Housing Preferences across Generations (Part I)

NAHB recently released its latest study tracking the evolution of home buyer preferences, titled Housing Preferences of the Boomer Generation: How They Compare to Other Home Buyers.   The study answers key questions on how various designs influence the home purchase decision as well as the location, features and size of the home consumers want.  Based on a nationwide survey of over 4,300 recent and prospective home buyers, results are tabulated for all home buyers as a single group and also across these four generations:   Millennials (born 1980 or later), Gen X’ers (born 1965-1979), Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), and Seniors (born 1945 or earlier).

So what features do most buyers consider essential/desirable in a potential new home? Answer:  those that help them save energy and keep the home organized. ENERGY STAR® appliances and windows, insulation higher than required by code, a laundry room, garage storage, and a walk-in pantry are features that would positively influence the purchase decision of 80% or more of all home buyers.  Also high on buyers’ most wanted list are exterior lighting, a patio, a full bath on the main level, and hardwood on the main level of the home.

most wanted

There are some similarities and some differences in the “Most Wanted List” across generations. For example, the laundry room is key to all home buyers, ranking as the first most wanted feature among Millennials, Gen X’ers, and Seniors, and third among Boomers. Exterior lighting and ceiling fans are also important to all buyers, appearing on the top 10 list of all generations.

Interestingly, Energy Star® rated appliances are popular among all groups, but Millennials rank it as 10th most wanted, whereas Gen X’ers, Boomers, and Seniors rank it first or second.  In addition, Millennials are the only generation to have three outdoor spaces in their top 10 list: a deck, a patio, and a front porch.  The deck does not appear in the top list for the other three generations, while the front porch falls out of the top 10 for Boomers and Seniors.BLog tables 1

Understanding what features are best not to include in a typical home and community is just as critical as knowing what buyers do want. In addition to giving buyers the option to rate features as essential or desirable, the survey also allowed them to rate them as indifferent (wouldn’t make any difference) or ‘do not want’ (not likely to buy a home if included).  At least 40% of all buyers gave 12 features the latter rating, with an elevator, a pet washing station, and a wine cellar in the lead as the most likely to be rejected.Most Unwanted

The elevator is unpopular with all generations. In fact all, except Seniors, rate it as the most unwanted of all 150+ features listed.  For the oldest cohort, it is third on that list, after a daycare center in the community and a pet washing station.  Other features rejected by a significant share of buyers across age groups include a golf course community, cork flooring on the main level, a wine cellar, and the pet washing station.

Interestingly, two story foyers and family rooms are more likely to be rejected by older buyers than younger ones: both of these features appear on the most unwanted lists for Boomers and Seniors, but not for Millennials or Gen X’ers.

BLog tables 2

This blog post is the first in a series that will explore findings from Housing Preferences of the Boomer Generation: How They Compare to Other Home Buyers, covering topics such as the home size and number of bedrooms desired by different generations.  A more complete article on the findings is also available here.

Note: This study was sponsored by Reverse Mortgage Funding (RMF) and Beazer Homes.