The Emergence of Accidental Active-Adult Communities

MarketNsight President John Hunt coined the phrase Accidental Active Adult Community, or Triple A, to refer to homebuyers who drive past all the highly amenitized, age-targeted communities to reach destination communities originally marketed to first-time homebuyers. Why are active adult homebuyers choosing to move farther out? Because of price!

The Emergence of Accidental Active-Adult Communities“This may surprise many people, in fact, it surprised me when I first realized that it wasn’t the Millennials or first-time buyers, but the empty nesters who are willing to move out farther to buy a ranch home,” Hunt said.

According to Hunt, as the former No. 1 new home market, Atlanta remains a barometer for the nation. If this is happening in Atlanta, it is happening in other places as well. When builders started building out farther and farther, there was a flawed assumption in the industry that former apartment renters would buy these homes and become first-time homebuyers.

Headlines have been all too frequent over the past four years proclaiming that first-time buyers were going to rescue the industry by forsaking apartments and moving out to the borders to buy. ViaSearch’s New Home Buyer Survey data shows the market was doing something completely different. First-time buyers began to drop off dramatically after 2013. It is not a coincidence that this happened as the industry ran out of cheap and distressed lots. First-time buyer demand is highly elastic and rises and falls directly related to price.The Emergence of Accidental Active-Adult Communities

However, in 2016, Hunt thought he had been proven wrong. One of the fastest selling communities in Atlanta for 2015 and 2016 was 54 miles from downtown, priced from the $180,000s and built on left-over distressed lots.  While the price point screamed first-time buyers, the demographic data said otherwise.

The community, a long-time MarketNsight client, was originally marketed as a starter home community. It was quickly discovered that the majority, if not all, of the interested buyers were not of the first-time variety but were instead empty nesters. A surprise, as the community was never marketed as active-adult. Due to demand, the product was switched from two-story homes to ranch, and the rest is history. This demonstrates the tremendous pent-up demand for lower priced active-adult housing opportunities in non-core areas. Thus, the term Triple A, or Accidental Active Adult Community.

It is no secret that some of the bestselling communities around the country are age-restricted, active-adult, master-planned communities. Kolter Homes, Del Webb and others have tapped into this market with prices ranging from the mid-$300,000s and up. The secret is that there is possibly an even deeper market for lower-priced, active-adult communities in these same outlying areas.

MarketNSight is focused on helping homebuilders and developers make smart decisions related to purchasing land and pricing product. Its groundbreaking Feasibility Matrix® systemizes the decision-making process and creates a one-stop-shop for gauging new home community feasibility. To learn more or to schedule a demonstration, visit