plan and facilitate traffic flow.

“I think one thing Baby Boomers like more than anything is an open floor plan,” Taylor said.

Energy efficiency and other “green” features are also important, she said, as are drop zones for unloading bags, shoes, and pet gear and charging areas for electronics devices.

The National Association of Home Builders identifies several upgrades that Baby Boomers are choosing.  These include accommodations for aging, such as wider doorways, first-floor bedrooms and baths, and brighter lighting.  Flex-space renovations allow for rooms to be used as home offices, theater rooms, guest bedrooms, or crafting spaces.  The NAHB also says that this generation is choosing low-maintenance exteriors and landscaping, also possible through renovations.

David Richardson of House Boy Inc., a remodeling company based in Huntersville, has no shortage of jobs in the Lake Norman area.  Among his most common projects are painting, repairs to ceilings and other structures, and bathroom remodels.  Clients often refresh bathrooms by adding stand-alone tubs, higher vanities, and tile.

And while Richardson, who has been in the remodeling business for more than 13 years, has plenty of work, a major challenge is a shortage of skilled labor.  He currently has four employees.

“I try to get people that are good at a multitude of things, but it’s hard to find them, and it’s hard to keep them,” Richardson said.  “A lot of people that are in this industry move from job to job.”

Richardson said applicants often exaggerate their skill sets when interviewing, which leads to a poor fit on the job.

If remodeling isn’t desirable, said Catherine Taylor, homeowners choose to shop for a new home with the features they want—even if they aren’t looking to downsize.  With plenty of equity in their existing homes, Baby Boomers often find this option more attractive than paying for—and waiting for—a remodel.  This choice can also be a win-win for buyers looking to find a better deal and do their own upgrades after the sale.


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