Beginners and Boomers: Fact and Fiction for Home Builders

Clear commonalities and definite differences exist between the groups that bookend the buyer spectrum

March 6, 2018
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They’re at different stages of life, but many first-timers and downsizers have desires in common when it comes to home preferences, such as open floor plans, flex rooms, and relatively modest square footage. This month, in House Review, the members of Professional Builder’s House Review Design Team share plans designed to appeal to both buyer groups (Photo: Creative Commons via Pixabay).

As a Boomer and longtime apartment-dweller who came late to homeowning, I can vouch for the allure of projects targeted to first-timers. They’re space-savvy. They offer just enough house. They speak to a desire to be weighed down by less stuff. Sure enough, such homes are being snapped up by downsizers attempting to simplify. 

It’s tempting to draw multiple similarities between Millennials and Boomers. But not so fast, warns Professional Builder Associate Editor Kate Carsella. A Millennial, Carsella questions the received wisdom she hears from marketers about her cohort. “Some of the assumptions sound like certainties, and they’re not,” she says, lamenting “the need to nail down exactly what Millennials want and to put us in categories.”

What marketers most get wrong is that Millennials don’t need a lot of space, Carsella says. Many of her friends are homeowners, and though the appeal of the urban core may be strong, “many are moving farther out, to where they can get more space for the buck.” It’s also incorrect to assume that Millennials favor a particular style, be it streamlined modern or rustic farmhouse. Most people (not just Millennials) go for a fusion of styles. 

What builders do get right is flex space, Carsella notes. “Many people my age don’t go bar-hopping,” she says. “Instead, they have a party in their own home.” If someone can’t drive home, “you want to be sure to have room enough so they can stay over.” 

Larry Garnett, head of our House Review team, takes an economic view and points out the cautious outlook that these bookenders often share. Many Millennials and first-time buyers got out of college at the height of the recession. “They couldn’t get a loan and saw the biggest investment of their parents’ lives falling apart. It’s made both groups very conservative,” he observes. Garnett’s overview provides a backdrop for how he approaches designing homes that offer value, practicality, and an answer to a multitude of varying needs. 

We hope that Garnett’s house plans and others this month will offer inspiration and ideas to act on. Enjoy the March issue


Amy Albert is editor-in-chief of Professional Builder magazine. Previously, she worked as chief editor of Custom Home and design editor at Builder. Amy came to writing about building by way of food journalism, as kitchen design editor at Bon Appetit and before that, at Fine Cooking, where she shot, edited, and wrote stories on kitchen design. She studied art history with an emphasis on architecture and urban design at the University of Pennsylvania, has served on several design juries, and is a recipient of the 2017 Jesse H. Neal Award for excellence in journalism.