When it comes to selling a house, you want to appeal to as many potential buyers as possible. For years, that meant targeting baby boomers and Gen Xers; but today, millennials are buying homes in larger numbers than ever. In fact, by early 2019, they represented 42% of all new home loans. This means that any seller would be wise to keep millennial buyers in mind when getting a house ready to show.
While there are definitely upgrades that sellers can make to catch the eye of millennial home buyers, there are also some home features that are known to send millennial buyers running. Curious if your own home has any of these features? Check what these real estate agents say repel millennial homes buyers today—and how to fix these problems with minimal money and effort.
1. Wood cabinets in the kitchen
Interior decor choices might seem trivial, but they can have a big impact on buyers. For instance, Yuri Blanco, the owner of Re/Max Executives in Idaho, says that old-fashioned wood cabinetry in the kitchen is a huge turnoff for most millennial home buyers.
“A generation ago, formal dining rooms may have been on every buyer’s wish list,” she says. “But today there really isn’t much appeal to the formal dining room. An open space that can easily transition from kitchen to TV room is high on the list of the perfect home for young buyers. We are seeing upticks in areas with bar stools and breakfast nooks instead.”
The fast fix: If your property has a formal dining room and you can’t afford to change the layout, consider staging the space creatively to show how it could be used in a more modern, functional way. For instance, you could stage the space as a home office or entertainment room instead.
Despite being called out for their ineptitude at saving money and their overwhelming fondness for spending it on experiences instead of things, millennials actually do desire financial stability—especially if it means they can buy a house.
So what kind of homes do they want? According to real estate professionals, a large majority of millennials seeks out properties that are move-in ready—with plenty of room for customization.
“They care more about the home being clean and in good condition,” says Mary Katherine Spalding, a Realtor® associate with Helen Painter Group in Fort Worth, TX. “Cosmetic changes are much easier to make, and millennials are a generation of DIYers.”
But home sellers are also becoming well-versed in what they don’t want. If you’re looking to attract millennial buyers, be forewarned: These home upgrades will turn them away from your home faster than you can say, “What’s your Wi-Fi password?”
1. Over-the-top landscaping
A spacious, well-manicured yard was the pride and joy of earlier generations that didn’t mind working up a sweat mowing and fertilizing their lawns. But that’s not the case with busy millennials. They prefer cultivating indoor plants—and the convenience of an outdoor space that’s easy to maintain.
Jason Duff, founder and CEO of Small Nation, a real estate development company in Bellefontaine, OH, says millennials prefer to have landscaping beds (for growing a vegetable garden?) and other green-filled areas that look nice, are easy to maintain, and can be set up for quality time with pets.
2. A formal dining room
Mom and Grandma may have cherished dinner time in their fancy dining room with matching plates, sterling silver flatware, and gold-plated tea sets. But younger buyers tend to consider that dedicated room a stuffy waste of space.
Duff says young buyers enjoy cooking in their kitchen and want to eat in or near their kitchen, too.
“Most millennials don’t care about formal dining rooms,” says Duff. “It was a fixture for many homes in previous decades, but today dining tends to happen close to the kitchen—from the convenience of a meal home delivery box like Blue Apron—or on the go.”
Older generations may be satisfied with a mapped-out floor plan that designates a living room, kitchen, and dining room, but millennials seek multifunctional rooms. Think wide-open spaces that make the home feel like one flowing space.
“Where homes traditionally would have separate rooms, millennials are gravitating toward having large, open rooms that bring these all together like kitchens with breakfast bars or islands that open to the living space,” says John Steele, a real estate agent with Team Steele San Diego Homes in California.
4. Brand-new carpeting
If you’re considering sprucing up your home before you sell, think twice before spending money on installing new carpets. Millennials are moving away from carpeting in favor of bare floors with statement rugs.
“There are some buyers that like it in the bedrooms, but in the living spaces, laminates, tile, hardwood, and engineered hardwood are much more popular,” says Steele.
Another reason to stick with noncarpeted flooring is that it’s more pet-friendly—and millennials love their pets. Carpeting can absorb and retain odors, stains, and hair, and pet cleanup is easier on a hardwood floor.
5. Memorabilia and game rooms
Millennials aren’t defined by their possessions—and they definitely don’t want to showcase them in a room. So if you’re thinking about staging a room where the owners can show off their stuff, think again.
“Millennials may be a little different than previous generations in wanting to keep, collect, and show off all that they have accumulated,” says Duff. “Put away the pool table and think digital,” says Duff.
