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Ask McEnearney: What Does a Millennial Buyer Look For?


This week’s Q&A column is written by Sallie Seiy of McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Sallie at 703-798-4666 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: What does a millennial buyer look for?

Answer: Tell me what you want, what you millennials really want!

Clearly my millennial mind was fueled by Spice Girls while writing this article…

Homeownership has been a cornerstone of the American dream for centuries. Despite the ever-changing landscape of urban and suburban lifestyles, it still rings true today. According to a 2019 Bankrate survey,  79% of Americans “still believe that owning a home is a vital component of achieving the American dream.”

Those Americans wanting to own a home are now from a different generation. It is the millennial generation that has surpassed baby boomers, reports the Pew Research Center. Not only have millennials taken the top spot in adult population size, but they make up the largest share of homebuyers. And, man, are they showing up in droves to the settlement table.

Over the past two years, millennials have held the top spot as homebuyers in the nation. According to the 2020 National Association of Realtors Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report, about 38% of buyers are born in the millennial generation (1981-1996) and roughly 69% are doing so for the first time. The majority of sellers are not in this generation. With a majority generation flooding the market as homebuyers, you start to see trend commonalities. Understanding what a typical homebuyer wants in their home can better position you as a seller to make your home desirable, thus making a larger profit.

Our area is in an inventory drought. Properties rarely stay on the market long enough to even make your scheduled showing the next day. With that being said, I still highly encourage sellers to envision their home through the buyer’s eyes. And, most often, that’s a millennial. I’ve listed a few of the hottest millennial buyer must-haves for sellers to consider in making their home stand out even more. Major renovations certainly are desired, but even minor tweaks can go a long way to get top value for your home.

Outdoor Space

As Mark Twain said, “Buy land — they’re not making it anymore.”

Although lot size can vary, it’s what you do with the space you have that matters. Many millennials are moving from a rental apartment that comes with none or very little outdoor space. They are seeking space and its versatility — a place for the dog to run, a space for small social gatherings, a patio to take work calls, etc. Some ideas to spruce up an outdoor space regardless of size are:

  • Refresh your landscaping to the correct season and make your curb appeal pop.
  • Power-wash your siding, windows, walkways, etc. to brighten your space and make it appear larger.
  • Replace window screens if your outdoor space is limited so you can bring the outdoors in.
  • Stage the outdoors! People want to see how a space could function.

Open Concept

The first option, of course, is to tear down the walls. However, that can be a huge expense for your budget and time. If that’s not in the cards for you, seller, the right staging can go a long way. Believe it or not, many millennials actually want space for a dining room table. To play up the space you have:

  • Draw the eyes up to make the space feel big by adding open-air shelving all the way to the ceiling or installing curtains rods higher on the wall above the windows.
  • Know that mirrors are your friend.
  • Brighten up the room with a fresh, light color of paint or simply replace all your light bulbs to a brighter, cohesive voltage.

Upgrade the Heart of the Home

The kitchen is a room you go in every day. I’d argue it’s the most used room in the house and, also, usually the room with the most wear and tear. Without breaking the bank, try the following:

  • Hire a professional to paint your cabinets — buyers can tell the difference!
  • Replace your faucets and/or hardware for a more contemporary style. (Matte black is very popular!)
  • Freshen up the backsplash.
  • Revitalize island lighting fixtures.
  • Meet a buyer halfway by installing modern appliances.

Bathroom Retreat

‘Like a trip to the spa’ is a very common mentality when a millennial is thinking about their bathroom. From a double vanity to heated bathroom floors, a luxurious bathroom is on their wish list. To achieve that mindset on a budget, try:

  • Installing a new vanity with plenty of storage.
  • Reglaze your old tile shower/tub.
  • Re-caulk your bathtub for clean lines and low buyer maintenance.
  • Swap out your old shower head — match the style to your kitchen fixtures for cohesiveness.

Flex Space

Do you have a room or a nook in your house that’s not being used to its full potential? Millennials are looking for any space that could be used as multi-purpose. Here are a few suggestions to make that area come alive to a millennial buyer:

  • Working from home is now synonymous with living at home — set up a desk.
  • Put your exercise bike, yoga mat and/or dumbbells there.
  • Drinks are poured! A funky cut-out in your basement could be the perfect space for a bar top.

However, at the end of the day, most millennials entering the market have one thing in common… “They wanna really, really, really just buy their first house.”

As a fifth generation Realtor and the granddaughter of an architect and builder, Sallie has deep roots in real estate. She is passionate for the charm, history and architecture of Alexandria and its surrounding communities. If you would like more information on selling or buying in today’s complex market, contact Sallie today at 703-798-4666 or visit her website SallieSeiy.com.

If you would like a question answered in our weekly column or to set up an appointment with one of our Associates, please email: [email protected] or call 703-549-9292.

McEnearney Associates Realtors®, 109 S. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. www.McEnearney.com Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreAlexandria

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