This story was originally published in Builder.
This is part two of a four-part series about how builders are catering to Gen X buyers. Click here for part one.
While many public builders are mainly focused on millennials and baby boomers, some mid-size local private builders have found their niche in attainable move-up homes. These firms are reaching out to Generation X buyers with homes that appeal to the needs and wants of this large but often overlooked group.
For McLean, Va.–based Miller & Smith, the new home community that best fits its profile of a Gen X buyer is West Park at Brambleton, located in Ashburn, Va. Targeted to “young to maturing” families, West Park is located within walking distance of new elementary and middle schools, with a high school set to open this fall.
“Many of our communities are designed for the Gen X buyer, which is primarily a growing-maturing family at this time,” says Kim Ambrose, vice president of marketing at Miller & Smith. “They are typically first or second move-up buyers from a townhome or older single family home looking for more space.”
West Park’s one floor plan, The Aria, is designed to accommodate a wide variety of upgrades and alternate configurations inside and out. The base plan is 2,803 square feet and includes four bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths, but may be upgraded up to 4,200 square feet with seven bedrooms, five full baths, and a finished basement. “[Gen-X buyers] want what most new home buyers want right now—modern, open floor plans with an up-to-date kitchen and upgrade features like hardwood floors, granite counters and stainless steel appliances,” says Ambrose.
One way Miller & Smith’s Gen X buyers stand out is that they are often looking for more space. Amenities and quality schools are also very important to this buyer, and they want the neighborhood to be convenient to their jobs, but they are willing to drive a little further if they have to, Ambrose says.
This allowance for bigger living and storage spaces corresponds to the Gen X buyer’s needs, given their growing families, says Mikaela Sharp, a John Burns Real Estate consultant who helped author the company’s recent report on Generation X home buyers. “We found that 86 percent of [Gen X buyers] want additional storage space of some kind in their next home,” she says. “One of the most common things was a storage unit installed in the garage. They’re also very likely to be interested in an oversized island or a walk-in pantry. Those features are popular across generations, but because Gen X is the big family group right now it’s especially important for them.”
This “big family group” doesn’t just stop at parents and children. In a survey of 23,000 new home shoppers aged 36 to 50, John Burns found that 50 percent were likely to consider multi-generational living in their new homes. Many are looking to accommodate an adult child or elderly parent, according to Sharp. Multi-generational living needs vary widely across circumstances and cultures, but for buyers who need or want an independent living space, Miller & Smith’s Aria plan offers a studio unit over the garage with a separate entrance from the main home.
According to Ambrose, this option suits both the needs of multi-generational families and the diverse ethnic backgrounds of its buyers. “We do a lot of research on trends to make sure our homes meet the target market’s needs,” Ambrose says. “We’ve already changed some the features in our homes to accommodate the needs and wants of [our] buyers, whether it be offering different cabinet colors or incorporating a studio space above the garage like at West Park to accommodate a long-term family visitor.”
In order to convey the flexibility and family living appeal of its floor plans to potential buyers, Miller & Smith held open house events this spring at ten of its Mid-Atlantic communities, at which guests could emulate the experience of moving into a new home and joining a new neighborhood. The builder sold 135 new homes during the campaign – an 83% increase in first quarter home sales over the previous year.
With many new sales under its belt, Miller & Smith is confident in its direction—and in its buyer base.
“While everyone is talking about the millennials and the boomers, you can’t forget the Gen Xers,” says Ambrose. “They have a large presence in the new home market now, as many had delayed buying a new home because of student loan debt or little to no equity in their first homes, which they bought during or just before the recession. The strong job market and a rise in housing values over the past few years have allowed this buyer to have enough equity to sell their current home and move up to a larger home.”
To read more stories like this, visit Builder.