Millennials live a more digital existence, so Duff recommends staging your game area in a media room with a large TV or projector and maybe even surround sound.
Think millennials aren’t in the market to buy a home? On the contrary, by early 2019, millennials represented 42% of all new home loans. What does this mean for home sellers? It means it’s time to start revamping your house to attract these buyers!
Luckily, there are plenty of simple and relatively affordable upgrades homeowners can make that appeal to millennial buyers. We asked the experts to share some of their top tips for attracting these young buyers, so your home can sell in a jiffy.
The remote work trend is on the rise for all groups, but especially among millennials. As a result, Kerron Stokes, a real estate agent with Re/Max Leaders in Colorado, suggests showcasing a home’s live-work versatility by carving out space for a home office.
“More than 13 million Americans work from home, according to the most current U.S. Census data. And all signs point to that trend continuing,” Stokes explains. “It doesn’t have to be big, but millennial buyers are looking for somewhere to go for a last-minute conference call or to get additional work done during the day.”
Luckily, this is an easy fix for sellers. If you’re looking to make your property more attractive to millennial buyers, consider staging one of the smaller bedrooms (or even a bonus space like a nook or alcove) as a home office. It’s a small touch, but it will help your potential millennial buyers picture the space working with their lifestyle.
Yes, this one seems obvious: Of course millennials are drawn to smart home tech—but what type?
“Appliances such as smart thermostats, smart doorbells, and more that can be controlled from an app are all the rage,” Stokes explains. “Connectivity is king when putting a house on the market these days.”
Yuri Blanco, owner of Re/Max Executives in Idaho, adds that millennials also crave low-cost tech.
“They crave smart security systems that don’t require a monthly subscription,” says Blanco. “Any new technology that comes at a low cost is a major bonus to this age group.”
According to Stokes, it’s particularly important to install USB outlets in bedrooms, living rooms, and kitchens if you want to catch millennial buyers’ eyes. Smartphones are a fact of life today, and showing that your home is ready to make life easier with accessible charging ports will impress younger buyers.
“I recommend sellers swap out standard outlets for the outlets that include USBs for charging,” Stokes says. “Constantly being on a smartphone drains a lot of power. When your home offers a charging hub or outlet for people, especially in unconventional rooms like the kitchen, they are more likely to stop and take a second look.”
When it comes to upgrading cabinets and other built-in features, experts say to opt for modern design elements if you’re hoping to woo millennial shoppers.
“In recent years, we are seeing millennials prefer modern, sleek designs with clean lines and minimalist aesthetics,” Blanco says. “To them, less is more. Homes that have new, stainless-steel kitchens, and simple cabinetry draw millennials in.”
In addition to upgrades inside the home, Stokes recommends making sure that the backyard feels like an extension of the living space—something that’s proving important to millennial buyers.
“Millennials have demonstrated a desire to personalize their homes, and large yards provide that opportunity,” Stokes says. “Spaces designed to spend time with friends around fire pits, room for a garden, and room for pets to roam is desired. However, sellers should keep in mind that these areas shouldn’t require a lot of time and maintenance, as this is something that repels millennial buyers.”
Amy Bonitatibus, chief marketing officer with Chase Home Lending, reiterates this point and adds that it’s important to not forget the front yard as well.
“According to the recent Chase Housing Confidence Index, a survey which used data from the U.S. Housing Confidence Survey, millennial homeowners ranked landscaping first on their renovation wish list, ahead of bathroom and kitchen remodels,” she says. “Everyone wants that Instagram-worthy curb appeal. Over 40% of young homeowners are looking to install new landscaping in the next few years.”
Millennials aren’t all about fashion over function, despite what some may (wrongly) assume. Blanco says that millennials are drawn to homes that have a lot of practical storage space.
“Millennials have a desire for storage,” Blanco says. “If a home contains a multifunctional piece of furniture with storage options, even better. A home with plenty of built-in closets and drawers is more likely to be sold to buyers in this age group. Garages are also a notable place for increased storage.”
Curious about how to buy a house in your 20s? If you’re dubious it can be done, we get it. Between entry-level salaries, college loans, and the desire to just be young and have fun, 20-somethings often think homeownership is beyond their reach.
No so! It is entirely possible to buy a home in your 20s, and it will benefit you big-time down the road. Here’s how you can make your home-buying dreams come true much sooner than you think.
How to buy a house in your 20s: Save for a down payment
To buy a house at your age, you’d better have some cash saved up for a down payment on your mortgage—a lot of cash, actually.
