A generational battle is raging at the heart of America’s real estate market.
As retirement-ready baby boomers look for new digs, hotshot young millennials are entering the market.
In the next 10 years, 44.9 million millennials will turn 34, the median age for first-time homebuyers, Zillow says. That’s 7.4% more potential first-timers than during the last decade.
But at the moment, there are nearly twice as many baby boomer homeowners as millennial homeowners, Zillow found, by examining census data.
So what are these vastly different generations looking for when they buy homes? See how they disagree on 10 popular housing features.
In the kitchen, baby boomers want sprawling luxury, while screen-queen millennials crave tech connectivity.
Boomers love high-end finishes, oodles of storage for kitchen gadgets, and touch-activated fixtures that take on importance with aging, says decorating website Houzz.
Meanwhile, a 2015 Think with Google study found that 59% of millennials cook with their smartphones. Unsurprisingly, young homebuyers appreciate splash-free zones that make it easy to follow recipes (and cat videos) without ruining devices.
Overall, 80% of all homebuyers rate a walk-in pantry, double sinks and space for a dining table as essential or desirable in the kitchen, says a survey from the National Association of Home Builders, or NAHB.
2. Square footage
Baby boomers are looking to "downsize" — but they’re not about to buy an 80-square-foot tiny house.
About 75% want less than 1,900 square feet of space. That’s smaller than a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house — or, put another way, just right for hosting grandkids but too small for adult children to move back in.
Meanwhile, 35% of millennials want at least 2,300 square feet to spread out in, according to the NAHB survey.
That’ll fit three or more bedrooms, Mom's Etsy workshop and space for the kids to practice karate without putting dad's vintage telescope at risk.
3. Pet amenities
When buying a new home, Fido's comfort is top priority for pet-obsessed millennials.
One third of millennials say their No. 1 consideration for buying their first house is to give their pets more space. That reason beats out "marriage" and "the birth of a child," in a survey from SunTrust financial services.
Young pawrents also seek extra roaming space and indoor cameras to monitor the fur kids' activities during the day.
In contrast, baby boomers aren't looking for homes customized for their fluffy pals. The builders survey found special showers for pets are among the least popular home features for the older generation.
4. The number of floors
How small is too small for comfort? A single-story home, say space-hungry millennials.
Only 35% of young homebuyers would consider moving into a one-story house, finds the National Association of Homebuilders.
However, more than half the coveted multistory single-family homes in America are owned by baby boomers, and many refuse to sell their houses until age 75, leaving fewer options for picky young buyers.
Of the boomers who would sell their homes, 75% are perfectly content to move to their own one-story house.
5. The number of bedrooms
Sick of entertaining overnight guests? You might be a baby boomer.
The homebuilders survey found that 30% of older homebuyers want three or fewer bedrooms, and only 20% want four. Fewer rooms equals fewer guests — score! (But also fewer opportunities to become an Airbnb host.)
Meanwhile, 87% of millennials rate having at least three bedrooms as "essential" or "desirable" in a new home.
The most optimistic millennials would love four or even five bedrooms.
6. The backyard
Haven’t you heard? #Plantlife is trending — and millennials want a big garden at all costs. Preferably at a home with a photogenic deck, a front porch and a patio for entertaining.
Trendy young homeowners are adding vegetable patches, water features, weatherproof speaker systems and even pizza ovens to their outdoor spaces.
Meanwhile, after years of tending grass and bushes year-round, baby boomers prefer buying homes with small backyards.
Anything to cut down on the mowing.
Baby boomer homebuyers have been losing interest in moving to retirement communities, where they'd be surrounded by lots of other older people.
Senior community living is fading fast as retirees opt to age in place in their homes or move to more diverse neighborhoods.
Nearly 7 in 10 baby boomers (68%) also want to be close to restaurants, shopping and family, finds a study from the homebuilders trade group.
Meanwhile, 38% of millennials crave high-quality, low-density neighborhoods that are close to cities, nature and other amenities.
8. Energy efficiency
Luxury appliances are top priority for baby boomers, and saving the planet is just a bonus.
This generation doesn’t mind having energy-saving doodads at home, as long as they look sleek, finds the National Association of Home Builders.
Half of millennials surveyed said energy-efficient appliances are absolutely essential when buying a new home.
However, while young eco-conscious homebuyers demand new homes packed with green features, a Deloitte study says 65% of boomers and 47% of millennial homeowners won't upgrade existing appliances to efficient ones because the old ones still get the job done.
9. Warm weather
If boomers want to avoid retirement communities, then they might want to move somewhere other than Florida.
But the majority of baby boomers still look for homes in warm climates, and it's probably no surprise that nearly 84,000 seniors moved to Florida between 2012 and 2017 — more than to any other state, says the Brookings Institution.
More recently, retirees have been fleeing Florida because of hurricanes and climate change, according to Jon Rork, a retirement migration expert at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.
As for millennials, they enjoy warm, sunny places, too, but they’re mainly motivated by lower living costs and employment opportunities in growing cities across Texas, Washington, Arizona and Colorado.
10. Renovate vs. move-in ready
Millennials are obsessed with HGTV’s home reno shows — and almost 68% of them would buy a fixer-upper, finds a survey from the real estate site Clever.
The 20- and 30-year-olds also are more likely than baby boomers to renovate their homes to add value.
Boomers prefer buying brand-new houses to avoid making expensive repairs. Those with older homes will renovate to modernize and add luxe elements, says HomeAdvisor’s 2018 State of Home Spending Report.
In 2018, homeowners across the age spectrum spent five times more money on home improvement than maintenance, with bathroom remodeling as the most popular project.
Join our mailing list! You’ll get the latest financial tips and news, straight to your inbox.