MCA-To Spur Home Sales, Mind Millennial Buying Habits-1

After a long wait due to the Great Recession, Millennials are hitting their stride and buying homes. And it’s not just those more settled and on the older end of this generational spectrum. More than 90 percent of all Millennials want to own a house, according to the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB). And when they do, they seek more space than they had in apartments, cool features and the ultimate plum: equity!

Given their epic numbers and notoriously detailed wants, developers need to mind millennial buying habits. The generation is already a driving force in commercial interior design, where their desires influence the community spaces, amenities and model home interiors we design for developments.  But here’s what we believe this means for homebuilders, since our research and field experience tells us that Millennials want to have it all.

Why Millennials Matter
At 75.4 million-strong in the U.S. alone, Millennials are the largest generation to ever live and have overtaken the Baby Boomers who spawned them, Pew notes. But numbers are just part of the story. More useful is understanding that Millennials are never content doing things the way their parents did.

Now that Millennials have started to purchase suburban homessurpassing renting for the first time in a decade, reports the Wall Street Journal. Their buying habits are shaking up the home front. Case in point: builders and developers are constructing homes at lower price points to meet demand, but results bear little resemblance to traditional starter homes.

Instead, Millennials like to live with the latest amenities, conduct business as entrepreneurs over the Internet, work in the open rather than in Dilbert-style corporate cubicle, and entertain casually. So it’s critical to design layouts, size of rooms and all the extras such as number of outlets and seamless indoor-outdoor connections for them and more.

Size Tops the Wish List
Homes may be shrinking nationwide with the average at 2,202 sq. ft., according to NAHB data. But after making do with small apartments in multifamily buildings, Millennials want something different. They crave space, and as a result the average square footage of homes targeted to this market has climbed to 2,375 sq. ft.

Furthermore, the square footage is loaded with the crème de la crème as Millennials hopscotch over starter homes to land designs with at least four bedrooms, a master bathroom shower and tub, hardwood floors and outdoor space with lighting, reports Builder magazine.

Personalizing Decor is Key
Cookie-cutter designs are out. Millennials want neutral backgrounds to add their imprint to, whether it’s collectibles from their frequent adventure travels, kitchens with ample counter space to prep healthy meals, or appliances and building systems for good environmental stewardship. Also essential: some movie-star bling, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.

To reach this highly visual, tactile group, know the importance of model home interiors that display the Millennial mantra. It is critical to get those spaces right, since one-third of Millennials make an offer without first seeing a home in person. They’re busy, and also know that there’s an inventory shortage. They have no time to procrastinate, online-based real estate firm Redfin notes. The model home interiors and communal spaces we design don’t just drive traffic to an online listing but often spur sales.

Develop a Triple-Win Strategy
To reach Millennials who set their design bars high, demand the ultimate in function from their homes and shop for homes online, as mentioned above, model home interiors must be designed to spur conversion from afar.  This is no easy feat, as we noted in our most recent article in Builder and Developer magazine (add link when piece is posted on B+D). From our experience, we have found it pays to keep these three principles in mind when designing homes for this generation:

  • Offer them unsurpassed value. Millennials will pay extra but require a high return on investment (ROI), including choices that pair maintenance, conserve natural resources, are healthy and reflect the latest technology.
  • Make every space multitask. Generous, open square footage encourages socialability for a generation with thousands of Facebook friends. But flexibility needs to be built in for different uses such as technological efficiency with proper wiring and outlets, as well as programmable lighting, heating and cooling for a single person or many and more.
  • Put Authenticity at the core. Millennials value experience—from food and travel over possessions, but at home they want their belongings to be singular, intriguing and artisanal rather than what’s ho-hum. Six-in-10 Millennial respondents to a survey said that having a home that’s a reflection of me is more important to them than to their parents generation, according to a Better Homes and Gardens survey.

But here’s the final kicker. As they settle in, we know from experience that the only thing that’s guaranteed about this cohort is that Millennials enthusiastically embrace change. Stay tuned for their next iterations.

Mary Cook & Josh Kassing

Written By

Mary Cook & Josh Kassing

Founder and President of Mary Cook Associates (MCA)