Most buyers want a home that’s light, bright and sparkling clean. Millennials, the generation born between 1980 and 1995, also want a home that’s move-in ready, modernized and furnished with all the colors and comforts of a Pottery Barn store.
“No millennial wants to buy Grandma’s house,” says Melinda Bartling, a home stager and Realtor at Keller Williams Partners in Overland Park, Kansas. “And a lot of them don’t want to buy their parents’ house. It needs to be hip. It needs to be fresh.”
Virtually all newly built production homes offer this look. But many older homes don’t even come close. That presents a dilemma for sellers: How can they update their older residence to appeal to these younger buyers?
The answer involves staging a home to make it more “presentable” to these buyers, says Paige Elliott, a Realtor at Dave Perry-Miller Real Estate in Park Cities, Texas, north of Dallas.
“Sometimes,” Elliott says, “it’s as simple as tweaking what they have. Sometimes they end up remodeling the kitchen and bringing in all new furniture.”
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Sellers of older homes ignore millennials’ wants at their peril because these buyers comprised the largest group of homebuyers in 2013, 2014 and 2015, when they accounted for 35% of home sales, according to the National Association of Realtors.
What’s more, according to the Realtors group, the typical home that buyers purchased in 2015 was 1,900 square feet, had 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, and — here’s the important point — was built in 1991, just 25 years ago.
Like many buyers, millennials want clean-lined furniture, uncluttered spaces, light-colored walls, dark-colored floors and bold patterns and colors. But even that’s not enough to grab their interest.
“They want that glamorous, this-could-be-a-movie-set look,” Elliott says. “They like that because they’re young and they want the lifestyle.”
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Outdated homes that don’t offer the look millennials want might be outright ignored by this big segment of social media-savvy buyers.
“To compete, you almost have to present your home that way,” Elliott says. “They may change it after they move in, but at least it looked really cool when they went to look at it.”
Millennials aren’t just picky. They want updated homes because they don’t have the time, money or desire to fix up a home themselves, says Kathy Streib, a home stager at Room Service Home Staging in Delray Beach, Florida.
“They’re both working. They don’t have the discretionary income. They say, ‘We saw our parents spend every weekend working on their home, and we don’t want to do that,’ ” Streib says.
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While the seller’s furniture typically doesn’t stay with a sold home, stagers say removing old decor and accessories can help to create the right impression.
Items on Streib’s hit list include shag carpeting, original light fixtures, heavy draperies, which “just scream ‘old,'” and mirror walls.
“Nothing dates a home worse than a wall that’s full of mirrors. You walk in, and it immediately says, ‘I was built in 1980,'” she says.
Once the old is gone, owners can put in hardwood floors, blinds and contemporary light fixtures to update their home’s appearance.
All-white walls are also out, though Realtors usually advise against strong personalized paint colors for resale purposes.
Streib suggests muted colors that aren’t stark, but are still neutral.
Bartling also has a list of items that date an older home and turn off millennial buyers:
Collectibles like cookie jars, salt-and-pepper shakers and Precious Moments figurines.
Sellers don’t need to trash their personal possessions, just pack them up and put them out of sight until they’re resettled in their new residence.
“Buyers aren’t there to look at the curio cabinet,” Bartling says. “They’re there to look at the house.”
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Elliott offers sellers who don’t want to bother with updating and staging some compelling data: sales prices of comparable homes that were and weren’t presented to appeal to millennials.
“We say, ‘If you keep it as-is, here’s your price. If you want to get the most (money) out of it, you’re going to have to do the following things.’ We make suggestions. We know what it needs. Then we bring in a stager. You can often make more money if you’re able to do these things,” she explains.
Indeed, the bottom line is, well, the bottom line.
As Bartling puts it: “Sellers are giving up their equity, and it’s their own fault. It would behoove them to get the right mindset about ‘We’re moving on. We’re packing up. What can we do to spiff this place up?'”