Designing for First-Time Millennial Buyers

KTGY’s newest design concepts cater to Millennial homebuyers with a focus on urban, multigenerational, and intentional living

by Marissa Kasdan

Common perception tells us that Millennials are destined to be the generation of perpetual renters. Underpaid through the Great Recession and saddled with student loan debt, they have little hope of homeownership. However, a recent study published by the National Association of Realtors indicates those trends may be shifting.

Millennials accounted for 36 percent of homebuyers last year, prompting some developers to upgrade their community amenities and tech features to appeal to a younger demographic. And while extra pools and gigabit internet service may entice some young homebuyers, the largest and most diverse group of adults in the United States is likely to have an equally varied set of priorities when deciding to make their first home purchase.

Rather than studying the group of Millennials who have already become homeowners, let’s look at those who haven’t, but are likely considering it. As young adults scroll through Instagram posts of new dangling keys and home remodel projects, they can see what is available now; but what new design concepts would encourage them to make that leap themselves?

Multigenerational Living

The cultural values of multigenerational living highly influence this very diverse generation. For reasons including the practical needs of financial support and help with child care, Millennials will likely continue to remain deeply connected with their parents and other extended family members, even after purchasing their first home.

After researching the trend toward multigenerational living, KTGY’s Research and Development Studio created the “Ensemble” concept, designed specifically for multigenerational and unconventional families. Interlocking units combine small single-story units and larger family homes, allowing family members in different life stages to live within the same interconnected building, while still maintaining their own private space. Two to four units are connected, forming a large shared courtyard in between. Semi-private courtyard spaces create a venue for family and neighborhood gatherings with seating areas, garden boxes, movie walls, and integrated play areas. Indoor workshops, game rooms, and fitness rooms connect to the outdoor courtyards through roll-up garage doors.

Intentional Living

Trends surrounding the Millennial generation point to a strong sense of value-driven decision making. Millennials opt to work for companies sharing their philanthropic principles. They extensively research the origin of their purchases. Their lifestyle choices reflect the things they value most.

Focusing on qualities such as walkability, community interaction, and healthy living, KTGY’s R+D concept, “The Patch,” arranges modestly sized homes, well suited to a young couple or small family, around a small neighborhood farm on an infill site. For a generation that ushered in the rise of farm-to-table dining, the healthy living aspects of “agri-hood” communities create an appealing choice for young homebuyers. The integrated farm provides residents with easy and regular access to healthy organic produce, as well as a neighborhood community that shares in that value. By reducing the provided parking and concentrating it toward the edges of the site, walkability is encouraged and a sense of community is promoted.

Urban Family Living

Over the past decade, Millennials, particularly those with college degrees, have moved to urban areas in record numbers. Recent first-time homebuyers are making the shift out of the urban core in exchange for family-friendly suburbs. While the high cost of buying a home in the city certainly remains a key factor, at KTGY we looked at design strategies that would encourage Millennials to remain within their urban communities while raising their families.

KTGY’s R+D concept “Urban Nest” proposes flexible, family-friendly unit plans within a mixed-use urban building, curated specifically for young and growing families. Within the building, amenities such as a tot lot, splash pad, indoor playroom, and stroller storage cater to young families. By incorporating elements typically relegated to suburban communities, urban living can be a reasonable option for Millennials who prefer to remain in the communities where they have been renting.

We live in a time full of choices: from streaming options to online retail shopping, a variety of entertainment choices, and even dating prospects. Moving beyond a simple selection between urban and suburban, the vast availability of information makes every detail an integral part of the homebuying process. Each new generation will challenge designers to meet their unique needs with creative solutions. We would be missing the big picture if our solutions to addressing the needs of today’s Millennial home-shoppers were only as reactive as our internet service.

Marissa Kasdan is a Senior Designer for KTGY Architecture + Planning’s R+D Studio. She may be reached at mkasdan@ktgy.com

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