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What LI millennial homebuyers are looking for

Kierstin and Jimmy Wynne with their 11-month-old baby,

Kierstin and Jimmy Wynne with their 11-month-old baby, James, at home in Elmont. Credit: James Carbone

The long expected wave of millennials, eagerly anticipated by real estate agents and builders for years, is finally reaching the Long Island housing market.

And they’re turning out to be choosy, family- and community-oriented and buyer-savvy.

Millennials, a generation now larger than the baby boomers, were battered by the financial crisis as they started their careers and delayed some of the milestones that accompany homeownership, such as marrying and starting a family. But in 2018, millennials represented the largest cohort of homebuyers at 37%, according to the National Association of Realtors' 2019 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report.

While it's difficult to generalize about what the Pew Research Center estimates are more than 73 million Americans, real estate agents and observers see some trends among millennials.

"Millennial homebuyers are often looking for a lot at first and then they're scaling back as they start searching for a home because of high prices and the limited selection of homes in most markets," says Danielle Hale, chief economist for Realtor.com.

Despite the obstacle of low inventory of homes on the market, millennials are not likely to compromise on the condition of the home, which Hale says is in part because of their lack of experience as homeowners.

With jobs in the city, growing families and little time to put effort into renovations, most millennial couples want “move-in-ready homes,” said Dana Forbes, global realty adviser at Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty in Westhampton Beach and Manhasset. Her Long Island clients are often willing to “pay a premium for something that’s already done, with updated kitchens and bathrooms.”

Forbes helped Sarah Finazzo, and her husband, Steve, both 36, find a move-in-ready house. Steve, who works in a finance job in Manhattan, and Sarah, who owns an online landscape design company, married in 2010 and have three children. They had lived in apartments in Greenwich Village and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, but for the last five years they were renting in the Soundview section of Port Washington while they searched for what Sarah called a “grown-up home.”

They looked in Garden City, where they found houses that had the “history and character” of the 100-year-old homes they grew up in — she in Chicago, he in Montauk. But they decided Port Washington had more of what they were looking for.

Like most buyers today, including millennials, agents say, they wanted an open floor plan.

“Open concept was very important to us,” Sarah Finazzo said. “We love to entertain and have people over, so we did look at certain houses that we really liked, but if the kitchen was closed off it felt like a deal breaker.”

In September they settled on, and into, a move-in-ready four-bedroom Colonial in Port Washington Estates. “We were excited that we wouldn’t have to do any updates,” Sarah said. The house already had a chef’s kitchen — replete with two ovens and two sinks — opening into the living room. They showed off their new home by hosting the family Thanksgiving.

Millennials range in age from their mid-20s to their late-30s, which means that some are early in their careers while others have more buying power and need space for a family.

They’re generally interested in suburban neighborhoods near public transportation, with “convenience to the train, either to walk to the station or drive there,” said Emilia "Mia" Pizzo, a Certified Buyer Representative with Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty in Northport.

They are “very savvy,” Pizzo said, with “a very good understanding of what homes are on the market.” By the time they call a real estate agent, they’ve already been popping into open houses and researching school district ratings and neighborhood crime statistics online, Pizzo said.

“They are referencing homes that they have already been watching on websites like Zillow and the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island,” Pizzo said. Many state a preference for split levels, she said, because they “don’t necessarily mind that the bedrooms are smaller, but they like the idea that there are many different levels in one living space.”

“They want garages for storage purposes, not necessarily for cars,” Pizzo said. “They are definitely buying homes based on their lifestyle, with parks and restaurants in walking distance. They want more of a community feel.”

Kierstin Wynne, 30, and her husband, Jimmy, 31, of Elmont, began looking for a home almost a year ago, after their son, now 11 months old, was born. The couple, who grew up in Franklin Square, currently live in a two-bedroom apartment inside a two-family house owned by a family member. They’re looking to buy a house on the South Shore, close to the LIRR’s Babylon Line, so Jimmy will have an easy commute to his city job as an Information Technology worker at a Bitcoin company.

“I know a little about the area,” said Wynne, who works as a hairstylist in a Bellmore salon. After a couple of visits to a relative’s newly purchased home in Massapequa Park, they fell in love with the Massapequas. They’re bidding on houses in the $450,000 to $500,000 range, a price point Pizzo called “extremely competitive.” But the couple are set on finding a house in a community where Wynne said “kids can hang out and have a safe environment … and all the major stores are close by.” 

“We need more space,” Wynne said. “We want a yard for our dog and we want to be in a community where there are other young families.”

With The Washington Post

Millennials in the market

Nationwide, millennials currently represent 37% of homebuyers.

Among the things they are looking for in a new home are:

  • A sense of community and a neighborhood where their children will find friends.
  • A nearby fitness center, parks, coffee shops and restaurants.
  • Extra bedroom space for roommates to live and share expenses.
  • Good schools and a short walk to public transportation.
  • A yard to play with the family dog and entertain friends.

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