5 Myth-Busting Tips for Selling a House to Millennials

Millennials were once an easy punchline—they spend too much on avocado toast and don’t put any money into 401ks. They swipe right for casual dates and earned an absurd number of participation trophies in grade school.

But this generational group also weathered the worst of the 2008 housing and economic crash as new graduates and professionals early in their careers. While still the butt of jokes, they’re becoming the largest demographic of home buyers. Selling a house to millennials is now a code to crack. Agents and homesellers are successful when they can parse myth from fact. Here we debunk a few myths, including the one that says millennials all still live in their parents’ basements.

The data says…

The National Association of Realtors’ 2019 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report says millennials make up 37% of current homebuyers. So the odds are millennials are among those who are wandering through your for-sale home vetting it for their next potential step. As a home seller, dress your home to impress these 20- and 30-somethings.

Data confirms there are a lot of myths about millennials floating around the real estate industry. Don’t let these stubborn rumors mess up your selling chances.

a house that will be sold to millennials.
Source: (Pixabay/ Pexels)

Myth: Millennials only want turnkey homes.

The perk of renting is not having to do your own maintenance, but maintenance and remodeling projects aren’t necessarily a big deterrent for millennial buyers. The myth that millennials only want homes that are finished is misdirected and simply more complicated.

In fact, affordability is a top challenge for millennials, according to a survey published by Freddie Mac. Though millennials are now the top segment of homebuyers, they’re still dealing with a unique-to-them set of financial challenges like student loan debt and stagnant wages, while the cost of living and housing remain high.

Interest rates may be low right now, but saving up for that down payment has been much harder than generations past. Business Insider reports that today’s average home is priced more than 70% higher than a house in the 1960s, adjusted for inflation.

Tip #1: Think budget-friendly updates

59% of millennials are Instagram users (who doesn’t love a good filtered sunset?), so sure… they like pretty things. But while it may be true that millennials are attracted to move-in ready homes with great staging, they’re also willing to give up some bells and whistles (and forgo some weekends for house projects) if they can find an affordable place they can update as they want.

If you’re planning some updates for your home pre-sale, opt for practical updates rather than luxury renovations to appeal to millennial buyers.

According to HomeAdvisor’s True Cost Report, millennials are more likely than other generations to do projects for the sake of ROI, and the National Association of Home Builders says 4 out of 5 millennials want these three upgrades:

  • A nice laundry room
    It may be a closet or a mudroom — either way, make it functional with baskets and shelves for detergent and dryer sheets.
  • Patio
    Enjoy the great outdoors, or at least make it look like you do with a firepit and patio furniture. Having a space to entertain guests is appealing to millennial buyers and can be done inexpensively.
  • Garage storage
    Whether you opt for a few cabinets or take a trip to your local Costco and check out their options (and grab some free samples), garage storage is practical as well as aesthetically pleasing.
A house that is being sold to millennials.
Source: (Josh Wilburne/ Unsplash)

Myth: Millennials want to live in trendy urban areas.

In generations prior, affordable housing was abundant, according to Shelterforce’s review of Randy Shaw’s book “Generation Priced Out.” City center and urban hubs were populated by Americans of every income level. Today cities have different building rules for developers, changing zoning practices and fewer requirements for the volume of affordable housing that must be available, all of which make urban living less and less affordable for millennials.

According to the above mentioned 2019 NAR survey, older millennials were the second most likely generation to purchase in the suburbs or a subdivision at 53%, and are largely the catalyst for the urban-to-suburban trend, according to a 2018 report by Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings.

Millennials value accessibility, but living “downtown” is different than having walkable access to a local coffee shop and library. Millennials are increasingly attracted to the suburbs as they seek an escape to city stresses, the alleviation of city prices, and a place to settle down or raise kids.

Tip #2: Play up the suburban life

Highlight family-friendly home features and neighborhood qualities. HomeLight suggests featuring assets like the school district, location on a quiet street or cul-de-sac, proximity to shopping or hiking trails, smart home features and storage space.

Amy Glassman, attorney and author, says in order to avoid Fair Housing Act violations, agents and home-sellers should focus on the home’s features rather than the type of buyer you want. For example, say “right next to West Market Park” instead of “great for families raising kids,” to avoid the assumption you favor or prefer buyers with children.

A kitchen in a house being sold to millennials.
Source: (Jesse Bridgewater/ Pixabay)

Myth: Millennials are entitled know-it-alls and have ridiculous expectations.

Graduating from high school or college at the height of the recession, millennials have built their careers and lives among an economy of stagnant wages while saddled with student debt. This rough start in the working world has largely shaped how the generation views their happiness, work-life balance, and what priorities are most important to them — like the environment or social issues and family — for example.

