What Today's First-Time Buyers Want in a New Home

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Home builders and designers who want to be successful in the entry-level market must understand the lifestyles, attitudes and priorities of Generations X and Y.

October 01, 2009

Young home buyers, particularly Generation Y, have a different perception of home that drives their design preferences. These features and community attributes will get them off the fence.

Sidebars:

What 'Home' Means to Gen X and Gen Y



Most-Desirable Home and Community Features



Photo Gallery: First-time Home Buyer Design Features

 

A} Young professionals snapped up all 12 homes in this infill community in the San Francisco suburbs. The sophisticated contemporary architecture and interior vaulted spaces convey a loft-like feel. Described by the builder as "unattached townhomes," they're actually densely packed, single-family units.

Builder: Clarum Homes, Palo Alto, Calif.; Architect: EDI Architecture, San Francisco; Photo: Mert Carpenter

 



 

B} Outdoor living areas don't have to be huge, but they should be easy to furnish. Offer a fireplace as a value-added upgrade.

Builder: Simonini Builders, Charlotte, N.C.; Architect: Dominick Tringali Architects, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.; Photo: Michael LoBiondo

 





 

C} Clean lines, contemporary styling and neutral-color backgrounds with pops of bold color appeal to young first-time buyers. Chocolate brown contrasts with this room's white ceiling detail and acts as a backdrop for sunset-orange accents in the artwork, pillows and furnishings.

Builder: Fidelity Homes, Venice, Fla.; Architect: The Evans Group, Orlando, Fla.; Interior Designer: Kay Green Design, Orlando, Fla.; Photo: Pollux Photography

 





 

D} Gen X and Gen Y buyers "salivate over social opportunity," says Ashley Jennings of Kay Green Design. This small space is merchandised for casual entertaining, with a poker table and flat-screen TV.

Builder: Dock Street Communities, Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Architect: Pegram Associates, Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Interior Designer: Kay Green Design, Orlando, Fla.; Photo: Dock Street Communities

 





 

E} The kitchen and family room should be interactive spaces, defined not by walls but by details such as a breakfast bar.

Builder: Centerline Homes, Coral Springs, Fla.; Interior Designer: Kay Green Design, Orlando; Photo: Centerline Homes

 







 

F} First-time buyers look for attractive community entrances and common areas as well as amenities, says Dennis Webb, sales manager of Fulton Homes in Phoenix. "They want walking [trails], they want parks," says Webb. "At one community, we're going to be building an aquatic center."

Builder: Fulton Homes, Phoenix; Photo: Fulton Homes

 







 

G} A strong indoor-outdoor connection is essential. Here, the main living areas flow into the outdoor space.

Builder: Simonini Builders, Charlotte, N.C.; Architect: Dominick Tringali Architects, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.; Photo: Michael LoBiondo

 









 

H} A shed roof; wraparound porch; and mix of horizontal and vertical siding add visual interest to this affordably priced home.

Builder: Brooklynn Custom Homes, Novi, Mich.; Architect: Dominick Tringali Architects, Bloomfield Hills, Mich.; Photo: Les Ward Photography

 







 

I} Small touches, such as including blinds as a standard feature, are appreciated by buyers on a budget who visit ForeverHome's Raleigh-Durham, N.C., communities.

Builder: ForeverHome, Raleigh, N.C.; Architect: Frazier Home Design, Wake Forest, N.C.; Photo: Kyle Ketchel/Visual Properties

 







 

J} Townhomes typically come standard with one-car garages, if there are garages at all. Here, the two-car garage and covered front porch are included.

Builder: ForeverHome, Raleigh, N.C.; Architect: Frazier Home Design, Wake Forest, N.C.; Photo: Kyle Ketchel/Visual Properties

 











 

K} Always provide a place for young buyers to work at home, whether it's a spare bedroom or a computer desk in a loft or alcove.

