The media is fond of painting with broad strokes, less than willing to get into the nuances of generational differences that are not sound-bite friendly or capable of garnering ratings via raw chair-throwing controversy. However, the much-bashed Millennials (1980-1999) are entering the home market in numbers, though later than their Boomer (1946-1964) and GenX (1965-1979) relatives. Coming of age with student loan debt, entering the recessionary job market, and underemployed for a significant period, the generation once derided as living in their parents’ basement and working dead-end jobs have moved into adulthood with the same milestones as previous generations. They are still undertaking marriage, family, and home-buying – just in their late 20s and early 30s – after a significant period of journalistic handwringing about “Generation Selfie.”
Predictably, the younger generation has a wish list, shaped by seeing the recession smack down an era of excess that was hallmarked by McMansions, Hummers, and egregious mortgages just because, and taken a turn for smaller, more sensible homes that are light on the maintenance, heavy on the features, greener and leaner. The Boston Globe notes that lack of ready cash and less free time shapes the desire to do more with less. Building for Millennials relies less on media room, walk-in closets, and three car garages than it does on flexibility, efficiency, and organization. Here are some items from the Millennial home wish lists that builders should get behind.
- Laundry room. A NAHB survey shows that a whopping 55 percent said that they wouldn’t buy a home without one.
- Storage replaces space, with garage storage, pantries, and linen closets that organize stuff.
- Energy efficiency such as Energy Star certified windows and appliances brings two to three percent more to the purchase price – but only if it makes a difference in the utility bills.
- In a pre-owned home, Millennials want updated kitchens and baths already in place. These are expensive improvements, and if they are not in place, they are going to expect a corresponding chunk out of the asking price.
- Open floor plans with flexible spaces. The kitchen and family room are the center of the home, but not the cavernous “great rooms” of the late 90s and early 00s. The emphasis is on a lack of formality and flexibility. Formal dining room? That’s so grandma’s house.
- Connectivity counts. A house can have every item on the list, but the make or break can be a 3G versus 4G-LTE signal. Mobile devices and the availability of high-speed broadband are very important factors for a generation that lives with phones and tablets, and eschews cable for Hulu, Netflix, and other streaming services. For that matter, it’s important to the parents of the up-and-coming Generation Z.
Different generations have different priorities, and the late recession and sluggish recovery reshaped the way that people want from their homes. Ageing Boomers are looking for senior-friendly homes now that the nest is empty, while GenX’ers bring their GenZ kids along and look for trends more in line with Millennials. Builders servicing the high end and older demographic are facing sluggish sales, while savvier builders understand that selling six $250,000 houses is better than selling one $1,000,000 house and getting with the program.