Generation X—young families and adults ages 31 to 45—are likely to lead the home-buying recovery as it gets underway, according to real estate experts who spoke at an educational webinar produced by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) in partnership with Builder magazine.
These potential home buyers are most likely to think it’s a good time to get off the fence—and have strong opinions about the design features their new homes will include.
At 32% of the population of home-buying age—generally defined as those who are at least 30 years old, the Gen X population cohort isn’t the largest, but it’s the most mobile, said presenter Mollie Carmichael, principal of John Burns Real Estate Consulting in Irvine, Calif. “They are in full force with their careers and they need to accommodate growing families,” she said.
In sharp contrast, even though they constitute 41% of prospective home buyers, Baby Boomers continue to wait for the market to improve, and their decisions to delay retirement also delay their decisions to downsize into a smaller home, Carmichael said.
Most of the 10,000 buyers and potential buyers in 27 metro areas that the consulting company surveyed were optimistic about a new home purchase, with between 85% and 89% saying that it was a good time to buy a home. Only 13% said they thought home prices would continue to fall, further evidence that it’s “not all about price,” she said. “They want something compelling, from a design or personalization standpoint,” said Carmichael.
In addition, though the average home size is shrinking, a majority of prospective buyers said they would like a bigger home than the one they have. “These are first-time buyers or younger families looking for more room to grow,” she said.
Seventy percent said that they were willing to pay $5,000 more for a green home, but those responding to the survey said that they expected new homes to already have many green technology features. They also said they would pay a premium for dark wood cabinets, a separate tub and shower and a fireplace in the living room, and more preferred a great room over formal spaces.
And while community amenities are important to Gen X buyers, 46% said they prefer a home in a large-lot, suburban development, versus the 21% looking for a traditional or “walkable” neighborhood.
Webinar panelist Heather McCune, director of marketing at Bassenian/Lagoni Architects in Newport Beach, Calif., also emphasized that design will be important in generating sales in the emerging marketplace. “The notion of ‘build it and they will come’ no longer works. Design matters,” she said.
McCune said buyers are looking for homes with a connection between indoor and outdoor spaces, even in colder climates, to create the perception of greater home size, even if the space is only usable for part of the year. They also want more storage, an open floor plan and flexibility in the garage.
“While Gen X numbers are smaller than the birth cohorts before and after them, their numbers have been enlarged by steady immigration,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “Gen X may wait longer than their predecessors to establish their own household or buy a home because of the recent recession impacts, but the trends are still likely to occur as they have for past generations.”