News of the World | If you build it, they’ll stay; boomers remodel their homes

Zach Tyson, owner of Tyson Construction

If you build it, they will stay. The small businesses that dominate the home remodeling industry are expecting robust growth in the next few years, thanks partly to baby boomers who want to remain in their homes.

Home remodelers say they’ve had a pickup in projects from boomers who are in or approaching retirement and are seeking to modify their houses. It’s a trend known as “aging in place,” an alternative to moving to smaller quarters or a warmer climate.

Many of these homeowners are hoping to make their surroundings easier to manage and safer in case they have health problems.

They’re replacing bathtubs with walk-in showers, installing safety rails, widening doorways and building ramps — features known as “universal design” since they can be used by anyone, regardless of physical ability. Boomers are also redoing their kitchens and sprucing up other areas — since they’re staying put, they want to enjoy their surroundings.

Zach Tyson estimates that 30 to 40 percent of his revenue is now coming from boomer renovations, up from 15 to 20 percent five years ago. Most of the projects come from homeowners who are healthy and mobile now, but want to be prepared if illness or injury hits.

Besides making bathrooms safer, they’re enlarging rooms so wheelchairs or walkers can be used more easily, and also to give the rooms a more open feel.

“It’s trending up, for sure,” says Tyson, co-owner of Tyson Construction in Destrehan, Louisiana.

The oldest of the 76.4 million boomers, the U.S. generation born after World War II, are turning 71 this year. As more of them retire and make decisions about where they want to live, there will be a great need for accessible housing, according to a report released in February by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies.

“A large share of these households live in older homes in the Northeast and Midwest, where the housing stocks have few if any universal design features,” the study said.

The report predicts home improvement spending by homeowners 65 and older will account for nearly a third of the total amount of remodeling dollars by 2025, more than twice the portion that group spent in 1995-2005. Owners age 55 and over already account for just over half of all home improvement spending.

“The boomer activity seems to be driving the market,” says Abbe Will, a research analyst at the Harvard center.

That’s a change from the past, when older homeowners generally handled maintenance, repairs and landscaping but tended not to renovate. And some of the boomer-driven remodeling is coming from younger homeowners who expect their parents might later come to live with them and want to be ready, Tyson says.

The requests Tiffany and Bryan Peters get from boomer customers include replacing traditional turning doorknobs with lever handles that can be pushed down. Homeowners want motion-sensor light switches and faucets, and non-slip flooring. In bathrooms, they’re replacing fixtures with models that are designed for people with disabilities — showers than can accommodate wheelchairs, and toilets at the same height as wheelchairs, Tiffany Peters says.

“We’ve definitely experienced an increase in requests for aging-in-place work,” says Peters, who with her husband owns a Handyman Connection franchise business in Winchester, Virginia. “We get several requests a month.”

Home remodeling companies began seeing an increase in boomer spending about 18 months ago and expect it to contribute to their growth in the next few years, says Fred Ulreich, CEO of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, a trade group.

“We see this as something that is dramatically affecting the marketplace,” Ulreich says.

Boomers typically live in homes that are several decades old, prime targets for remodeling, Ulreich says. Unless they move to a brand-new home that’s designed for aging in place, their decision is likely to mean remodeling.

Some remodeling companies are specifically marketing to boomers, sending salespeople to trade expos and events those customers are likely to attend.

Miracle Method, a franchise business that refinishes kitchens and bathrooms, has increased its outreach to boomers, says Erin Gilliam, the company’s marketing manager. Franchise owners say much of the 11 percent growth in the franchise’s overall business in the past year was driven by boomers, she says.

Gilliam’s husband, Gabriel, sees the trend in the franchise he owns in Salt Lake City. He estimates that revenue from boomers has risen between 10 and 20 percent, and the growth is prompting him to hire more workers. He has five staffers now, having added one per month the past three months, and expects to reach 10 in the next year.

“I’m hiring as quickly as I can,” he says. Joyce M. Rosenberg, AP, New York

Las Vegas draws more millennial, first-time visitors

The U.S. gambling mecca’s efforts to draw millennials and new visitors are paying off.

A third of Las Vegas tourists last year were millennials — those between 18 to 35 — up from less than a quarter in 2015, according to a report commissioned by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and released Wednesday.

The increase in younger visitors is undoubtedly good news to the destination that has been adding attractions to remain relevant to a generation not as fond of gambling as their elders.

The data also showed that 27 percent of the city’s 42.9 million visitors in 2016 were first-timers.

So, who came to Sin City and what did they do? Here’s a profile of average visitors:

HOW OLD ARE YOU?

The city set a record for visitation in 2016, though the number of baby boomers dropped to 28 percent from 35 percent in 2015. Generation X visitors made up 35 percent of tourists, down 1 percent, while millennial travelers increased to 34 percent from 24 percent a year earlier.

“The product that we have now really appeals to millennials,” said Bo Bernhard, director of the International Gaming Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and a noted scholar on gambling and hospitality in Las Vegas. “Nightclubs are like theater to millennials. They are experiencing a very different Las Vegas than their grandparents.”

Take MGM Resorts International, which several years ago created a committee dedicated to reimagining the gaming experience with the millennial demographic in mind.

The company recently opened an interactive and skill-based gaming social venue at the MGM Grand that is essentially a hybrid bar, arcade and gambling lounge. The company has hosted e-sports tournaments and even released a set of emojis in December.

“We’ve created dining destinations that are social and engaging and created food and beverage experiences ideal for sharing socially,” said Jenn Michaels, MGM’s senior vice president of public relations. “And, of course, we are looking at our gaming floors and identifying how those can evolve to appeal to today’s traveler.”

NEW TOURISTS

The increase of first-time visitors is comparable to the level Las Vegas experienced in the mid-1990s, the report said. It attributed the renewed interest to the recovery of the national economy, an increase in millennials who discovered the city and the reinvestment by hotels and others on new experiences and activities.

“Indeed, it is quite possible that the varied and targeted entertainment options and related venues currently in Las Vegas have served to attract new visitors to the destination much the same as the ‘new’ megaresorts did in the 1990s,” according to the report by GLS Research, a San Francisco-based public opinion and market research firm.

Its data is based on information volunteered by 3,600 random tourists polled during 2016. Ninety-one percent of visitors said they would recommend Las Vegas to others.

HITTING THE CASINO FLOOR

The number of visitors who gambled during their trip has remained at about 7 in 10 over the past five years, the data show. But gamblers are spending a lot less time on the casino floor.

Last year, visitors spent an average of 1.9 hours gambling, that’s an hour less than in 2015 and more than 2 hours less than two decades ago.

“They are spending more time enjoying the non-gaming amenities,” said Kevin Bagger, executive director of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s research center.

Those other activities include day club-nightclubs, concerts, shows and sports events.

WHERE ARE YOU FROM?

The report says 81 percent of visitors came from within the U.S., down 3 percent from 2015. Meanwhile, the number of foreign visitors rose 3 percent from 2015, returning to the 19 percent seen in 2014.

About half of U.S. tourists were from Western states, with the majority coming from California. Regina Garcia Cano, AP, Las Vegas


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