If you were born after 1980, there's a pretty good chance you don't own a house. Thanks in part to massive student loans and difficulty finding jobs after graduation, almost half of men ages 18 to 34 (and over a third of women, a record number) still live with their parents.
Others rent. And while it's true that some millennials would rather live in the city than the burbs, some do want to own houses. So one Las Vegas builder is trying to figure out how to design a house they'll actually be interested in buying—and actually be able to pay for.
After surveying hundreds of would-be homeowners, they focused on a few key points. Because the house had to be affordable—and because millennials say they want to stay in the same place over time, rather than moving over and over—the architects rethought how a home could be used.
Instead of a typical single-family home, the design has rooms that can start as apartments. "A young single guy could bring in a couple of roommates, rent out rooms for a big chunk of his mortgage payment, but then those spaces could easily turn into a baby's room, a mother-in-law quarters, later," says Klif Andrews, Las Vegas division president of Pardee Homes, the developer.
The designs are also sustainable, but only to the point that's affordable. "Our research showed that millennials are interested in sustainability and green features, but that they have to be practical," he says. "They were very specific about that. Whereas research we've done on boomers might be much more magnanimous, like we'll make this statement about green, damn the cost."
The electricity in the houses runs completely on solar power. But because natural gas is cheap—and people still want gas stoves, rather than electric—the whole house doesn't use zero total energy. Rain sensors on the roof tell the irrigation system when to stop watering the lawn, and sinks and showers also save water, both features that can save money for a young homeowner.
The houses also use smart tech, but only when it's truly useful. You can control energy systems or lighting through your phone; the Wi-Fi is fast. "Millennials have a very pragmatic look at technology," says Andrews. "Gee-whiz technology just for the sake of having it doesn't seem to impress them. They've grown up with it their whole life."
The houses are concepts, but the developer is already using them as inspiration in real projects. They're convinced that this is the type of design that can make millennials finally invest, something that a significant portion of the generation wants to do.
"Millennials in their twenties are very happy to live in urban areas," he says. "But as the leading edge of millennials gets a little bit older, they start to have much more traditional thoughts about the locations that they live. They have a noted preference for close-in suburban locations, with all of the same typical amenities that we find in suburban locations—a private yard, room to get a dog."