Real Estate: What Young Buyers Want

Millennials are those born between 1980 and 2000, and they are the first generation to completely buck the trend regarding home buyer wants. Gen Xer’s are those born between 1965 and 1979. The latter Gen X’ers and the early Millennials are the segment of the population that home sellers need to appeal to. I’ve learned that a strong majority want a turnkey home.

They want to spend their weekends with family and friends having experiences…they do not want to spend time renovating. There are a few creative types that would like to put their own stamp on a home, but they are a definite minority.

Here, I’ve outlined the current high demand priorities in the western suburbs of Boston. (click to expand)

1. Updated Kitchens and Baths


The foremost reason young buyers want this feature is because they haven’t saved enough money after the down payment to afford new kitchens and baths. In my experience, this generation is the first group of buyers unwilling or disinterested in waiting and tackling the renovation themselves. My clients have expressed their desire to have finished updates before moving in. To note, white kitchens are the most requested asset in our area (it doesn’t mean you won’t sell, but it’s a common complaint). Another vital touch is that bathrooms be thoroughly cleaned (eg. companies can steam clean your grout and shower door). Painting, changing a dated plumbing fixture and replacing lighting are inexpensive ways to spruce up a bathroom.

2. Open Floor Plan

The kitchen is the new living room. Buyers want an open floor plan that easily transitions from kitchen, living and dining room. The kitchen is now the hangout room (even in my own house). Formal entertaining is out, and so is the living room. Younger buyers are more drawn to an open concept than a layout that compartmentalizes the home, mostly due to how entertaining has evolved into more of a shared experience.

3. Home Office

Currently about 14.5 million Americans work from home and they want a dedicated office. Home offices have immeasurable appeal. I can’t remember the last time I showed a buyer houses that an office was not on their must have list, even for baby boomers who are downsizing. Most buyers do not want an office/guest bedroom, even buyers who have an office sometimes work from home. Almost everyone uses their laptops at home to get work done. Stay at home parents probably answer more emails and schedule more events than a party planner.

4. Location

Location has a different meaning than it used to. Location used to mean “the best part of town.” The best location is no longer just what is considered the chic, upscale part of town. The best location means close to transportation, shops, theater, and restaurants. Young buyers see location differently from their parents. Commuting time definitely outweighs the big yard.

5. Technology

Technology is critically important. Buyers want the latest internet cable installed. A common question is, “Is the house wired for internet?” A strong or weak mobile signal is checked at almost every house. This generation does not own a landline and the ability to make and receive calls is imperative, especially when 14.5 million Americans work at home. I’ve had buyers tell me that they won’t look in certain neighborhoods or towns because of bad signal.

6. Mudroom

Here in the Northeast, buyers want a mudroom and are willing to pay for them! It doesn’t have to be huge, but a place for muddy boots and wet shoes is a plus.

Those are the big ones. Buyers ask about energy efficiency all the time, but I’m not sure most are ready to pay for it. Almost all buyers want new(er) windows, however, not all replacement windows are created equal. Sometimes the original windows and good quality storms are more energy and sound efficient. At this moment in time, I don’t see energy efficiency as one of the top selling features (though younger buyers appear to understand insulation, energy efficient appliances and HVAC systems). Low maintenance is also on the wish list, but in my view this gets caught up with what a buyer believes to be attractive. Durable countertops and wood floors are on most Must Have’s but I think that speaks more to a buyer’s sense of style. Vinyl siding is hot button; in less expensive homes it is viewed as desirable but they are the bane of existence in a high-end home. Azec is extremely popular in high end homes due to its similarity to wood and is maintenance free, although very expensive.

If you’re thinking about selling your home, there are things to do besides redoing your kitchen and baths. Declutter – and I mean declutter – you are moving, therefore consider it a jump start in the packing and donating process. Paint is the simplest and most cost-effective thing you can do to prepare your house for a sale. A coat of paint transforms a room! If you’re serious about attracting young buyers, you must be concerned about digital photography – 94% of buyers begin and end their search online even if they have a realtor (91% of real estate transactions are done through realtors). Buyers of any age look at the listings that hit their inbox every morning. Roughly 75% of them will start some type of search as soon as they see the listing. This could entail a google search of the home, school assessment and investigating transportation. Half of my buyers do a drive-by as soon as they can. To make your home competitive, photos must present your house in its best light. They should be done by a professional photographer who understands the nuances of light without using wide angle lenses and airbrushing to make the home seem better.

The impact that HGTV has had on the home buying and selling process is profound. The good news is, it has educated buyers in the process of renovating. It also aids a seller to see what today’s buyer is searching for. It helps realtors because sellers have a better understanding of what is required to get the house ready. That said, HGTV has shaped buyers’ expectations in a variety of unrealistic ways. There’s a reason everyone wants a white kitchen and baths and shiplap. The way these shows are produced, as you likely know, the timelines and budgets for the showcased renovations can’t be achieved in our reality. I’ve had buyers say that they’d be embarrassed to have friends over with the condition of the kitchen (they aren’t your friends!) and could they redo if for 15K? No, but you can do a lot of enhancing with 15K. Staging a house helps, though I think decluttering and painting is more important than new furniture. Realtors have an obligation to point out that the furniture doesn’t come with the house and instead they need to help the buyer imagine their own furniture in the new home. HGTV is here to stay, the good, the bad and the ugly.

I’d love to hear what are the most important Must Haves for you!

This guest post contributed by:

Margaret Szerlip


Email: Mobile:  617.921.6860

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Author: Margaret Szerlip

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