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The "Apartment Effect"

Designing homes that appeal to a Millennial lifestyle


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Millennials are more accustomed to an apartment lifestyle than previous generations, spending time in rented properties before making the decision to own a home of their own. In fact, young adults are buying homes an average of five years later in life than they did a decade ago. As a result, their idea of a dream home is different than it was for those purchasing homes before them.

Tapping into the kind of layout and design that appeals to a young homebuyer is a measure of success for architects, builders and developers that want to cater to the current market.  Considering the number of young people relocating from an apartment, it’s critical to design a home they’re comfortable in and that gives them a setting they’re familiar with. By pulling elements from multi-family designs and studying ways to apply them to duplexes, townhomes and even single-family houses, the apartment effect can become part of the design and provide young homebuyers with the lifestyle they’re seeking in smaller, more attainably priced homes.

Some of the design elements attracting Millennial homebuyers include:

SMALLER FOOTPRINTS

By turning hallways into stairs and stacked floors and opening-up floorplans, apartment designs can be mimicked and costs kept low. Thoughtful design solutions can provide ways to use space optimally, without adding square footage. Stacked floorplans also provide for denser construction and more residences per acre – another way developers keep the cost of new home construction down.

LIMITED OUTDOOR SPACES

Young adults would rather spend their time enjoying the great outdoors than doing yardwork in a massive backyard. As such, they aren’t looking for homes with manicured lawns and sprawling outdoor decks and verandas. Small decks located off the main level, with room for a grill and a small seating area is plenty. Rooftop decks can be added as well, providing even more outdoor space without a lot of timely care and upkeep required.

NO EXTRAVAGANCE

To a young homebuyer, the need for a chef’s kitchen, theater space, laundry room, large foyer and the lavish elements of new-home-ownership doesn’t exist. Many Millennials are used to – and happy with – small kitchens and appliances, less expensive finishes, repetitive building materials and fewer, if any of the amenities that were more common in new homes in prior decades. Other design elements consistent with the apartment effect include no oversized closets, more hidden storage, showers instead of tubs and single sinks opposed to double sinks in the master bathroom.

LESS EXPENSE

Financial considerations are obviously at play for most homebuyers, and Millennials who may be struggling with student debt or challenges associated with launching a career want a starter home that falls in-line with their rent payments. This is making more attainably priced, compact homes all the more appealing and realistic when it comes to paying for a mortgage.

SIMPLER FINISHES

By going with neutral or basic color schemes in a new home, buyers have the opportunity to comfortably move-in the furnishings they had in their apartment, without feeling the need to go out and purchase new furniture and art. They also don’t have to make too many choices or make expensive “upgrade” decisions that add to the bottom line.  It’s up to the designer to create an attractive space that a young homebuyer will feel comfortable in. 

Young homebuyers want clean, simple elements that won’t require a lot of money or take away from their free time. They are finding that these things are being made available to them by homebuilders who are paying attention to the “apartment effect” and giving them what they want.

John Guilliams is the director of design with KGA Studio Architects PC.

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