Millennial home buyers - marching to a different drum

The Millennials – people born between about 1982 and 2000 – are the next big demographic of homebuyers emerging into the property market now, and home sellers as well as their agents need to understand what their real estate preferences are, as these are very different from those of previous generations.
“For instance” says Richard Gray, CEO of Harcourts Real Estate, “most Millennials are going in the opposite direction to their parents and grandparents by leaving the suburbs and moving to inner city and other heavily urbanised areas as they get older.
“They have a great preference for diverse and lively communities and above all want to live in a ‘walkable’ area, where everything they need, from toothpaste and milk to public transport and the gym, and preferably their office and their children’s schools, are no more than a couple of minutes’ safe walk from home.”
Secondly, he says, this generation is not really impressed by luxury but loves “smart home” technologies and the efficient use of space. “Millennial homeowners are much more likely to brag about a home automation system than a newly-renovated kitchen, for example, and many of them work from home so would rather have a home office than a separate dining room.”
“Third, it is becoming clear that they favour much smaller and more individual homes than their parents’ generation, although they do like them to have ample storage space and outdoor space that extends their living areas. And although it may seem counter-intuitive, Millennials are very keen on DIY and fixing things, so they like renovating – or recycling - older homes and altering them to suit their specific needs.”
And it is this latter characteristic, Gray says, that is most encouraging for home sellers in the suburbs who worry that they will not be able to attract the new generation of buyers.
“In fact, there is great scope for attracting Millennials to those suburbs where there are lots of older, individual homes ripe for recycling – provided those suburbs themselves start developing some of the best ‘urban’ characteristics, such as diversity of both population and building design, a mix of housing types, good public transport, environmental consciousness and safe public spaces.”
He says this positive millennial influence is in fact already evident in many of South Africa’s central suburbs, where droves of young buyers are now “moving in and cleaning up”, and is also a major reason for the success of those estates that have integrated schools, shops, office and a variety of housing types into their development plans, as well as major New Urban projects such as Melrose Arch, Century City and Umhlanga New Town.
“In short, although Millenials have generally been slower to enter the property market than previous generations, thanks to higher education costs, the global financial crisis and higher unemployment worldwide, they are set to have an increasingly beneficial effect, not only on property sales, but on the built environment.”

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