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November 2019

Builders compare generational differences in "What Home Buyers Really Want" report

November 7, 2019

Millennials desire outdoor activity spaces. This demographic also values walkability and accessibility to retail spaces, according to a survey by the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB).

In its latest "What Home Buyers Really Want" report, NAHB asked prospective and recent home buyers to rate 175 home- and community-related features using a four-tier scale (essential/must have, desirable, indifferent, and do not want).

Millennials - who range in age from 23 to 39 years old - differ from their older cohorts consisting of Generation X, Baby Boomers, and Seniors in severable significant ways:

  • 71% rated a park area as an essential/must have or desirable feature.
  • Growing numbers of millennials prefer new homes built for sale rather than custom-built homes.
  • Since 2007, they've expressed an increasing preference for living in the central city, rising from 6% in 2007 to 23% in 2018.
  • More and more millennials prefer two full master suites and one standard bedroom, instead of one master and three standards.
  • 66% of millennials want to be located near retail space, the third most popular community feature behind a park area and walking/jogging trails.

When asked about the most wanted features in their home, millennials listed laundry room at the top of their list, with 86% ranking it desirable or essential. Close behind were hardwood front exterior, patio, garage storage, walk-in pantry, exterior lighting, and a ceiling fan.

Least-wanted features for millennials include an elevator, cork flooring in main living spaces, a wine cellar, laminate countertop, golf course, and high density community.

Among millennials the 10 most desired community features are:

  1. Park area (71% ranked it as essential/must have or desirable)
  2. Walking/jogging trails (68%)
  3. Near retail space (66%)
  4. Playgrounds (65%)
  5. Walkable community [with walkways connecting homes, shopping, public spaces and transportation] (64%)
  6. Swimming pool (63%)
  7. Typically suburban [all single-family detached houses] (60%)
  8. Access to public transportation (54%)
  9. Outdoor maintenance service (52%)
  10. Gated to control access (52%)

Researchers found sharp differences when comparing generations and their most- and least-desired community features. The widest gaps between millennials and seniors were for playgrounds, daycare center, baseball or soccer fields, other mixed use (proximity to office or commercial buildings) and bikeshare/carshare services.

Survey respondents were also asked about environmental concerns. In 2007, 40% of millennials stated they wanted an environment friendly home, but would not pay more for it. In 2018, that portion dropped to 33%. The number of millennials who indicated concern about the environment but said it was not a consideration in a house purchase grew from 27% in 2007 to 34% in 2018.

The research also revealed millennials' growing preference for rooms intended for a particular purpose, such as exercise or gaming; built-in kitchen seating and other kitchen features, and particular bathroom features like his & her baths, and dressing/make-up areas.

NAHB said its data show that builders are trying to respond to the crisis around housing affordability, in part by shrinking a home's size. In 2018, the average sized home declined to 2,576 square feet, down from its peak at 2,689 square feet in 2015. The shift is driven in part by increased production of townhouses, which comprised 14 percent of new home starts.  

The 2019 edition of What Home Buyers Really Want totals 300 pages, including preferences for hundreds of items broken down by generation, by geography, first-time vs. repeat buyer, household composition, race, income and price expected to pay for the home.