Dream Homes Vary by Generation

Dream Homes Vary by Generation

When you were born says a lot about your idea of the perfect house.

This month we’re featuring an article from MSN real estate that reviews the features that appeal most to boomers, Gen X and Gen Y, plus tips on how to sell to homebuyers in each generation.

What’s your dream house?

Your answer says a lot about your values and attitudes — and may have a lot to do with when you were born. So say the authors of a new study of 1,000 home owners nationwide.

The market research company GfK Roper Reports asked participants to prioritize the amenities they’d have in their dream home — not necessarily amenities they already have, or will have in their next home.

The different responses, from baby boomers through first-time generation-Y buyers, reflect how different features appeal to different ages and also how tastes have shifted over time.

“I think what the study reveals is very different value sets among the generations,” says Kathy Sheehan, senior vice president for GfK Roper Reports.

Definite patterns emerge from the survey data, Sheehan says, and you can glean some potentially important insights — especially if you’re considering pre-sale renovations. But first, here’s a review of the survey results:

Boomers – The Picture of Success

Those born 1946 to 1964, rank a state-of-the-art kitchen No. 1 on their list of must-haves, with walk-in closets, whirlpool baths, fireplaces and swimming pools rounding out the top five. They also rank a workshop/hobby studio highly. (You can see a full list of each generation’s top 10 below.)

As they’re becoming so-called “empty nesters,” boomers think about having a private retreat that’s as much gallery as home. They waited until later in life to have a grand home, and now they generally want to flaunt its many niceties — a home where they can age (extremely) gracefully.

“It’s about the show,” she says, with amenities such as a grand kitchen and places to display art. In a nutshell, the boomer home says, “I’ve made it.”

Generation X – Family-focused Informality

Those born roughly between 1965 and 1978 also place a high priority on a fine kitchen and on amenities like large walk-in closets. As these sons and daughters of baby boomers age, their aspirations for dream houses are now dovetailing with those of their parents, says Sheehan.

The reason? This generation has moved into child-rearing age, says Sheehan, and now “want stuff that speaks to organization.” Their buzzword: family.

“Gen X-ers are at childbearing age,” Sheehan says. “That means that Gen-X homes are about the family center. They are looking for things that help them organize and eradicate clutter and chaos.”

But Gen X-ers are notably different from boomers, too, says Sheehan. For one thing, “Gen X-ers have different attitudes about family and disciplining their children.”

Those different attitudes show themselves not only in how these former slackers prioritize their dream amenities, but also in how little they like the formality of boomer homes; they want a casual home, says Sheehan.

They’re also much more in tune to style and design, and know exactly what they want in a home — and are less inclined to settle for less, she says.

Generation Y – Let the good times roll

Those born after 1978 to about 1995, want a home that hollers “entertain me.” Top-10 priorities include a whirlpool bath, sauna/steam room and entertainment center. “All of these things are about fun,” says Sheehan.

That might explain why gardens and workshops don’t make an appearance on the Gen-Y list.

And they’re clearly not yet worried about accommodating children. This generation is emerging socially, and wants amenities that enhance that aspect of its life. So instead of a place to hunker down, Gen-Y homeowners “might be more interested in the home as a social hub,” says Sheehan.

Technology is also second-nature to this generation. They’re completely wired. So a Gen-Y home, more than any other, will practically hum with electronics.

Top dream-home amenities vary in importance by generation:

Baby Boomes (born 1946-1964)

1. State of the art kitchen
2. Large walk-in closets
3. Whirlpool bath
4. Fireplace
5. Swimming Pool
6. Workshop/hobby studio
7. Patios, porches and decks
8. Garden
9. Game/billiard room
10. High-tech entertainment cener

Generation X (born 1965-1977)

1. State of the art kitchen
2. Larke walk-in closets
3. Fireplace
4. Whirlpool bath
5. Swimming pool
6. Patios, porches, decks
7. Game/billiard room
8. Garden
9. Gym/fitness room
10. Workshop/hobby studio

Generation Y (born 1978-1995)

1. Whirlpool bath
2. Swimming Pool
3. Game/billiard room
4. Large walk-in closets
5. Fireplace
6. State of the art kitchen
7. Sauna/steam room
8. Gym/fitness room
9. High tech entertainment center
10. Patios, porches and decks

Source: GfK ROPER

Some common ground

So, how immutable are these traits, anyway? Observers say attitudes about homes do change as people enter different stages of their lives: Witness the Gen X-ers who want high-end kitchens now that they’re nesting, just like their boomer parents before them.

But the study turned up somewhat unexpected results, too. For Gen X-ers, “It’s a little more surprising that their values seem to be staying with them as they age,” says Sheehan, mentioning attitudes such as informality.

