The New Kids on the Block

Catering to the millennial homebuyer means redefining the word altogether

By ZACK JOHNSTON

The generation that came of age during the housing crisis is now the market’s prime buyer. Developers are recognizing that changes are needed in order to attract, sell, and cater to younger customers looking for a more permanent domain.

However, constructing the ideal millennial home is not the easiest task.

This demographic of homebuyers is at a point where it consists of first-timers having just left the nest, as well as young professionals looking to upgrade, all within this same subset of young adults.

It’s not just that the market is diverse; post-recession buyers also seek to redefine the word “home” in their own terms. The needs and values of younger homeowners are changing, and it’s forcing industry leaders to think on their feet and be creative in their developments.

The industry is continuously responding to shifting trends and emerging markets. Developers are actively figuring out how the younger buyer is balancing quality with quantity, and also staying privy to what those words even mean to the millennial homeowner.

A quality home is one that adds practicality, efficiency, and beauty to daily life. Buyers are not interested in tired-out designs and amenities that don’t reflect their lifestyles’. Features encouraging community interaction and more simplistic design approaches take the cake over traditional curb appeal or prestigious zip codes any day.

And when it comes to quantities that matter most, they are less impressed with square footage than they are affordability and amount of resource consumption.

This only scratches the surface of what makes building this generation’s homes such a tricky undertaking. Economic factors affect about every decision the average millennial makes, and housing is no exception. Developers must deliver on affordability while constructing nuanced and sophisticated spaces.

 

If You Build it, They Will Come

The ultimate goal of any home should be to create a space for life’s precious moments. For such a wide ranging demographic, it’s crucial for designers and architects to consider what those moments are and how a proper home facilitates them.

Wi-Fi connectivity throughout the home’s devices is clearly becoming where we set the bar for convenience and practicality, but is it conducive to building that proper home experience?

The complaint millennials hear most is toward our wretched technology obsession and our broken social fabric, however, this is a narrow standpoint that ignores the larger picture.

Tech industries that have rapidly produced advancements, sometimes having to wait for markets to catch up in demand. With housing we see a bit of the opposite. Millennials have been making their way into the housing market for some time, but many are still waiting for the industry to catch up with them.

Young buyers want spaces to interact and build connections; they just want it to make sense for them. A project can have all the bells and whistles, but not leaving room (physically and metaphorically) for those precious moments can mean the difference between making a house and a home.

We’re seeing these ideas manifested in developments with more open, urban-inspired floor plans and public amenities that actually create a more sociable lifestyle, regardless of age group.

“Community events and services are the top drivers of resident retention, but they cannot be one-size-fits-all,” according to Melissa Delgado, Vice President of Asset Management at Cityview. “Millennials in family-focused communities respond well to social events that incorporate children, while other demographics prefer karaoke competitions or yoga on the roof.”

 

Less is More

No demographic seems to take the issue of resource scarcity to heart more than millennials. Young people are leading the call to address environmental impacts, and home developers are smart to be listening. The idea of owning a larger, more wasteful home simply doesn’t make sense anymore – for our environment or our wallets.

These buyers have injected a healthy dose of pragmatism into this industry. The growing consequences of climate change and wasteful practices can be seen as an opportunity to make necessary changes, while helping out the buyer on affordability and value. With concerns of an economic downturn looming, younger buyers especially want to know that their money isn’t going to waste – literally.

This buyer wants to see a conscience effort made toward using sustainable, healthy building materials. They want to see homes where electricity and water are not guzzled down each day, and where residents can stay actively engaged in community and individual wellness.

And even if overall building costs run high, thoughtful inclusion of wellness features combined with the savings from reduced energy consumption can make for an overall greater value to the millennial buyer.

 

Zack Johnston is as Assistant Editor for Builder and Developer Magazine. He can be reached at zack@penpubinc.com.

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