Although a couple of generations apart, boomers and millennials have something in common: what they want in a home. It’s surprisingly easy to merge features for them both.
What could these two generations have in common when it comes to buying homes? Sarah Susanka, author of The Not So Big House series, says the theme from her books is coming true today. Millennials are more practical and they don’t want tons of space. Boomers have had the big house and now they don’t want all that space. In fact, Carol Thompson, national director, strategic sourcing-East, Taylor Morrison, confirms that by saying the sweet spot is just under 2,300 square feet. She says both buyer demographics are looking for more quality in smaller spaces.
Susanka points out another home feature that appeals to both demographics is space that can perform double duty, such as a den that can serve as a guest bedroom with a Murphy bed and also can be an at-home office. Millennials and boomers have similar desires in wanting space that can customize to their evolving needs.
Thompson shares her experiences from being involved in the NEXTadventure home, which was designed and built for the 55-plus crowd, and, as she points out, many of the features translate to what millennials also demand. From a psychographics standpoint, neither have kids at home and they both love their pets.
She also notes their proclivity for storage, which speaks to their need for making the space multifunctional. In addition, both groups want low maintenance, but they both have unique reasons. Thompson says millennials want low maintenance from an environmental perspective, while boomers are on a fixed income.
Although both groups want their own intimate indoor and outdoor private spaces, they both want to live in a walkable community. Susanka supports that by pointing out her involvement on a project in Libertyville, Ill., with John McLinden, the owner of Streetscape. This project offers a shared green space to its residents, extending an idea of what is public and what is private.
“Communities of the future will allow multiple generations to intermingle, and that’s how we get meaning from our lives,” Susanka said.
McLinden, who targeted both demographics with his Libertyville project, believes in his unique approach to more custom housing solutions. He starts the building process by asking the buyer, “How do you live?” instead of just showing them several plans and asking them to pick one. He’s able to do this because he created a methodology with technology and a building block, which uses well-researched room dimensions as the basis. Each home starts with these building blocks that are then put together depending on how the buyer answers the question about how they live.
They started this process in 2009, creating a working laboratory with 26 customers on School Street in Libertyville. When they finished the project, none of the houses were the same. McLinden said, "no home in this community is similar, but every building block is the same."
His approach has proved to be a success based on this simple question and answer: His response when asked "Why give people what they want?" is "because it works, it really works."