Large generation hits prime homebuying years
Millennials have been reluctant to say yes to homeownership. Affordability, high student loan debt and tighter lending practices have prevented many of them from jumping off the fence into the housing market.
While homeownership for millennials -- the largest generation in U.S. history -- is lower than that of their parents and grandparents, they are now hitting their prime homebuying years. They're in their 30s, marrying and having children -- and looking to buy a new home.
That's good news for area builders who offer new-home communities targeted toward millennials, designed to appeal especially to this group of buyers.
Airhart Construction features Stafford Place, a new row-home community in Warrenville that attracts millennials who haven't owned a home or who may not have the means to purchase a large, four-bedroom house, said Christy Whelan, director of sales for the builder.
Similar to a townhouse, row homes have a smaller footprint and are maintenance free with snow removal and yard care provided. However, they are single-family homes with no shared walls.
"It's really a charming community where homes feature open floor plans and a private roof terrace with a wine bar that is perfect for entertaining," Whelan said. "They've been a popular choice for millennials who like having all the fun of building a new home -- selecting colors and making custom changes to fit their lifestyles."
Stafford Place sits close to Wheaton and near the expressway and train. Some buyers are still working in the city, and they want easy access to highways and transportation.
With fresh exterior designs and an urban flair, Gramercy Square in Aurora by M/I Homes has great appeal for millennials. The community offers two series of homes: the Charlestown Series with two-story townhouses and the River North Series featuring three-story townhouses -- all with an open-concept entertaining space.
The community provides lawn care, snow removal and exterior maintenance.
Located near the southwest intersection of Route 59 and 75th Street, residents of Gramercy Square will have easy access to anything they desire. Get your shopping done at the Costco Wholesale or Whole Foods across the street. Shop, dine and play at Fox Valley Mall, just a mile north. Plus you're less than three miles from the Naperville Route 59 Metra train station and about four miles from the I-88 expressway.
Millennials entering the housing market will certainly make an impact on the new construction industry, and builders will focus on their needs when building any new home.
What are millennials looking for when they purchase a house?
"They want new," Whelan said. "They don't want someone else's kitchen. They like the idea of homeownership because they've been renting an apartment or living with family members, but they're not jumping into a house with a lot of square footage."
You might think millennials want a city lifestyle. Younger millennial renters prefer an urban setting, but those who are purchasing a home want a suburban location. One reason is often they no longer want to share walls. When they buy, they prefer a single-family home to a condo, Whelan said.
M/I Homes also sees that millennials want a suburban location near shopping, dining and entertainment along with strong school districts. They also like parks, jogging trails and green space, said Cheryl Bonk, vice president of sales and marketing for the builder.
Jeremy Lund, sales director for Shodeen Homes, agrees that these amenities are key for millennials.
Millennials want a home with the open-concept design and a lot of space to entertain; they don't want the traditional two-story home, Lund said. Bonk agrees that open concept floor plans are a must for millennials in both townhouse and single-family designs.
This generation values connections and relationships, and they have a strong desire for the open plan that brings people in the home together. Jay Dulla, executive vice president at Meritus Homes, adds that along with open plans, they like 9-foot or 10-foot ceilings on the first floor. Also in demand are the spa baths, well-known name-brand features (windows, appliances, fixtures) and a lot of the grays that have been popular during the last few years, he said.
Millennials also go for earth tones, soft colors, lots of blues, greens, browns, and the idea of bringing the outdoors inside, all on trend.
Lund believes that millennials and baby boomers are closer than we think in their home choice because they both prefer a ranch-style floor plan. Millennials are out of college; they've had an apartment on one floor; and they want a single floor plan. Shodeen Homes does offer Southfork, a popular ranch plan that both age groups favor.
Creative use of space
These young people aren't thinking like we and our parents did with a traditional home. They think creatively about what they're going to do with the space in their homes, Whelan said.
Who said a dining table must be placed in the dining room? Today, you might find a pool table in that space. And take a large open kitchen area: picture it as a hearth room with a fireplace, large island with lots of seating and the dinette area furnished with small couches for a cozy entertaining area.
Energy efficiency is a top priority with millennials as it saves them money and improves our environment, Bonk said. "Millennials have grown up with a lot of technology and 'smart home' features and options are becoming more and more important to them." They want integrated home technology, and many are willing to spend more money for it.
These young people remember their parents going through the housing crash in 2007, and they're very conscious of making good decisions about finishes and choices inside the house, Lund said. "They want to spend money where they see a payback. They do a lot of research online and look at their home as an investment."