The Millennial Effect
Published in the Park Record's Home Magazine, pages 54-59
By Beth Rinehart
It has become a reality: The fun-loving, selfie-taking, phone-hooked generation known as ‘Millennials’ can afford homes. While some people may still think of them as young kids, they’re all grown up—and they are becoming homeowners. Millennials — those born post 1980 through the early 2000s — are moving out of their childhood homes and forming their own households. Millennials now make up 42 percent of all homebuyers and 56 percent of the nation’s first-time homebuyers. They are a dominant force in the housing market, and according to a recent Pew Research Center report, have surpassed the baby boomers as the largest living generation.
Many Millennials experienced, firsthand, the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression. During the downturn, many of them graduated from college, entered the job market, and discovered that finding a job proved to be exceedingly difficult. Although the housing bubble contributed to the decline of the stock market in the late 2000s, studies have shown that currently Millennials are the most enthusiastic generation in relation to real estate, and they are turning away from stocks, because they believe real estate is a more profitable investment.
“Millennials are showing especially strong increases in job confidence and income gains, a necessary precursor for increased housing demand from first-time homebuyers,” says Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae, in a CNBC report by Diana Olick.
This strong sense of financial gain and confidence in the real estate market bodes well for the continuing trend of Millennials settling down and purchasing homes.
What Millennials Want
As Millennials become homeowners, it’s important for sellers (and investors) to know what they are looking for in a home.
“Millennials want simplicity and convenience,” says Will Cooper, President of Business Development at Berkshire Hathaway Utah Properties, and the father of four Millennials. “Turn-key homes that are close to work and their friends. Millennials are typically climbing the career ladder, have high student loan debt, and can’t afford to make updates on their homes.”
Since most Millennial homebuyers have tight budgets due to college costs and constricted salary increases, the majority of their savings goes toward purchasing their homes. Updated kitchens and bathrooms provide a vast advantage for budget-conscious Millennials. Most Millennial buyers are happy to make some updates to their homes, but they realize the kitchen and bathrooms are the most expensive to renovate.
There are a few “must haves” on most Millennial homebuyers’ lists; at the top are location, open and multifunctional spaces, low maintenance properties and technologically efficient, green, sustainable homes. They follow current trends, in that they prefer open floor plans and space for entertaining, as opposed to sectioned-off kitchen, living, and dining rooms.
If there’s one room they are looking for, it’s a home office. With an increasing number of companies moving out of corporate offices and into work-from-home spaces, having a dedicated work area is important for Millennials.
Additional sought-after items include: smart home features, energy efficiency and low or no homeowner association dues. Because they use cell phones constantly, most Millennials see value in the ability to control their homes with their phones. Home value may increase or diminish, based on cell signals inside the home or available internet providers.
The manner in which Millennials search for homes is also changing; the majority search for homes on their phones, tablets or computers. Online photos essential in capturing the interest of a Millennial. Without professional photos showing the home in its best light, many Millennials will move on before ever stepping foot in the door. But, once they’re interested in a home, they rely on the expertise of their local Realtor® to decipher often inaccurate, or incomplete, information found on the internet.
Due to the “reality TV effect,” they are more likely to notice and comment on whether or not a home has been staged or decorated. Millennials expect a home to look as though it could be featured in the “after” shots of a HGTV program.
So if you want your home to appeal to the Millennial generation—with their cellphone in one hand and a venti-no-foam-extra-shot-almond-milk latte in the other — think contemporary, think technological, think green, and think: Designer Home Show ready.