Take It from a Millennial: This is What We Want from the Housing Market

by Becca Davis | Last Updated: December 6, 2019

So, the love of my life and I are a dirty word in the real estate business—“millennials.” We’re lazy, shiftless, desire instant gratification, and entitled. Or so you say.

And you can guess where we live, right?

No, no! Not in our parent’s basement! Give our parents more credit. We live in one of their three guest bedrooms.

We’re certainly not married, because millennials don’t go in for commitment. We live on our phones, love ice cream coffee drinks, and want to save the earth for art in a rage against the corporate machine; thus, we work at Starbucks and sort of look for other, more stable jobs after our hours on the X-Box.

Right?

Wrong. Dead wrong. My husband and I have been married for years. We don’t have a Facebook account, we eat meat, and we both have Master’s degrees.

However, there are some stereotypes for millennials that are true and that deeply affect the housing market. For example, we married later in life (26 and 29). We have a small mountain of student debt ($70,000). We know how to conduct serious internet research. And while we have “real jobs,” it is true that we’re currently living with my parents.

Why?

It’s because we enjoy freeloading and not having to be the one to call the plumber when the toilet backs up, right? Wrong again. It’s because we lived in Amsterdam for two years for school.

This doesn’t mean a coffeehouse job and a permanent address at our parents’. (Although, true to the stereotype, we both have careers in the creative arts.)

What it actually means is a later start in looking for homes… and we’re not alone. We’re joined by almost a third of our millennial peers in a later interest in marriage and home ownership.

This is good news for you agents and brokers because, now that we millennials are getting older, your long wait will pay off. Sure, the market took a dip while we did other things with our money… like more school. But now, we’re older, more responsible, and more serious about home ownership.

We saved some sweet cash living with mommy and daddy, and if you’re a smart and sensitive agent, you won’t knock it. You’ll know that we now have that cash to throw around—and that a house is just where we’d like to invest.

That’s right. We finally want homes. And here’s what we want:

1) We want to be choosy.

We grew up with the internet. Therefore, access to more information due to our expert use of internet resources means that we’re swamped with more housing choices. We can afford to be choosy, and we appreciate that, since we can’t afford much.

In fact, what’s kept most millennials from the market is affordability more than anything else. Millennials inability to afford their own house is often due to more (and more expensive) education but fewer jobs, not laziness or unwillingness to commit.

Culture is another pressure to be picky about buying a house. The new “do you” attitude culture imprints on us means many of my colleagues and I are pressured to choose a house that “perfectly fits us.” I don’t like to admit the weight of cultural pressure, but the truth is that with so many online resources available, it is rather easy to find, evaluate, and even tour houses without leaving our parents’ houses.

Thus, if you as an agent want to tap into the millennial market, your online presence is critical… and you should plan to have eye-catching photos of your properties ready to attract our attention from the millions of other ads out there.

2) We want room to move.

Now that we can afford a space of our own at last, we really want space. We’re not talking big houses, no. In fact, we pooh-pooh the great, lofty houses of the last generation, with all their wasted rooms.

We only want our smaller houses to feel spacious, which means an open floorplan—especially in the kitchen and living room. These two rooms, made for entertaining family and friends, should bleed into each other and allow for easy access in and out.

No more of this “Wifey is stuck in the kitchen while Hubs is out there having fun with the guests” business. Now, we want eating, drinking, talking, and games to all happen in one place at one time.

3) We want to work from home.

Yes, I literally work from home. However, millennials don’t have to be self-employed to want to get work done at home. Even work for the home, such as paying bills, deciding which electrician to hire, and researching doctors for little Timmy’s tummy trouble is real work, and we want a space to do it.

Enter the home office. Thus, even more important than an unused guest room is a place dedicated to the work of research and planning, whether for paid work or housework.

4) We want to be close to work and to a cultural center.

No, we really don’t want to be out in the boonies (here meaning the suburbs). However, we don’t want to live in the heart of the city either, so please stop pretending like we’re urban crawlers who love the fast-paced day life and the party-all-night, neon-lights night life of the city.

The truth is that millennials prefer to be close to two things: work, and other people. We’d like a nice, easy commute, and we’d like to be able to get to centers of culture and art (museums, zoos, churches, and even grocery stores and Targets) quickly and painlessly.

5) We want technology.

It’s the truth that neither my hubs nor I can stand Facebook, which seems to us like a breeding grounds for insecurity. But it’s also true that we love the modern convenience of our high-tech world, and we’d like to see that technology at work in our home security systems, our cell phone remote-controlled electricity and temperature controls, and our smart TVs.

Just like we’re guessing you’d choose heated seats in a new car if the option were free, millennials will shop around until we can find a house with modern, new technology and appliances for the same price as not… because they’re out there for the finding. More good news for agents: we’d like you to find them for us!

6) We want a house that’s as ready to go as we are.

You’ve waited a long time, but I promise: we’ve waited longer… at least it feels that way. Now that we can finally afford a house, we don’t want one we’ll have to “get ready.”

If we hear that there are repairs needed, we’ll think twice. It’s not that we’re not willing to work hard to repair a house. It’s that we want a house in perfect condition that’s been waiting for us like we’ve been waiting for it.

My husband and I literally don’t have the time or money to fix-up a house. We’ve barely scraped together enough for a down payment, and we don’t want to invest in something that we know will require more time and money than we have.

And there you have it. Are there other things we want? Sure. But these are some nuts and bolts.

The bottom line is that millennials can be stereotypical, as I’ve shown, but the truth is that we all want different things for different reasons.

If you want to know what “millennials” want from the housing market… ask them. They’ll tell you. Just be prepared for a slightly different story for every millennial you ask. After all, we’re as complex and individual as the Gen-Xers and the Baby-Boomers… and all the generations before them!

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