With generational gaps, we often wonder if older and younger Americans are on the same “wave length.” It was refreshing for me to learn that the majority of Generation Y or Millennials, represented by 18 to 35-year-olds, are enthusiastic about buying homes, as they view home ownership as a symbol of success and a worthwhile financial investment. The Millennials have significant buying power, too. Mortgage News Daily tells us that 8% of them own more than one home.

home building trends

Always Looking Forward

This is the demographic that has grown up with the latest technology and is invested in taking care of our environment and managing our ecological footprint. Their homes are no exception to their upbringing; when it comes to their homes, Millennials put a large focus on technology and energy-efficiency.

A staggering 84% say technology is an absolute “essential” to have in their home. This includes home automation such as lighting , whole house audio systems, state-of-the-art electronics and wiring components, security features, virtual “smart” thermostat controls and motorized window shades – technologies that Millennials indicate are more important to them than curb appeal. More than 40% of younger Americans would be more proud of their home automation system than a renovated kitchen, and 64% would not consider living in a home without a technology system.

More than 80% of Gen Yers seek an energy-efficient home, which can come in the form of Energy-Star appliances, windows, doors and insulation. According to a June 3, 2013 report by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), lower monthly utility bills are also a factor for Millennials.

A Desire to Stand Out

Millennials see themselves as unique and, thus, want their homes to reflect their personal lifestyle and values. Out of 1,000 Millennials who participated in the Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Survey released in March 2013, 30% are excited by the opportunity to create their own space, saying they prefer fixer-upper homes instead of new homes.

Millennials desire highly customized homes, too, with 43% percent preferring a home that is customized to fit their lifestyle instead of merely “cookie-cutter.” More than three-quarters (77%) of Generation Y respondents prefer an “essential” home with rooms that have a specific use to fit their lifestyle versus a larger stereotypical luxury home.

Some Perspective from Chicagoland

While reading about these home building trends for Millennials, I was reminded of a recent project I completed with a young couple in the Chicagoland area: a whole-house renovation that was very modern, both in its architecture and technological features. The young homeowners have an active lifestyle and did not want a traditional layout. They wanted purposeful spaces that they would actually use more (for example, a large 25’x25’ home gym – but a smaller family room). Speaking to the energy-efficiency trend, this same home features state-of-the-art appliances in the kitchen. In addition, we installed automated Lutron-motorized shades behind a custom-fabricated painted wood valance that are controlled as part of an automated RadioRa2 lighting control system.

I give the same advice to all of my clients, regardless of age. Invest in your home and place the greatest emphasis on what positively impacts your lifestyle the most. Ask a laundry list of questions when interviewing a general contractor and find out what experience they have in whatever means the most to you, whether that is energy-efficiency, home automation, or something else.