Appealing to the First-Time Buyer

Simplistic designs, high-quality finishes, and noteworthy amenities help to meet the wants and needs of the new millennial buyer


When we’re buying a home – whether it is our first or fourth purchase – what we’re all looking for at the end of the day is a connection. We’re looking for something in a home that speaks to who we are and how we want to live. That’s true across all generations.

It’s only natural that builders and developers are looking at how to appeal to millennials in particular, given that for the last five years, this demographic has held the highest share of home buying activity, making up just over a third of all home purchases, according to the National Association of Realtors® 2018 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends study.

There is no single way to convert millennials from renters to buyers. It’s about understanding what that particular buyer in that particular location wants, and then designing with those factors in mind.

By simplifying the design and creating high-quality finish packages and compelling amenity spaces, builders and developers can hit the sweet spot of desirability and affordability for the millennial homebuyer.


Simplify the Design

When working within a smaller, more cost-effective footprint, the simpler the floor plan, the better. Open floor plans with cleaner finish palettes help create the illusion of more space. They also mimic the functionality and ease of living that the millennial buyer has become accustomed to in urban apartment living.

For LIVE at Downtown Superior, built by Wonderland Homes in Denver, the footprint was highly efficient, both from a cost and functionality standpoint.

With an open concept layout, millennials can also more easily customize the space to fit their lifestyle. Using a blank canvas for this same model, we were able to create an urban vibe in this suburban setting with the addition of a brick wall in the great room and custom artwork that reflected the Colorado lifestyle. To visually expand the volume of the ceiling, we incorporated a simplified trim detail to add interest to the stairwell and again in the main dining area to add texture and a sense of drama. A conscious decision was also made to use expanded cabinets that draw the eye up in the smaller-than-average kitchen. We customized the merchandising of the model to make it specific to the particular location and buyer profile.


Create High-Quality Finishes Packages

Streamlining the design and finish packages addresses another trend we are seeing across demographics: the desire to live a simpler yet thoughtfully designed life. In this instance, having fewer choices isn’t a negative; it’s a matter of taking one more stress factor out of homebuyers’ lives.

Historically, buyers have had to visit a design studio that showcased an overwhelming number of finishes. Today, we’re seeing more builders and developers offering a select package of carefully chosen, high-quality finishes. By focusing on the elements that stand out the most, you can bridge the gap between the cost and quality this buyer is looking for in their home.

TRIO developed three different finish packages for Shea Homes on their Crescendo community in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. These packages were urbanized, exciting, and innovative for the marketplace – a truly visionary approach to the traditional buying process with a production builder. We were then able to curate the merchandising around those finishes with the specific goal of attracting this younger buyer.

For this particular client, we developed a design aesthetic that would attract the Millennial demographic while keeping the home prices down. From October through December 2017, Crescendo saw double (sometimes triple) the number of visitors the builder’s other collections were receiving at that time and they’re selling an average of five homes per month, year to date.


Elevate the Amenities

Creating a community at the intersection of desirability and affordability that will appeal to the millennial buyer can be challenging Compared to their older counterparts, they’ve been renting for much longer and they’re used to amenity-rich apartment living.

Amenity spaces are taking on a new level of significance. These are not the typical clubhouses that double as event spaces, with perhaps a pool. From coffee shops and bars to co-working spaces, they are still attracted to the things they loved about dense, urban living, even if they’re relocating outside the hustle and bustle of a downtown area.

The trends we are seeing in urban multifamily amenity spaces are making their way into the amenity design for master-planned communities.

To appeal to this buyer, homebuilders are wise to pay attention to their lifestyles and create spaces that resonate with their values and can also enhance their excitement of this new phase of life.

Starting with the foundation of simple design, high-quality finishes and well-conceived amenities package is a great start to position- ing builders for success with a new generation of buyers.

Angela Harris is the CEO and Principal of TRIO, an award-winning, market-driven, full-service interior design firm. To learn more, please visit