Last year, millennials — adults age 36 and younger — made up the largest share of homebuyers, representing 34 percent of the market, according to a report by the National Association of Realtors.
And while a recent survey shows that 41 percent of Long Islanders 18 to 34 still live with their parents or other relatives, it’s important for sellers to market their homes to the millennials who are financially ready to take the big step into homeownership, local agents say.
Amy Donnelly, 31, an agent with Coach Realtors in West Islip, says that, as millennials, she and her husband, Mark Donnelly, who is 33, have worked with a lot of buyers in that age group.
For the most part, millennial buyers aren’t looking for fixer-uppers, Donnelly says. While there are exceptions, the Realtors report found that 48 percent of buyers 36 and younger bought new homes to avoid renovations and problems.
“That generation, more than others, is more attracted to a house that’s basically done,” Donnelly says. “There really isn’t time for a handyman special. I very rarely get first-time buyers that say, ‘We’re looking to do the work ourselves.’ Even if we see another one that’s a little bit bigger and has more property, there’s a lot more value to instant gratification.”
Not all buyers can afford a home that has been renovated, and Long Island agents have several millennial clients who have purchased homes and done work on them, either by themselves or by hiring contractors.
A neutral coat of fresh paint
While Donnelly and other agents don’t recommend sellers renovate their kitchen and bathrooms before listing their home for sale, she will always recommend that a seller paint the home’s interior using neutral colors.
“It gets you the best bang for your buck,” Donnelly says. “A big renovation is what buyers always prefer to see because it’s expensive, but you won’t always get the return on investment. You can’t price it another $50,000 more because that’s what you spent.”
If a home has older carpeting, Donnelly says she believes it’s a good idea to take it out and expose the hardwood underneath, or put down an inexpensive Berber rug, before taking photos.
“Let the wood show, even if it’s not perfect,” Donnelly says.
Sellers can also replace light fixtures with updated models for little money.
“More industrial, with the Edison bulb look, is more Manhattan,” says Mindy Greenberg, an agent with Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Great Neck. “It shows that you’re a little hipper and younger and attracts more buyers.”
Staging and social media
Staging a home with rented furniture that is more modern can be very helpful for an older home.
“Even an adequate house that’s not done can be enhanced to make them look much prettier, with different furniture, different tchotchkes,” says Monique Serena, who works in the Huntington office of Douglas Elliman Real Estate. “The best thing you can do is get the furniture, rugs and accessories you know they would like.”
The internet continues to be the first stop for all home buyers, and social media has become very important for agents to reach their millennial clients.
Yadlynd Cherubin, an agent with Keller Williams Realty in Garden City, says most of her marketing was done online via social media, including Facebook and Instagram, so it is a good idea to hire an agent who uses those effective — and free — tools.
“Using tools like Pinterest was also helpful in giving my clients an idea of what their space can be like,” Cherubin says.
Serena has a social media team that boosts Facebook posts and directs them toward buyers in a certain age group or geographic location, such as a first-time home buyer moving from the city.
For a house that is not renovated, marketing should highlight aspects of the home that will appeal to the millennial buyer, such as an en suite master bedroom or an open floor plan. While showing the home, the agent should emphasize that it’s possible to make changes.
“As long as the box and structure will allow you to create what they want, they’re amenable,” Serena says.