Most financial planners recommend that home buyers make a down payment amounting to 20% of the price of the home. So on your typical $250,000 house, that would amount to $50,000. Ouch!
Granted, you don’t have to put down 20%, but doing so enables you to avoid paying private mortgage insurance, a premium that can increase your monthly payment by up to 1.15%.
If you don’t have a ton of money in savings, one way to afford the down payment is to ask Mom and Dad for financial help. Another option to foot the down payment bill is to apply for down payment assistance. Depending on your income and other factors, you could qualify for one of over 2,200 down payment assistance programs nationwide, which help out home buyers with low-interest loans, grants, and tax credits.
So, how much money are we talking about? Well, one study found that buyers who use down payment assistance programs save an average of $17,766. Sadly, most consumers aren’t aware of these programs, or assume they’re too difficult to qualify for. Don’t be one of them!
Shore up student loan debt
Student debt has surged to an average of $28,950 per borrower, reports the Institute for College Access & Success. But college debt doesn’t automatically prevent you from being able buy a house.
Most mortgage lenders require a borrower’s debt-to-income ratio—how much money you owe divided by your income—to be no more than 36%. So, someone making $6,000 a month and paying $500 a month in student debt would be able to afford a maximum monthly mortgage payment of $1,680—in many markets, that’s plenty to buy a house. But, if you’re shouldering too much student loan debt to qualify for a mortgage, you may still have a few options.
One way to make room for a mortgage is to refinance and extend the life of your college loan. This results in smaller monthly payments over a longer period of time, so you’ll have more you can put toward a mortgage. The caveat is you’ll end up paying more in interest over the life of your college loan, but it means you can buy a home now and, in turn, take advantage of today’s low mortgage interest rates, says Heather McRae, a senior loan officer at Chicago Financial Services.
Moreover, nearly half of states today offer housing assistance to college grads carrying student loan debt. For instance, New York’s new Graduate to Homeownership program provides assistance to first-time buyers/college grads in the form of low-interest-rate mortgages or up to $15,000 in down payment assistance. You can meet with a mortgage lender to find out if you qualify for one of these programs.
Check your credit score
Unlike older generations, home buyers in their 20s tend to have shorter credit histories. That can be a problem, since if you have limited credit history, the odds are greater that you have a mediocre credit score—the numerical representation of how well you’ve paid off past loans (like credit cards).
Mortgage lenders usually require borrowers to have a minimum credit score of 660; they also look at your credit utilization ratio—your current debts, divided by the credit limit on the sum of your accounts. For example, if you’re carrying a $400 debt on your credit card and have a $1,000 credit limit, your credit utilization ratio is 40%. Unfortunately, relatively new credit users tend to have higher credit utilization ratio.
You’ll want to get a free copy of your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com. Check for errors—1 in 4 Americans spots mistakes on their credit report, according to a Federal Trade Commission survey. And, if your credit isn’t up to par, you may have to take a few months to raise your score. Or you can get someone with good credit (like your parents) to co-sign the loan for you.
Purchase a starter home
As a young home buyer, you don’t have to find your “forever home” right now.
“I tell young buyers all the time, ‘This is your first home—it’s not your last,’” says Linda Sanderfoot, a real estate agent at Coldwell Banker in Neenah, WI.
In fact, there are a couple of big financial benefits to buying a starter home while you’re in your 20s. First, your mortgage payments will probably be more affordable, since you’ll likely be buying a cheaper house. Second, you may be able to get a 5- or 7-year adjustable-rate mortgage and qualify for a lower interest rate than you would with a 30-year fixed loan—a good decision as long as you plan on moving before the loan’s interest rate lock expires.
Plan for unexpected home expenses
All home buyers should have a rainy day fund to pay for emergency home repairs such as roof damage or a gas leak. And this is especially important for young buyers. Why? Research shows many millennials are less financially responsible than older generations. A study by TD Ameritrade found that more than 9 in 10 millennials overspend, fall short on savings, or take on additional debt at least once a month per year. Furthermore, a recent GoBankingRates.com survey found 52% of millennials said they feel pressure to keep up with their friends due to always going out.
Consequently, “Don’t buy at the top of your budget,” says Sanderfoot. “Unless you’re buying new construction, you need an emergency fund for big repairs.”
She adds that home buyers may also want to get a home warranty, which is a policy that would cover the cost of repairing certain home appliances if they break down. (Plans start at about $300.)