Appeal of certain amenities grows among millennials, decreases among older generations

An increasing share of millennials is expressing interest in home features such as his and her baths, media rooms, and trash compactors, according to a recent study by the National Association of Home Builders. At the same time, many of these features were waning in popularity among older generations.

The NAHB Economics and Housing Policy Group compared the responses in a 2018 survey on homebuyer preferences to similar surveys in 2015, 2012, and 2007 to see how generational preferences have shifted as their members grow older. Millennials were defined as those born between 1980 and 1996.

Fifty-seven percent of millennials rated exercise rooms as an essential or desirable home feature in 2018, up from 41 percent in 2007. Interest in this feature also climbed among Generation Xers, from 43 percent to 50 percent. In the most recent survey, just 32 percent of baby boomers and 17 percent of seniors expressed a preference for exercise rooms.

The share of millennials rating game rooms as a preferable home feature rose 4 percentage points over the past decade to 53 percent in 2018, while the share expressing a preference for media rooms increased 8 percentage points to 57 percent. Interest decreased among all other generations. The starkest change occurred in baby boomers' preference for game rooms, which was halved to 16 percent between 2007 and 2018.

Fifty-six percent of millennials said they would be interested in having a trash compactor in their home in the 2018 survey, up from 38 percent in the 2007 survey. Interest also grew among Gen X and seniors, from 34 percent to 44 percent in the former and 26 percent to 35 percent in the latter. It steadily decreased among baby boomers, from 38 percent to 28 percent.

His and her baths also had a strong increase in popularity among millennials. While 38 percent rated this as a preferable home feature in 2012, 55 percent did so in 2018. The share increased from 33 percent to 39 percent among Gen Xers in the same period, and decreased from 29 percent to 25 percent among both baby boomers and seniors.

Each generation was more likely to rate built-in kitchen seating as a preferable feature, though the share only increased slightly among Gen Xers and baby boomers. It rose from 38 percent in 2007 to 55 percent in 2018 among millennials, with a similarly pronounced increase from 19 percent to 36 percent among seniors.

Millennials were the only generation to show an increased preference for window seats, with this share increasing from 51 percent in 2007 to 64 percent in 2018. They were also the only generation to be more likely to see a dressing area as a preferable home feature, with the share rising from 52 percent in 2007 to 67 percent in 2018.

Sixty-three percent of millennials expressed a preference for a central kitchen island with a range, up 4 percentage points from 2007. The share rating this feature as preferable fell significantly between 2007 and 2012 among all generations and has stayed lower than the 2007 share among Gen Xers, baby boomers, and seniors.

None of these home features was the most desired one among millennials. Laundry rooms were the most favorably viewed amenity, with 86 percent rating it as desirable or essential. Eighty-one percent said they would prefer a home with a patio or hardwood front exterior, while 80 percent looked favorably upon garage storage and 79 percent rated a walk-in pantry, exterior lighting, or ceiling fans as favorable.

Few millennials were interested in home elevators, with 47 percent rating this as an unfavorable feature. Thirty-three percent looked unfavorably on cork flooring in main living spaces, while 32 percent said a wine cellar was not a favorable home feature.

The NAHB analysis also determined that millennials still preferred to find a home in the suburbs, but were increasingly drawn to a central city location. Fifty-one percent said they would like a suburban home in the 2018 survey, down from 65 percent in the 2007 survey. In the same period, the share expressing preference for a central city home rose from 6 percent to 23 percent.

NAHB said one surprising result of the 2018 survey was that millennials' environmental preferences were about equal to those of older generations, with only 16 percent saying they would pay more for an environmentally friendly home. Environmental preferences among all generations showed little change between 2007 and 2018.

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