By: Wendy Gould
According to NAR’s 2023 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends study, first-time homebuyers make up about one-quarter of the market. The elder and younger millennials and Gen-Z generations comprise this market section. It’s particularly exciting to see Gen-Z make their way into the market, said Dr. Jessica Lautz, NAR deputy chief economist and vice president of research, in a press release, and it’s thought that the generation’s impact will increase in coming years. With a decent share of young buyers in the market, it’s essential to understand what features in a home appeal to them.
For example, while curb appeal matters for all, there’s a noted boom among millennials for backyard spaces that serve as an extension of homes. Luxury laundry rooms are another example; what was once a purely functional “hideaway” space is now a key draw for this generation.
We tapped a handful of experts to understand better what home features speak to younger buyers most.
Smart Home Technology
Millennials and Gen-Zn grew up with technology, and it remains a constant in their lives, from their devices to their cars. That said, a home equipped with smart technology is understandably alluring. Think thermostats, doorbells, cameras, and keyless entries.
“They want to be able to set their alarm, control their lights, adjust the AC, check their outdoor cameras and do everything else from their smartphone,” says Sam Sawyer, CEO of cloud brokerage Pinnacle Realty Advisors. “Even if the home has other attractive features that buyers want in this market, [we’ve found that] a home without smart home functionality gets cut from the shopping list pretty quickly.”
Sawyer stresses the importance of incorporating these features into new builds to appeal to this younger home-buying demographic. They can also be added to existing homes relatively inexpensively.
Livable Outdoor Spaces
As millennials establish families, their priorities are centered around fostering a lifestyle that allows for convenience and happy memory-making. Embracing living spaces that foster well-being is another driver of this trend, as is a desire to have a place for pets to roam safely. The pandemic prompted a serious return to nature as a means of improving mental health as well, and the younger demographics want this amenity at home.
“Gardens, outdoor spaces and backyards are the most desirable amenities in real estate in the last couple of years,” notes Ana Maria Torres, founder and principal at NYC-based At Architects.
Yards are getting the full treatment, as well, virtually transforming them into additional living space complete with lighting, furniture and even cooking areas. According to the National Association of Homebuilders, 2022 saw a notable jump in demand for outdoor amenities such as patios, decks and porches.
A designated home office is of significant appeal for younger buyers, as many plan to do at least a portion of their work from home moving forward. This can look like everything from a closet converted into a working space to a multitasking bedroom to a detached space.
Staging a room in the house as a home office can help buyers imagine themselves using the home in a way that best serves their needs. On the other hand, when showing a listing to your buyer, it can be beneficial to highlight areas easily repurposed as a workstation or office.
Buyers have seen an overall decrease in home size, likely due to surging interest rates and the escalation of home prices. However, the bathroom is a space younger buyers are less apt to compromise on.
“In New York City specifically, where space is limited, the one surprising room that [we’re seeing] millennials gravitate toward is a large bathroom,” notes Alyssa Brody, co-founder of Development Marketing Team, a data-enabled real estate sales and marketing firm.
Recently, she had a condo sitting on the market with limited showing requests and decided to dig into why. After digging into some data, she discovered that the listing’s key demographic— millennials—were most interested in the unit’s large bathroom. She says, “As soon as I replaced my marketing materials with a beautiful shot of the bathroom, I received four showing requests and an offer within the same week.”
Luxury Laundry Rooms
For older generations, laundry rooms were purely utilitarian hideaway spaces. They were often small, undesigned spaces where you spent as little time as possible. Today’s younger buyers, however, consider beautiful laundry rooms a must-have. The National Association of HomeBuilders says laundry rooms will remain one of the most popular home features in 2023 for first-time and repeat buyers. High-quality washer and dryer units, built-in storage, counter space and an intentionally-designed room are particularly appealing.
Young buyers, especially millennials, travel often and are invested in extracurriculars, which translates to a need for space to store their belongings.
“Storage space in the home is making a huge comeback in the millennial home-buying market. Many millennials don’t like having an off-site storage unit, so they increasingly wish they had a dedicated storage area in their homes that was organized or had shelving for organization,” notes Sawyer.
While attics and garages offer some space, he says that a dedicated at-home storage unit or detached storage shed has been surprising on client wish lists in the last two years.
Wendy Rose Gould is a veteran freelance lifestyle reporter based in Phoenix, Arizona. She covers home, travel, and wellness for outlets such as Martha Stewart Living, Real Simple, Insider, TODAY, and others. Wendy received her journalism degree from Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and has a second bachelor’s degree in philosophy. You can learn more about her at wendygould.com and follow her on Instagram @wendyrgould.