Generational preferences affect many areas of our lives. While more senior folks may catch up with a telephone conversation, their younger counterparts often use texting for the same purpose. Likewise, older Americans may look forward to the weekly ritual of watching a favorite television program while the youngsters enjoy binge-watching an entire season in a single sitting.
A person’s age can also influence what he or she is looking for in a new house. Teasing out home buyer choice by generation was the focus of a recent NAHB study, “Housing Preferences of the Boomer Generation: How They Compare to Other Home Buyers.” The study examines how design, location, features, and size factor into a consumer’s decision to purchase a house—and how this varies by generation.
In this study, NAHB surveyed more than 4,300 recent and prospective home buyers nationwide. We then tabulated results for home buyers as a single group and also across four generations: millennials (born 1980 or later), Gen Xers (born 1965–1979), baby boomers (born 1946–1964), and seniors (born 1945 or earlier).
The study found many striking variances among the age groups, including the size of the home they want. According to the study, millennial and Gen X buyers prefer residences larger than 2,300 square feet, while boomers and seniors want homes under 1,900 square feet. The younger groups also want a house larger than what they have now, while their elders either like their current home size or want to downsize.
With regard to the number of bedrooms, more than 40% of millennials and Gen Xers want at least four bedrooms, compared with only 20% of boomers and seniors. Meanwhile, about half of the older cohorts would rather have three bedrooms. Boomers and seniors are also more likely than Gen Xers and millennials not to want two-story foyers and family rooms.
The generational groups show some similarities—but also differences—in what features they want in their houses. For example, Energy Star–rated appliances are popular among all groups, but millennials ranked these features somewhat lower than did Gen Xers, boomers, and seniors. In addition, millennials were the only ones who put three outdoor spaces—a deck, a patio, and a front porch—on their top 10 list. In general, however, more than 80% of buyers overall want to see high insulation, a laundry room, garage storage, a walk-in pantry, exterior lighting, and hardwood floors on the main level of the home.
On the opposite end, features that many buyers across the generations rejected include an elevator, a golf course community, cork flooring on the main level, a wine cellar, and a pet washing station. The elevator was particularly unpopular, with all groups except seniors rating it as the most unwanted feature. For the oldest group, the elevator was third on the most unwanted list.
As builders, we must keep these generational similarities and differences in mind as we cater to different types of consumers. The best way to ensure success is to listen to what our customers of all ages tell us.