How different generations find their home sweet home

There are three main groups of homebuyers currently active in SA’s housing market, and while they have many preferences in common, they also have definite differences when it comes to choosing a new home, says Tony Clarke, Managing Director of the Rawson Property Group.

The three groups are the Baby Boomers (or people born between 1946 and 1964); Generation X (1965 to about 1983) and the Millennials (1984 to about 2002), and they also tend to have different styles of property “shopping”, he says.

“For example, because they are in their 50s and 60s, the Baby Boomers are more familiar with traditional property marketing methods, so are much more likely to look at print advertising as well as online listings – and to visit weekend show houses in areas they have already identified as places they would like to live and that also offer the prospect of a good return on their investment.

“They are not averse to paying for quality, but value for money is also really important to them and they are prepared to spend a lot of time looking for exactly what they want – or waiting for their ‘dream home’ to be built.”

Gen-X buyers, on the other hand, are usually in a hurry, says Clarke. “Mostly in their late 30s and 40s, they are invariably struggling to keep up with all their work, family and personal commitments, so are extremely time-poor and will rarely visit a show house or view any property before they have done their research online to make comparisons and select only a handful of properties that they think will meet their requirements.     

“They generally also have very clear-cut ideas about what they want and are known to be sceptical, so although they are usually serious buyers they do not react well to hype and are often tough negotiators.”

The Millennials currently in the market are obviously mostly first-time buyers, he says, and are often wary of making mistakes and sometimes also of making a commitment to a permanent home. “So despite the fact that they are known as the “always connected” generation, they will probably physically look at many homes before they buy.

“However, they can also be impulsive and make very quick decisions if they do see something that they really like – or if it comes highly recommended by their friends. And counter-intuitively, they also tend to respond well to outdoor advertising and for sale signs, especially if these direct them to online sources of further information.”

When it comes to specific features likely to attract different-age buyers, Clarke says it is important to note that good security is a priority for everyone – “whether they are Boomers looking for a home in an estate or retirement village, or Millennials trying to find their first apartment, or a Gen-X family in a suburban setting.

“Other than that, though, it is relatively easy for home sellers and developers to assess their properties and target their marketing to the generation of buyers most likely to be interested.”

For instance, Gen-X buyers are very serious about work and are also the first generation to have started using computers as casually as their parents used a telephone or a dishwasher, so they are the most likely to appreciate a career-friendly property with a home office and a high-speed internet connection, he says.

“Because they have limited free time, they are keen on home theatres and gymnasiums so that they don’t have to go out for entertainment or exercise. They are also big on efficiency and organisation, so like lots of storage space. They are usually focused on family so prefer children and pet-friendly homes with open-plan living areas, good-size gardens and an extra cottage or flat for extended family.”

By contrast, Millennials are often happy with a lot less space, Clarke says, provided it is all “wired” and “smart”, with a high degree of automation. “They can work from anywhere via a smartphone, tablet or laptop as long as there is wi-fi, and more than any other generation their work is integrated into the rest of their lives, so they don’t need a lot of separate, single-purpose spaces.

“Community and interaction outside of their homes is also very important to most Millennials so a central location close to shops, cafés, theatres and clubs is also very attractive to them. As for style, they tend to prefer ultra-modern homes or vintage homes that they can restore on the outside and modernise on the inside.”

Then lastly, he says, Boomers want their homes to reflect their personal and career successes, so although they may be downsizing, many will also be looking to upgrade in terms of luxury finishes and fittings.

“Well-designed kitchens and outdoor entertainment areas like patios, decks and balconies are also important to these buyers, and true to the ideals of their youth, they are the most appreciative of “green” home features like solar geysers and panels, water tanks and good insulation.”

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