The Millennial generation: 77 million individuals born between 1982 and 2000. Millennials now make up about one-third of all home buyers and 79% of first-time home buyers, according to the National Association of Realtors’ 2014 report, but they are also the most financially conservative generation since the Great Depression, according to a 2014 study by UBS. They have seen the damage wrought by the housing market crash, home foreclosures, and unemployment, and they are burdened with high levels of student loan and credit card debt. As a result, many Millennials now see a home purchase as a risk rather than a good investment.
But whether they’re ready to buy or still renting, what do Millennials want when it comes to home improvement?
They have a vision. Expect them to have a lot of ideas about what they want. Social media platforms like Pinterest and Instagram, as well as the specialty site Houzz, make it easy for Millennials to collect ideas. They are savvy users of the Internet to locate products and check prices, so they are likely to insist on getting exactly what they have in mind and not be willing to settle for something else.
They know they can do it. Second, they feel quite confident in their ability to work on their homes themselves, aided by the proliferation of how-to videos online. The more that manufacturers and retailers can make how-to instructions as simple and easy to access as their products, the better Millennials will like it. But Millennials also like problem-solving and figuring things out on their own.
They want to collaborate and gets lots of opinions. When they seek professional help, they are unlikely to cede control to the professional; rather, they expect to be partners and collaborators in the process. Millennials are sometimes called “Generation We” because of their strong social mindset, believing that strategizing and executing with 3 or 4 differing perspectives leads to better results.
They want to know why. It’s as important to Millennials to understand why something is being done as it is to understand what and how.
They want the benefits of technology. Millennials are easily frustrated by outdated tools and techniques, like (gasp!) hand-writing anything. because they understand that newer technology allows them to function smarter, not harder.
They demand responsiveness. As kids, they were told they were special and received trophies for everything they participated in. As teens, they became accustomed to Amazon, iTunes, and Pandora understanding and catering to their interests. As adults, expect their text messages and online complaints to get instantaneous responses.
What do Millennials want in rooms and furnishings?
Room usage. Millennials homes are going to look much different than their parents’ and grandparents’ homes. Their living room is more likely to be a home theater, while what would have been a spare bedroom or dining room for their grandparents is more likely to be a home office.
Technology everywhere. Technology isn’t something they go into a separate room to use, it’s something they’re use anywhere and everywhere, 24/7. While they may want a home office for some activities, they’re just as likely to be using their tablets and laptops in the living room and bedroom. Thus, every room needs convenient access to electrical outlets and device chargers, and a central (not remote) location for their printer, printing suppliers, wifi router, and other stationary equipment. Bed, chairs, and tables will be viewed as much for their comfort for using their devices as for reading and watching TV. Living and bedroom furniture needs to become as tech-friendly as offices and hotel rooms have become, with built-in outlets, storage, and lighting.
Comfort control. Millennials want their home to have smart climate control and lighting control systems, for convenience as well as energy savings. More than half (56%) of Millennials believe home technology capabilities are more important than “curb appeal.” Fifty-nine (59) percent of those surveyed would rather have extra space in their kitchen for a TV (probably for watching how-to videos!), as opposed to a second oven (Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate 2013 survey).
Reduce, reuse, recycle. Millennials have been raised on this principle, and their low risk tolerance means they may be much more thrifty than their parents. Home improvement vendors need to demonstrate their commitment to ethical and sustainable principles in their merchandise and services.