Builder: ForeverHome, Raleigh, N.C.; Architect: Frazier Home Design, Wake Forest, N.C.; Photo: Kyle Ketchel/Visual Properties

 









 



 

L} First-time buyers were excited about the rear-loaded, two-car garages; large windows; and upper-level bonus rooms at this suburban Philadelphia townhome community. But few purchased upgrades, preferring to add them later and do the work themselves if possible.

Builder: Progressive Housing Ventures, Malvern, Pa.; Architect: Barton Partners, Norristown, Pa.; Photo: Rick Davis Photographic

 









 







 

M} Gen X and Gen Y buyers appreciate having a public place outside the home to entertain friends and get to know their neighbors.

Builder: Progressive Housing Ventures, Malvern, Pa.; Architect: Barton Partners, Norristown, Pa.; Photo: Rick Davis Photographic





Products They'll Ask About

 



 

N} Younger buyers have done their research and will scrutinize every feature that contributes to a home's energy efficiency, particularly windows.

Photo: Marvin Windows and Doors

 







 







 

O} They may not want to pay extra for a tankless water heater, but they're certainly eager to find out if it's an option.

Photo: Takagi

 















 

P} A whole-house air purification system is an upgrade that first-time buyers probably can't afford yet, but they still want the information.

Photo: Trane

 















 

Q} Modular and panelized systems and other factory construction processes appeal to generations X and Y because they reduce on-site waste.

Photo: Haven Custom Homes

 









 

R} Include Energy Star appliances in your kitchens — buyers expect no less.

Photo: KitchenAid

 

 Fun Facts

2M

Projected number of households over the next 10 years that will be headed by individuals age 25 to 34.

Source: Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University

65

Percentage of total U.S. home sales made by first-time buyers in the first quarter of 2009, a 41 percent increase from the same period last year.

Source: Kleber & Associates

82

Percentage of adult Millenials who say it's important to own a home.

Source: Frank N. Magid Associates

50

Percentage of Millenials who are likely to purchase a home within the next three years.

Source: The Concord Group

 

What 'Home' Means to Gen X and Gen Y

Gen Y views home as a social hub.

Gen X views home as a sanctuary.

Gen Y wants a home that requires little maintenance, because they want to be able to hit the road on the spur of the moment.

Gen Y takes it for granted that their new home will be energy-efficient but doesn't want to pay extra for green features.

Both generations want a well-designed, basic home; they tend to avoid expensive options and upgrades that don't contribute to resale value.

Both generations want a home that can expand as their family grows.

Both generations want a strong indoor-outdoor connection.

Both generations prefer open floor plans that accommodate gatherings with family and friends.

Both generations prefer interior spaces that are optimized for storage.

Both generations are turned off by wasted square footage.

 

Most Desirable Home and Community Features

  • Exteriors with curb appeal — modern interpretations of classic architectural styles such as Colonial, Craftsman and Victorian
  • Interiors with a loft-style feel
  • A two-car garage wide enough for cars plus storage
  • Large windows for lots of natural light
  • Higher ceilings to enhance feeling of spaciousness
  • Flex rooms such as a den or study that can also be a bedroom
  • Master bedrooms with interesting ceiling treatments and other memorable details
  • Large walk-in closets
  • Four- instead of five-fixture master bathrooms
  • Outdoor living spaces with minimal grass, especially courtyards, decks, porches and patios that can be furnished
  • Features that reduce energy consumption, improve indoor air quality and reduce environmental impact
  • "Communal" kitchens that accommodate several cooks
  • Structured wiring and other high-tech features
  • A dedicated home office or computer desk
  • Interactive spaces separated by details such as a fireplace or staggered ceiling heights
  • Second-floor options, such as one master suite or two bedrooms with separate bathrooms or a shared bathroom
  • Bolder exterior paint colors that enliven the streetscape
  • Fitness facilities
  • Walking and biking trails
  • A location near employment corridors, major highways, mass transit, services, shopping and entertainment

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