“There might be life-stage changes, but the values will remain consistent.” Another is the Gen Y embrace of technology. That shouldn’t be expected to dissipate, either, she says.

Perhaps most interesting to home owners renovating with an eye toward selling their home are the features the generations agreed were important. Walk-in closets made an appearance in the top three on all three generation’s lists, for example.

And those state-of-the art kitchens ranked No. 1 for both boomers and Gen X-ers — and made a not-so-shabby appearance at No. 6 for the Gen-Y set. Other features cracking the top five for all three generations:

• Whirlpool baths
• Swimming pools
• Fireplaces

Target buyers — carefully

You can harness all this info to make your home more attractive to homebuyers. But do proceed with caution: Just because you live in a neighborhood that’s hot with the Gen-Y crowd doesn’t mean you should run out and install a Jacuzzi, say real estate agents; a hot tub is a bad return on investment now and forever. Pools aren’t much better.

Do not to make dramatic changes in your home just in hopes of attracting buyers. “What’s most important is having a nice, clean property in an in-demand area,” Hehman says.

Yet there are some situations in which you might consider targeting your home renovations — say, if you live in one of those increasingly popular 55-and-over communities, or in an area that’s getting hot with young professionals.

To gauge the type of buyer you’re likely to attract, pay attention to your surroundings: Are you in a high-dollar district? Chances are good you’ll have a boomer buyer. Gen-Y buyers, meanwhile, often want to be closer to the social scene and public transportation — or else out on the fringes where new homes are cheapest.

You should know basic facts about your neighborhood, such as whether you’re in a good school district and the general ages of people who’ve recently bought in the area.

For those of you comfortable with targeting specific buyers, here are some expert tips for luring boomers, Gen X-ers and the Gen-Y crowd (that fall well short of installing a Jacuzzi).

Luring Gen Y

Don’t fear color.

The age-old rule is to banish any hue from a house about to be sold. But plain-Jane white is often too drab for Gen Y. Some clients see plain white walls and they say, ‘Man, that just sucks, because now we’ve got to come in and paint.'”

Instead home owners should repaint in what the industry calls “builder’s beige.” “It adds a lot to the house; it’s better than just solid white,” he says, and “they can live with the beige for a while.”

Get unconventional.

This generation likes untraditional floor plans, informality and flexibility in a layout. Anything that a homeowner can do to emphasize that — adding furniture that moves around on rollers, putting the formal dining set in a shed out back when the house is being shown — may add appeal.

Also, get creative with what personal property you’re willing to include in the listing price. Instead of the typical washer and dryer, some buyers have negotiated for the previous owner’s elaborate, built-in home theater system to be included in a full-price offer.

Get wired.

Gen Y is plugged in to the Web, all the time. Your home better be, too — and with a fast connection, even if it’s an older home.

Add an office.

Transform someplace in the home (even a nook) into an office — even if it’s just a few shelves and a desktop. Everyone works from home these days. Show a Gen-Y homebuyer where he or she can, too.

Grabbing the Gen-X buyer

Think kitchen.

Because the kitchen is the focal point of the Gen-X home, you should spend your remodeling money there before, say, the bedrooms, advises GfK Roper Reports’ Sheehan.

One way to freshen up a kitchen without spending thousands is to refinish the cabinets. Popular treatments are glazing, crackling and sand-through finishing that gives furniture a worn appearance. It’s minimal cost but gives that home an updated look. Just look at a catalog like Pottery Barn for evidence of its popularity.

Color (again).

Gen X-ers like a lot of color, a little bit of bling, a little bit of pizzazz. That doesn’t mean you should paint your bedroom purple, but do something intriguing that will make a room memorable for a younger visitor.

Hooking the Boomer Buyer

Think about art.

Since boomers often have fine items and this generation is often big on display, ask yourself where and how you can create a space — perhaps in the living room or entrance — where a future homeowner could show a piece of artwork.

Update with care.

Boomers do love grand kitchens and bathrooms. But “it’s very tricky — how are you going to pick out the right tile?” asks Hehman. So proceed with caution if you must update those areas in anticipation of selling your home, he says. Make somewhat neutral choices among luxury items — white Carrera marble in the bathroom, for example.

Consider universal access.

As you renovate your bathroom, add touches that seniors will notice and need when they look at the house later — grab bars in the bathtub, a higher toilet, a step-in shower rather than a bathtub.

More ideas.

Lever door handles (easier for arthritic hands to handle than knobs) when you replace door fixtures, and pull-out shelves in places like the pantry (easier for bad backs to reach).

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