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Originally published Saturday, June 7, 2008 at 12:00 AM


Why Gen Y-ers are savvy buyers

Generation Y is growing up fast. They are tech-savvy, confident and know what they want. And that includes what they want in a house.

McClatchy Newspapers

Generation Y is growing up fast.

The average age of a first-time homebuyer is 26, three years younger than for Gen X or baby-boomer buyers. So what's up with that?

Sure, favorable rates and terms make buying a house easier for young people these days, but the trend may be most affected by the characteristics of this generation:

They are tech-savvy. Generation Y can't remember life without a computer. This means they are consumers who research everything, including buying houses.

They are confident. Parents told them they were special, challenging their children's teachers on poor grades and negotiating with their coaches for more playing time.

Stores like Baby Gap, channels like Nickelodeon and numerous magazines and catalogs have catered to them their whole lives. So Gen Y-ers don't doubt themselves or their decisions, including buying a house.

They don't believe in paying their dues at work. They want respect at the office now, and if they don't get it, they'll move on. Similarly, they don't wait to buy homes.

To find out more about their housing preferences, we spoke to three Gen Y-ers who live in the Kansas City, Mo., area. Each is a housing expert. None has yet turned 30.

Busy buyers

Generation Y-ers grew up with soccer games, tennis practice, swimming lessons, French class, etc. They've carried that overscheduling tendency into adulthood. How has that affected the type of home they want?

Carrie Vanderford: Growing up, I did dance lessons, cake decorating, French horn, drama, soccer, softball, T-ball, gymnastics, piano. I'm still busy like that, so I'm not a homebody. That said, I want a place that's simple and free of clutter and that has a connectedness through technology.

Stephen Colin: Because of my busy schedule, I'm not willing to do a long commute. I want to be close to work, close to friends and close to local services.


Ryan Townsend: My generation is looking for low-maintenance homes that are easier to care for. More brick, steel and glass, but also more condo living and less emphasis on land.

In the next 20 years, a big backyard is going to move from asset to liability. Mention "acreage" and a 50-something hears "peaceful place away from the pressures of the city," while a 20-something hears "isolated maintenance nightmare."

Growing up green

Gen Y-ers seem to be more into the environment than previous generations. Does being green affect your home?

Townsend: Green design is a trend the way indoor plumbing is a trend. Seriously, today's 20-somethings are more globally aware and civic-minded than tuned-out and cynical Generation X. Developers and architects will be forced into environmental awareness purely by market demand.

The buzz topics that will spill from architects' discussions to homeowners' discussions will be SIPs (structural insulated panels that go up faster, use less wood and are more energy-efficient than traditional frame building) and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a certification program through the U.S. Green Building Council).

Other topics include rehabilitation of older buildings instead of new construction, an end to the use of vinyl products, geothermal heat, tankless water heaters, solar power, sun angles, embodied energy, reclaimed timber and xeriscaping.

Vanderford: Being green is just a way of life. I'm LEED-accredited. It's so important, that I wouldn't date someone who didn't recycle. Eco-snobbery has become a status symbol for Generation Y.

Colin: Sustainable housing and furniture are important to me. It also affects where I live. I'd like to take public transit or, ideally, walk to work.

Dreaming big?

Many Gen Y-ers grew up in McMansions. Is your parents' big house your dream house?

Colin: No. I want a smaller space so it's easier to take off and go. A house that's low-maintenance is good. Generation Y traveled a lot in college and will continue to do so through life. So a big yard isn't a plus, either.

Townsend: No. I think that seeing so many of our generation's parents divorce makes us understand that family togetherness is important.

So as we start having kids, you will see us avoid homes with a living room, family room and finished basement rec room in favor of open-plan homes where the family can share space.

Vanderford: Definitely not. Movable wall systems are used in offices, and they'd be good in more homes.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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