Millennials have worked hard to dig themselves out of a pretty difficult situation. Goldman Sachs’ Millennials Coming of Age report says: “Millennials have come of age during a time of technological change, globalization and economic disruption. That’s given them a different set of behaviors and experiences than their parents.”

Tammy Rice, a top-selling real estate agent in Tulsa, Oklahoma, says the biggest myth about dealing with millennials is that they’re know-it-alls. “They’ve very well informed buyers. They’re willing to do the legwork… and they know what they want” she says.

Since millennials are busy juggling work and home life, they value whatever makes their lives more efficient and convenient and allows them to spend more time with family, all while reflecting their passions and priorities.

Tip #3: Make energy-efficient improvements

Highlight accessibility to public transportation and freeways, as millennials may want to avoid a long commute. If you’re planning to make some tech updates to your home, opt for environment- and energy-conscious options.

  • Add insulation.
    Energy.gov makes suggestions about how and where to add insulation to an existing house. If you’re not sure where your house needs it, consider getting an energy audit for a local heating and cooling expert.
  • Replace your windows.
    This project provides a 70%-73% return on investment according to Remodeling.com’s Cost vs. Value Report for 2019.
  • Install a smart thermostat.
    The EcoBee was voted best smart thermostat by CNET and can save users 23% annually on heating and cooling costs.
A room in a house that is being sold to millennials.
Source: (Hannah Busing/ Unsplash)

Myth: Millennials want modern decor or big statement styles.

Millennials, like every generation, have been stereotyped to no end, and their housing style is no exception. The perception is that millennials all like mid-century modern design, fluffy sheepskin rugs and succulents. They love to decorate with mason jars and letter boards and IKEA furniture and irreverent wall art.

Liking these styles may be true for many millennials but assuming or pigeon-holing them isn’t a good strategy; it’s pandering at its worst. Really, this generation’s style is all about self-expression. (Just look at tattoo culture for comparison. About 47% of millennials have a tattoo, compared to just 13% of baby boomers, according to a 2015 Harris Poll and reported in a 2018 Wall Street Journal article.)

Tip #4: Keep your staging neutral

Instead of trendy statements, opt for minimalist and clean. Keep your staging simple so you don’t overdo your appeal to millennials and lose everyone else with your kitchy brass accents.

Cater to self-expression rather than stereotype “millennial design.” Not only can the stereotype turn off millennials but you’ll also miss out on impressing all the other generations who might be interested in your home.

Rice recommends neutral colors because many people, including millennials “want to personalize a space but not redo it.” Neutral colors allow them to visualize this.

  • Take advice from Marie Kondo by decluttering. Stage with minimalism in mind by clearing countertops, table tops, and other flat surfaces (even if the act of clearing surfaces doesn’t bring you any joy).
  • Repaint! It’s one of the easiest and least expensive ways to give your space a refresh. Opt for neutral colors like beige, gray and white. HomeLight offers 9 specific neutral paint colors chosen with staging in mind.
Tech being used to sell houses to millennials.
Source: (Marvin Meyer/ Unsplash)

Myth: Millennials are all about tech so they don’t need agents.

Raised on social media and texting, millennials are the “there’s an app for that” generation. Their lives often revolve around their phone — from calendar and email, to travel arrangements and health and lifestyle tracking, it’s all on that 3 by 4 inch touch screen.

But millennials aren’t so buried or dedicated to tech they won’t use real human resources. Millennials deal with the same scams on Craigslist and the same frustration with filters on real estate sites as other generations, which means they can appreciate the expertise of a good agent!

Their process of looking at houses is just a little different, explains Rice. She says millennials are weeding out houses online rather than requiring a drive-by. This makes staging and good photos critically important for home sellers. “They’re screening online and researching ahead,” she says, but tech isn’t replacing agents. It’s simply changing the house-hunting process and making it more efficient for them.

Tip #5: Hire an agent with deep local knowledge

Partner with an agent who knows what local buyers want. Agents have the experience to make a strong, persuasive presentation of your home to those looking in your area, and that may include a lot of home-shopping millennials.

Finding an agent who can do your home justice is easy with HomeLight’s agent-matching service. HomeLight will connect you with top local agents proven to sell homes faster and for more money than area averages and who have the most relevant experience in your neighborhood, price point, and property type.

Millennials might like avocado toast and spend more than you would on a pumpkin spice latte, but like it or not, millennials are the top segment of homebuyers today and if you want to sell your house, you should pay attention to what they’re looking for.

Header Image Source: (Allie Lehman/ Death to the Stock Photo)

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