Babylon, Merrick, Farmingdale among hotspots for millennial homebuyers
Matt and Michelle Porcaro had placed offers on 10 houses. They were two years into their search, with hearts set on living near their parents in Massapequa.
But time after time, they were beaten out by cash buyers — usually builders with big renovation plans, said Matt Porcaro.
“Because it was so challenging to find anything, we started sending mail to people in the area,” he said. “We wanted to go right to the sellers, to see if they’d be willing to sell directly to us.”
Matt and Michelle, both 32, work as an electrical engineer and physician assistant, respectively. Together they drove around Massapequa, taking note of houses they liked. They wrote down the addresses and mailed letters to the homeowners, asking if they’d be interested in selling anytime soon. Ultimately, this is how they found their home.
Because it was so challenging to find anything, we started sending mail to people in the area. We wanted to go right to the sellers, to see if they’d be willing to sell directly to us.
— Matt Porcaro
Millennials — anyone born between 1981 and 1996, per the Pew Research Center — represent about half the homebuyer market right now, said Compass real estate agent Kaitlynn McCartney. And several local agents agree that millennials, like the Porcaros, often come into the process dead-set on where they want to live.
Some hot spots for young buyers right now are in the eastern part of Nassau County and the western edge of Suffolk County: Farmingdale, Massapequa, Bellmore and West Babylon. Some factors that are important to millennials while house-hunting are proximity to New York City, walkability and access to nightlife, local agents said.
“I think it's really important for them to establish their roots in neighborhoods that have that convenience factor, as well as a social scene and some exclusivity in a way,” McCartney said. “They want to know the hottest new place to go.”
Swapping city life for the suburbs
Elaine Patterson has been a real estate broker for more than 25 years, and has been at Douglas Elliman Real Estate since 2005. Farmingdale is a hot spot, she said, and most of her clients interested in the area are millennials.
Patterson has noticed that an essential factor is accessibility: Whether their house is close to major roadways and mass transit, and also walkable to businesses nearby. The apartments near the Long Island Rail Road station attracted plenty of millennial renters who wanted easy access to New York City, she said.
This generation of clientele also prefers turnkey over a fixer-upper, Patterson found.
“In that millennial age, they’re looking for things that are mostly done and updated,” she said. “They’re spending a lot of money on their home, and don’t want to spend a lot of money to make improvements on that home.”
What millennial homebuyers value
In the 2023 National Association of Realtors report, an annual compilation of generational trends in home buyers and sellers, homebuyers of all ages were surveyed about what factors influenced their choice in neighborhood. Of the 4,611 overall respondents, 534 were between 24 and 32 years old (categorized as “younger millennials” in the report), and 723 were 33 to 42 years old (“older millennials”).
According to the data, 48% of younger millennials said convenience to family/friends was an influencing factor when determining where to live. This was also a factor for 40% of older millennials.
Convenience to the workplace was important to 64% of younger millennials, and 47% of older millennials.
Schools, distance to New York City and property size are all top of mind for Christine Collins’ millennial clients at Shane’s Anchor Realty in Seaford. But, “the closer you get to the city, the less property size you have. As you get closer to Suffolk, you get more,” she said.
Patterson agrees, noting that while property size is the obvious difference between the counties, taxes for starter homes have actually become comparable between Nassau and Suffolk in the last decade.
Collins looks at millennial hot spots by zones, an industry term real estate agents use to divide regions on Long Island. In her experience, zone five — southeastern Nassau communities, including Bellmore and Massapequa — is the most sought-after region in that age bracket. She said one reason is because many of these clients work in New York City.
Many millennials who grew up here are coming back to the area from Brooklyn and Queens, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Patterson said.
In our younger days, we would have stayed in Queens. But after having kids, we wanted to venture out and find better school systems and more space.
— Renee White
Renee White and her husband, Jonathan, both 37, moved from Queens to North Bellmore in January 2021. Their house hunt began in 2017. The family had lived in Queens for about 15 years, and Jonathan is a New York City employee.
“The pandemic hit, and we stopped looking,” said Renee, who works for an accounting firm based in Melville, “which was the biggest mistake we could have made.”
The couple was paying $2,200 a month for their apartment in Cambria Heights, but the landlord increased their rent in 2020 to $2,320, Renee said. It pushed them to continue their quest for homeownership, initially focusing on houses in Lynbrook and Valley Stream.
Then, while researching school districts for their daughters, Milan and Sydney, ages 15 and 5, they discovered Bellmore and Merrick. White also found houses with larger yards as she looked farther east.
The couple purchased their house for $625,000 in October 2020.
“My husband works in Queens, and it’s still really close,” said Renee. And, as an avid traveler, being able to drive to Kennedy Airport in under a half-hour without traffic is a plus.
White said their four-bedroom house, in a cul-de-sac among other millennial residents, doesn’t feel much different from their neighborhood back in the city. It’s within walking distance to the supermarket, restaurants and other businesses, Renee said.
“In our younger days, we would have stayed in Queens,” said Renee. “But after having kids, we wanted to venture out and find better school systems and more space.”
