Consumer and Home Design TrendsDemographics

From Boomers to Zoomers: Housing Priorities by Generation

Peter Dennehy photo

Peter Dennehy

May 16, 2024

There are four generations buying homes in the US today. Each has different priorities: 

  • Boomers are sitting on tons of equity and wealth but are less motivated to move unless they are relocating (usually to be near family/friends or to a lower-cost area) or seeking a low-maintenance home or rental. 
  • Gen X is a smaller generation in size. Some are starting to buy move-down homes for their next life stage (post children, pre-retirement). 
  • Millennials are the largest and currently dominant home buyer group (10K turn 40 every day). Their top housing priority is to move up from their starter homes.
  • Gen Z is coming into the market pessimistic (but interested) and willing to compromise to buy their first home. 

It is unsurprising that each generation’s housing preferences span the spectrum, given their diverse life stages and financial standings. During this year’s TecHome Builder Summit keynote in Nashville, I shared the key generational differences toward homeownership to help shape your approach to connecting with each group. We have included a project example from the DesignLens product database as an example of what home product appeals to each group today.

Our searchable DesignLens database features 700+ communities and developments, highlighted for their innovations in architecture, design, land planning, and historical significance (available exclusively to New Home Trends Institute [NHTI] members).

NHTI is a subscription membership that drives collaboration among industry leaders, fueled by consumer and design research. 

Boomers

Boomers are discretionary buyers who will either buy as their needs change or to move closer to family and friends. Their top priority is a home for retirement, likely downsized and ideally low maintenance (the ability to age in place is the motivator). They are willing to explore new living situations and are attracted to lifestyle communities, condominiums in mixed-use locations, and rental products that allow them to minimize upkeep responsibilities and pursue their own interests, travel, etc.

Example: Villas at Los Coyotes Country Club—Elevator-served, luxury stacked flats adjacent to a country club (which most buyers are members of).

Villas at Los Coyotes Country Club | Buena Vista, CA
Brookfield Residential | Bassenian Lagoni Architects | Chameleon Design

Gen X

Like the boomers, Gen Xers are typically not under any pressure to move. They are beginning to seek move-down homes that will allow them to age in place but are not necessarily downsizing, as they may still need room for adult children or aging parents. They live in suburban single-family homes today and tend to want to stay in a similar setting. Community amenities that support lifestyle, health, and wellness are important.

Example: Residence 1 of Skye at River Islands—3-bedroom, single-story home with a flex room (that can be used as a teen lounge to support two nearby bedrooms or as a home office) and big backyards with docks to the lake.

Skye at River Islands | Lathrop, CA
Kiper Homes | WHA (William Hezmalhalch Architects)

Millennials

Millennials are starting to focus on moving up from their starter homes as they age from their 30s into their 40s. Their ideal home layout seamlessly accommodates their technological, fitness, and remote work requirements without breaking the budget (think flex spaces). Contemporary designs, open floorplans, and outdoor space for kids and pets capture their attention as well. For Millennials, optimal locations will blend suburban allure (excellent schools and green spaces) with the vibrancy of urban living (trendy restaurants and retail).

Example: Plan 1 of Arrow Peak at Kyle Point—Includes a pocket-sized flex space for work or play. A courtyard wrapped around the side of the home creates an outdoor connection without a large backyard.

Arrow Peak at Kyle Point | Las Vegas, NV
Tri Pointe Homes | Bassenian Lagoni Architects | Pacific Dimensions Inc. (pdi)

Gen Z

Most Gen Zers are not yet homebuyers, but around 2 in 5 are saving for a home. Their incomes are higher than those of prior generations at this life stage, and they have the richest parents (Gen X and boomers control trillions of dollars in built-up home equity). Their challenge is that home prices relative to incomes are also higher. Target them with smaller, creative housing options that maximize function. Bonus points if there is a bedroom or ADU that they can rent out to help pay the mortgage.

Example: The Paintbrush model in Portrait Collection at Greenways—Attainable starting price point in the mid-$400,000s (Colorado). Option for ADU (561 sq ft) with a private entrance through the garage.

Portrait Collection at Greenways | Colorado Springs, CO
Classic Homes | Classic Homes Architecture | KLO Home Design

The US continues to grow, boosted by stronger immigration, and this growth creates demand for housing of all types from various life stages. Who are your consumers, and how does the housing that you offer them align with evolving needs and preferences?

Peter is an experienced event speaker who focuses on consumer, market, and product trends in homebuilding, master-planned communities, urban and infill housing projects, and 55+ development. For any inquiries, please contact him here.

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About The Author

Peter Dennehy photo
Peter Dennehy
Senior Vice President, Consulting
Peter Dennehy is a consumer and housing industry expert with 30+ years of diverse experience in market research, product segmentation, consumer trends, real estate investing, acquisitions, and project performance evaluation/optimization. His focus is deploying actionable insights from the latest research on the ever-changing intersection of economic and demographic trends, residential product & design innovation, and consumer segmentation and preferences to develop research-driven strategies to create incredible homes and communities.

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