Do You Know What Millennials Really Want? (Hint: You May Be Surprised!)

Cindi Acker-Hein
Creative Strategist, Ninety-Nine Hats


It’s no secret that millennials are the dominant voice in today’s economy. Born between the early 1980s and early 2000s, millennials have replaced baby boomers as the largest, most influential generation. While their impact is noticeable throughout the economy, it is especially powerful in the real estate market, where their expectations are redefining everything from the search process to the features they value most.

Technology First, Realtor Second

Millennials were practically born with a smartphone attached to their cradles. They are the first generation to grow up surrounded by technology, and to them it’s as natural as breathing.

This generation checks their mobile devices more than 40 times a day, and 94% of them use the internet to look for homes. Expect them to do detailed research before contacting you. Don’t worry — this can be to your advantage, as millennials will have a deeper understanding of what’s possible.

Millennials also want tech-ready homes. You have no control over internet service providers or the location of cell towers, but you can be sure you’ll be asked the question, so be prepared to speak knowledgeably about the home’s connectivity.

Budget-Minded, Financially Burdened

On average, millennials have $25,000 in outstanding student loan debt and make 20% less than baby boomers did at the same point in life. Small wonder that many millennials have difficulty saving for a down payment. The upshot is an extremely budget-conscious generation reluctant to enter into new debt. Make a connection by acknowledging this reality, and help source nontraditional funding options.

Socially Aware, Shared Values

It’s impossible to overstate the effect of social media on this generation’s culture. They are hyperaware of brand and public image, and overwhelmingly tied in to the thoughts of their friends, their peers, and the social media stars they admire. Fostering an environment in which photos, open and honest reviews, and new ideas are encouraged will help your brand stand out.

Millennials are also passionate about their ability to make a difference and will research a company’s charitable causes, production standards, and employment practices before making a purchase decision. Your brand can benefit from a charitable mindset: consider supporting a cause you genuinely believe in, and use social media to publicize your efforts.

Living in It, Not for It

Today’s young home buyers are less likely to view home ownership as all-consuming. While some are perfectly willing to pay with sweat equity, many others see their homes as the place they live, not the place they live for.

Having grown up watching their parents slave over home maintenance, they have no interest in being weekend warriors. They prefer homes that are move-in ready, or at least not in need of immediate major improvements.

And it’s more than just yard work. Millennials would rather not spend Saturday dusting and sweeping, either. For example, they’ll look for updated kitchens and baths, partly because they can’t afford improvements right away, and partly because marble countertops and wood floors are easier to take care of than molded surfaces and carpeting.

Open Plans, Useful Spaces

Millennials have their own ideas about how a home should work, top among them its usability. They want a home that fits well with their lifestyle, which generally centers more on life experiences than on consumerism.

This means you may find that your millennial house hunters have less interest in the traditional three-bedroom suburban house than they do in a space that suits their individual interests.

Quiz them carefully with this in mind and then adapt your showings to what they are looking for. They might want a music room more than a family room. That small bath might be converted into a darkroom, or the traditional living room made into a library. What the older generation might have called a “man cave” may instead be a game room or media center.

And don’t forget the essential home office.  Whether for paying bills, working from home, or growing that side hustle, it’s a central part of daily life.

Tips for Connecting to Millennials

Stage to their high standards. Millennials grew up on reality TV, and they expect a modern and polished look that reflects what they see on the screen. This is more than simply clearing the clutter; watch a few home remodeling shows to get tons of low-cost (and no-cost) ideas.

Improve your photographs. Your images will be used for more than standard real estate listings. Because millennials love to share and solicit opinions, expect your photos to show up everywhere. You’ll find lots of tips online about using your smartphone to take professional-looking shots. Techniques like shooting straight on, using natural light, and adding close-ups will serve you well.

Find millennials where they hang out. Millennials stream entertainment online more often than they watch cable television. They look for ideas on Pinterest more than they buy magazines. They look for products and services on Facebook and Instagram, rather than looking through the neighborhood paper. Adapt your publicity accordingly.

Make it easy to connect. Be known: post great photographs and useful content, then invite readers to comment and share. If you’ve adopted a charitable cause, don’t forget to post on that, too. Again, the sharing factor is huge for this generation, and that can be to your advantage.