The search for a social scene
A lot of [millennials] grew up in these towns... But you have to open up and look in a little bit of a larger scope, otherwise you're not going to find anything.
— Kaitlynn McCartney
“In terms of millennials that I work with, everyone wants the same neighborhoods in Nassau County,” McCartney said. “And that's Merrick, Bellmore, Wantagh, Seaford, Massapequa and Massapequa Park. It’s that straight run.”
As a millennial, McCartney, 30, has noticed Long Islanders in her age bracket flocking to areas with a vibrant social scene. Nunzi’s Restaurant, Croxley’s Ale House and 317 Main Street are popular spots in Farmingdale, and young adults want to move closer.
“I think that’s really where millennials want to be: at the center of the action,” she said.
On the other hand, many millennials end up settling in communities that feel familiar, Patterson noted.
“A lot of them grew up in these towns,” she said. “They left their families and moved west to be closer to work. But when they get married, not a lot of them move back to their hometown. It’s really interesting — they’ll look within a radius. But you have to open up and look in a little bit of a larger scope, otherwise you're not going to find anything.”
Andrew Shapiro and his wife, Ashley, both 33, were renting in Massapequa together before trying their luck on the buyer’s market. They both grew up in Levittown, so they started looking for their forever home around there. Andrew is CEO and founder of Tomahawk Shades, an eyewear company, while Ashley is vice president of training for Bareburger.
We saw 30 or 40 homes and couldn't find anything we loved. But the minute we started to look in Babylon, we instantly found something that we liked.
— Andrew Shapiro
“Originally we were looking at Massapequa, Seaford, Wantagh and Levittown,” Andrew said. “And we were just kind of looking, no expectations.”
But the Shapiros quickly found that for their selected price range and radius, the houses available would need a lot of renovation. So they expanded their search.
“We looked in Lindenhurst, and Islip was a thought,” Andrew said. “And it was strange because when we were looking, we saw 30 or 40 homes and couldn't find anything we loved. But the minute we started to look in Babylon, we instantly found something that we liked.”
In February 2023, the median price among closed sales in Nassau was $640,000, per data from OneKey MLS. Meanwhile in Suffolk, the median price at that time was $533,500.
The couple bought a house in West Babylon for $550,000, and moved in last December. “Our backyard neighbors all have young kids, with pools and trampolines, and they’re roughly our age,” Andrew said. “So it’s good to see that in our area.”
The Island’s future
[Rockville Centre and Merrick] were significantly out of my budget. And Wantagh was not on my radar.
— Lauren French
Rakisha Johnson, a real estate agent at Fave Realty Inc. in New Hyde Park, has encouraged her clients to consider looking at houses that are farther east than their preferred radius. Last year, after lots of searching, she ended up helping a homebuyer move from Brooklyn to Medford.
“But people love Nassau,” said Johnson, who has lived in Baldwin for 19 years. “They really do. It's just about the convenience of it all.”
Johnson has been in the business for five years, and has learned to give her clients as many options as possible so they can figure out exactly what they want.
“I’ll just show them a lot of places,” she said. “Something they can't afford, and places that they can.”
While 'people love Nassau,' real estate agent Rakisha Johnson encourages clients to consider looking farther east than their preferred radius.
Credit: J. Conrad Williams Jr.
Lauren French, 33, grew up in Hempstead. After relocating to Houston for work, she made her way back to Long Island in hopes of starting a family and living near her parents. At first, she looked for houses in Rockville Centre and Merrick.
“Both were significantly out of my budget,” she said. “And Wantagh was not on my radar.”
But her real estate agent found her a three-bedroom home in Wantagh that French purchased for $505,000. The home has an in-ground pool, which French saw as “a nice perk” and which she rents out by the hour using the app Swimply.
“It allows me to collect additional funds as a homeowner,” said French, who works in finance.
As for the Porcaros, they purchased their ranch-style East Massapequa home from its original owner for $615,000 last June. The place needs some work, Porcaro said, but he is up for the job.
“We took out a HomeStyle Renovation loan,” he said, referring to a program through Fannie Mae, “which allows you to purchase a property and wrap the renovation budget into your mortgage. So we were looking for anything that could use some TLC to be able to afford it and make it our own.”
The couple has a 1-year-old son, Luca, and welcomed their second baby, Capri, last month. Without a doubt, they’re here to stay, Porcaro said.
“With Long Island, people are here for a reason,” he said. “Our entire family is here, and we’re lucky enough to have them nearby. We want this to be our forever home. As long as our family’s here, we’re going to stay here.”
4 things Long Island real estate agents say millennial homebuyers want
1. Nassau over Suffolk
"It's just about the convenience of it all." — Rakisha Johnson
2. In or around Merrick, Bellmore, Wantagh, Seaford, Massapequa and Massapequa Park
"I think that’s really where millennials want to be: at the center of the action." — Kaitlynn McCartney
3. Turnkey over fixer upper
"They’re spending a lot of money on their home, and don’t want to spend a lot of money to make improvements on that home.” — Elaine Patterson
4. Good schools, close to NYC, decent property size
"But, the closer you get to the city, the less property size you have." — Christine Collins