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Must-haves to sell to younger homebuyers

According to a 2015 National Association of Realtors study that looked at generational housing trends, millennials, those born between 1980 and 2000, are the largest segment of the buyer market, ahead of even Generation X, which covers those born between 1965 and 1979.

Together, these two generations represent today’s young buyers, and broadly speaking, they tend to fall into one of two categories, says Margie Gundersheim, a Realtor with Keller Williams in Newton, Mass.

“They’re young professionals who prefer a turnkey home that needs little or no work,” says Gundersheim. “(Or they’re) creative/romantic buyers who want to invest sweat equity and money over time, and put their personal stamp on the property and add value for the future.”

But while those two groups may seem like they want entirely different things from a home, many agents say that younger buyers of all stripes have a lot of the same “must-have” features on their lists.

Updated kitchen and bath

We all want to buy a home with new kitchen and bath fixtures, but new fixtures are especially important for today’s young, budget-conscious buyers, says Jack Curtis, a Keller Williams real estate agent in Dublin, Ohio.

“The primary reason younger buyers seek updated kitchens and baths is because they have limited budgets,” Curtis says. “Most of their savings will go toward the down payment and furnishings. Kitchens and bathrooms are also the most expensive parts of a home to update, and young homeowners cannot afford to sink a lot of money into those areas.”

Big kitchen, open floor plan

A generation ago, formal dining rooms may have been on every buyer’s wish list. But today, there really isn’t much appeal to the formal dining room, according to Lou Cardillo of The Lou Cardillo Home Selling Team in Yorktown Heights, N.Y.

“The kitchen has become the hangout room along with the family room,” said Cardillo. “An open space that can easily transition from kitchen to TV room is high on the list of the perfect home for young buyers.”

Curtis said today’s young buyers are also more attracted to an open floor plan, rather than a layout that compartmentalizes the home.

Home office

More than 13 million Americans work from home, and all signs point to that trend continuing, which makes a home office important for many buyers.

“Home offices have vast appeal,” says Paige Elliott, a Realtor with Dave Perry-Miller Real Estate in the Dallas area. “Most agents will point out that a room could be used as an office or other flex living space, especially if it is currently used or staged as a bedroom.”

Good location

Younger buyers tend to see location differently from their parents, who didn’t face high gas prices and traffic, says Allison Nichols, managing broker at North Pacific Properties in Seattle.

“My younger buyers look for properties that are in proximity to public transportation and that have a good walking score,” Nichols says.

Low maintenance

Most young buyers look for homes that are low maintenance, says Cardillo, who points out that low-upkeep features such as wood floors (as opposed to carpet) and granite countertops are seen as positives for this generation because they’re both attractive and relatively hassle-free.

Technology

Today, buyers want to know about the home’s technology. They want to hear about cell service and Internet, not cable and telephone.

In some cases, a house’s appeal can be increased or diminished because of the strength of a mobile carrier’s signal or its Internet service provider options, Cardillo said.

While cellphone and Internet services are out of the seller’s hands, Cardillo said, sellers or their agents should be prepared to field questions on that front.

Energy efficiency

With energy costs on the rise and growing interest in protecting the environment, young buyers are conscious of buying homes that are green. They may not be alone, according to Jeff Hyland of Hilton & Hyland real estate agency in Beverly Hills, Calif.

“Today, not only younger buyers, but buyers in general, are looking for energy-efficient homes,” said Hyland. “And if they are not already set up (for energy efficiency), then the buyers will often factor those costs into their budgets so they can do it after the close of escrow.”

The cable TV effect

“Real estate shows on TV have impacted all buyers on the way they look at houses,” Elliott said. “But young buyers will often comment on how a house is, or isn’t, staged.”

Either way, staging is a critical part of selling your home, Hyland says.

Keep HOA costs down

Young buyers tend to get caught in a trap when gauging the affordability of condos or town homes, Nichols says. The asking price often fits their limited budgets, but homeowners association dues and the possibility of large assessments can sink the purchase.

“When it comes to condo buildings, my younger buyers are looking for properties with no special assessments,” Nichols says. “These can be as high as $10,000, and young or first-time buyers don’t necessarily have this in their budget. Likewise, they want to maximize their monthly housing budget by finding a property with low monthly assessments.”

Online photos

“Younger buyers start their searches online,” Elliott says. “The home must have professional photography that shows the home in its best light or they will move on before ever stepping foot in the door.”

According to the most recent analysis from the NAR, 88 percent of buyers use the Internet to search for homes. By comparison, real estate agents were the second most common resource for finding a home, with 87 percent of buyers citing an agent’s help as a key factor.

According to the NAR, 62 percent of buyers in 2013 said they walked through a home after viewing the listing online, and 76 percent said they at least drove by the home because of an online ad.

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