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With the rising cost of homes, affordability is at the top of most Millennials' list. (Image: iStock)

KTGY Group, a California-based architecture and planning firm, met with its Millennial employees to find out what they’re looking for in a home. Of course, these choices varied from person to person (not every Millennial craves modern design, for example). Much depends on life stage and personal preferences.

The majority of participants in the discussion, called Coffee Talk, were single (70%) and renters (75%). Couples, those with young families, and homeowners also participated. What KGTY quickly learned is that homeownership is a big driver for this cohort. While three-quarters of the group was made up of those who are currently renting, nearly all of them wanted to own a home in the future.

In an effort to determine what Millennials seek in a home, major topics were established:

  • Relationships
  • Lifestyle
  • Form and Function

1] Exercise and Action

Healthy living is important to Millennials. Easy access to exercise is a priority—they want to live near a gym, a park, tennis court, or outdoor trail. A common desire among Millennials—both those with families and those without—is the desire to be near outdoor fitness amenities.

Additionally, Millennials want to be close to the action: The community in which they live is important. Millennials want to live in a place where they’ll meet others with similar interests and desires. Where millennials choose to live also depends on their current relationship status. Those without kids tend to want a more urban setting while those with kids are willing to be further away from urban centers in order to have a backyard and more play space for their children.

Living near parks, fitness centers, and biking trails is important to Millennials.

2] Technology Rules and Millennials' Expectations

Technology isn’t new to Millennials—they expect it in the home. Millennials (and generations after) expect technology to help them to stay connected, save time, and save money. Generally, Millennials don't remember a time when technology wasn't a central part of life. While they may not have adapted to all that technology can offer in a home, it will certainly be on their radar as they continue to design, build, and buy homes.

Millennials are accustomed to the benefits that technology offers, and they'll expect those benefits in their own homes.

3] For Millennials, Pets Take Priority

Millennials want to live in places that are pet-friendly. For those who live in pedestrian-friendly cities, apartment complexes, or neighborhoods, pets have become like children. More Millennials in the KTGY focus group had pets than had children.

Because many Millennals carry student debt, they've turned to pets (rather than children).

4] Neighborhood and Community

What Millennials prize in a neighborhood or community varied depending on whether they had started a family or not.

For those without families, important factors are a central location with places to meet up with friends. Many wanted a resort-like lifestyle that was also affordable and included retail shops, as well as a sense of place and and a lively vibe. Families, however, wanted space and were willing to sacrifice location for an increase in space for their family.

On the subject of community, both Millennials that have families and those that do not are interested in living somewhere that had a sense of culture and community and was close to grocery stores, restaurants, healthy gourmet food choices, and entertainment.

Millennials want to be near the center of the action—close to dining, entertainment, transportation, and friends.

5] Style Choices: Modern, Yes—But Not Exclusively

For Millennials at KTGY, homes were about color, light, and feeling connected to the outdoors. Participants in the Coffee Talk were interested in modern design but Consumer Insights showed that Millennials are leaning more toward a "Modern Traditional" style. What most Generation Y-ers want in their homes is light, bright spaces with pops of color. High ceilings, decorative elements, and neutral stylings are preferred.

When it comes to exterior architecture, Millennials at KTGY favor contemporary style. However, a survey of more than 20,000 Millennials by Consumer Insights reported that only 12 percent of this generation nationally prefers modern architecture. It's important not to associate modern architecture with all Millennials because what they really want is authenticity and creativity in their homes.

Many Millennials favor bright spaces with neutral tones and pops of color.

6] Affordability, and Sacrificing Space for Function

With the rising cost of homes, affordability is at the top of most Millennials' list. KTGY found that whether they had families or not, Millennials are willing to live in a smaller house with a more functional layout that's between 1,000 and 2,200 square feet.

Function is a big thing for Millennials because they can use walls and storage to hang pictures and art and utilize floor space for bedrooms. As you might expect, those without families are ok with less private space if it means they're getting more public space in which to socialize and relax.

Through meeting with its Millennial employees, KTGY was able to determine what it is that this generation is looking for when it comes to a home. While many of them don't own a home, they will one day and accommodating their design and tastes will ensure they become buyers down the road when it's a more affordable option for them.

"Modern Traditional" was a popular architecture style with Millennials at KTGY, but less popular among Generation Y-ers.