Keeping It Real: Millennials Buy and Remodel

Survey reveals key trends among Millennial homebuyers, with specific focus on Millennial 'firsts'

January 12, 2017
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Photo: Pixabay

Remodelers are aware of the growing importance of Millennials in the housing market, with that demographic now making up over half of today’s homebuyers. And there's ever more research being done on this segment to try to better understand its needs and buying habits. The latest in Millennial research related to homebuying and remodeling comes from lifestyle brand Better Homes & Gardens, owned by media company Meredith Corp., which has released findings from its ninth annual survey tracking trends in attitudes and behaviors of U.S. homeowners, this time with a specific focus on Millennials. 

The current research focuses on Millennial homeowners aged 22 to 39, specifically what it calls Millennial "firsts"—that is, Millennials who have made their first home purchase and have been living in that first home for five years or less. The quantitative survey of 605 U.S. Millennial homeowners living in single-family homes was fielded online from Sept. 19–30, 2016, with a sampling error of +/- 5.6 percent.

Jill Waage, editorial director of digital content and products at Better Homes & Gardens, gave a presentation at the 2017 NAHB International Builders' Show in Orlando about the survey's findings.

Key Takeaways

Aspirations checked by reality: 85 percent of Millennials see homeownership as a solid investment and a good way to build equity. But while homeownership is an important part of their "American Dream," Millennials—especially Millennial "firsts"—are extremely practical about homeownership and remodeling, according to the study. Yes, they have aspirations when it comes to their dream homes, but their approach to home-related goals and budgets is ultimately realistic and they're not interested in financially overextending themselves to achieve those goals.

More modest: In terms of home size, on average, the study indicates that MIllennial "firsts" would like midsize homes around 2,116 square feet. And when it comes to living spaces, their focus is on practical needs: 64 percent desire a renovated kitchen, 60 percent a renovated bathroom, and 59 percent want a deck/patio space. 

Work required: Millennial "firsts" are more likely to live in lower-end homes, which often consists of older housing stock that requires some remodeling. Fifty percent of "firsts" report that the condition of their current home required some degree of repair or remodel.

Patience aplenty: Millennial "firsts" are financially conscious and are willing to pace themselves when it comes to achieving their home goals, taking on projects as they progress through life stages and become more financially stable. Just 50 percent of "firsts," the study finds, are willing to spend top dollar to get the exact features and quality they want, and only 36 percent are willing to take out a loan to take advantage of a deal. "Firsts" are willing to wait to embark on projects and are not averse to doing DIY projects to make the job more affordable.

DIY approach: Nearly 90 percent of "firsts" say they are either "very interested" or "extremely interested" in learning about home repair and home improvement. And when it comes to home improvement needs, just one in four "firsts" say they will pick up the phone to call a pro and pay someone to do the work. Three out of four "firsts" do some degree of DIY in their home.

Bang for your buck: Painting walls, installing tile, and installing light fixtures are the kinds of simple interior remodeling projects for which Millennial "firsts" responding to the survey indicated the greatest need. Such projects are relatively straightforward but add value to the home and have almost immediate impact.

"These 'firsts' are replacing big-budget homes and expensive renovations with patience, frugalness, and practicality," according to Waage.

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