Designing Homes for the Millennial Buyer

Living Room in Paired Home

The millennial buyer has been on everyone’s minds for some time now, and for good reason. Generally defined as those born between 1981 and 1996, according to Pew Research the millennials are projected to overtake the baby boomers as America’s largest generation at some point in 2019 with approximately 73 million people. And, while millennials generally purchase less expensive homes than Gen X and baby boomers, they are purchasing more homes than ever before. At the end of 2018, millennials were responsible for 45 percent of all new mortgages, compared to 36 percent for Generation X, and 17 percent for baby boomers (source:

Tapping into the kind of layout and design that appeals to millennial homebuyers is a measure of success for architects, builders and developers who want to cater to the current market. Considering the number of young people who are moving from an apartment, it’s critical to design a home they’re comfortable in and that gives them a setting they’re familiar with. Also known as the “apartment effect,” this is achieved by pulling elements from multi-family home designs and studying ways to apply them to duplexes, townhomes and even single-family; providing millennial homebuyers with the type of lifestyle they’re seeking in smaller, more attainably priced homes.

Some of the design elements that are creating attainably priced homes and attracting millennial homebuyers include:

Smaller Footprints

By turning hallways into stairs and stacked floors, and opening-up floorplans, apartment designs can be mimicked and costs kept down. Smart, thoughtful design solutions can provide ways to use space optimally, without adding square footage. Stacked floorplans also provide for more dense construction and more residences per acre, which helps keep the cost of new home construction down. For more ways to keep costs down, check out our blog on the 7 S’s of Cost Control.

Limited Outdoor Spaces

Young adults would rather spend their time enjoying the great outdoors than doing yardwork. As a result, they aren’t looking for homes with massive lawns and sprawling outdoor decks and verandas. A small deck located off the main level with room for a grill and a small seating area is plenty. Rooftop decks are popular as well, providing even more outdoor space without a lot of timely care and upkeep required. Pet owners will appreciate small, enclosed side or backyards for their furry family members. When that isn’t an option, providing walking paths and nearby pocket parks is a great way to cater to pet owners (and millennials love pets! A recent APPA study found 73% of millennials are pet owners).

Rooftop decks are an extremely popular option for outdoor living across all demographics.

Simple Design: Less is More

To a young homebuyer, the need for a chef’s kitchen, theater space, laundry room, large foyer and the extravagances of new-home-ownership doesn’t exist. Many millennials are used to – and happy with – small kitchens and appliances, less expensive finishes, repetitive building materials and fewer, if any of the amenities that were more common in new homes in prior decades. Other design elements consistent with the apartment effect include no oversized closets, more hidden storage, showers instead of tubs and single sinks opposed to double sinks in the master bathroom.

Remember, easy access to outside amenities is one of the reasons this buyer is happy with simple design. Millennials enjoy getting out of the house and are accustomed to taking advantage of the modern amenity spaces offered in so many of today’s multifamily communities. What amenities will you be offering within the new community? Are there existing shops, restaurants, bars, etc. within easy walking or biking distance? Whether new or existing, outside amenities help offset smaller footprints and simple design; and can play an important role in attracting young homebuyers.

Basic Finishes

By going with neutral or basic color schemes in a new home, buyers have the opportunity to comfortably move-in with the furnishings they had in their apartment, without feeling the need to go out and purchase new furniture and art. They also don’t have to make too many choices or expensive “upgrade” decisions that add to the bottom line. It’s up to the designer to create an attractive space that a millennial homebuyer will feel comfortable in.

Provide plans offering flexibility: a home office or study can easily be converted to a children’s play area, or vice versa.

Plan Flexibility

This buyer group is diverse and at many different stages in life. Many buyers have families of their own, others are finally moving out of Mom and Dad’s house for the first time. Room needs vary and successful plans will provide flexibility for multiple uses. For example, a ground level bedroom suite might be used as a lock-off rental space and turned into a home office when the need for supplemental income no longer exists. It is important to not only consider options for today, but how rooms can be used in the future, since many homeowners are staying in place for longer.

Attainability is Key

Financial considerations are obviously in play for most homebuyers, and millennials who may be struggling with student debt or challenges associated with launching a career want a home that falls in-line with their rent payments. This is making more attainably priced, compact homes all the more appealing and realistic when it comes to paying for a mortgage.

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