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Real Estate 2020: What buyers want

  • 3 min to read

The real estate scene in Connecticut has changed. Disruption from millennials paired with a slow-to-recover Connecticut economy and naturally changing tastes and styles has led the housing market in general to trend toward condos or homes with smaller, more manageable properties. Buyers are also increasingly looking for proximity to town centers and avoiding fixer-uppers. Here’s a look at what people from various generations are generally looking for in their homes these days, according to real estate pros.

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Gen Z

Born around mid- to late 1990s to 2010s

Even the oldest members of this generation are just starting to dip their toes into the real estate market, and then generally only with family assistance, says Joanne Breen, president of Connecticut Realtors. For the most part, she adds, they are renting and “focusing on the urban areas where the action is.”

Candace Adams, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties, says that as couples have their first kid, usually in their later 20s or early 30s, they “are immediately starting to look outside the city.” But they’re not generally as interested in the type of large-property homes their parents or grandparents wanted.

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Millennials

Born around 1980 to mid- to late 1990s

In the past decade, real estate agents feared that millennials were going to do to homeownership what they’ve been accused of doing to canned tuna and cable TV. “For a while, we were worried that millennials didn’t want to own a home, but that’s really not true,” Breen says. Millennials are getting married and having kids later, but Breen says it appears their delayed entry into homeownership had more do to with the economy — crushing student debt paired with lower wages — than their actual feelings about homeownership.

Adams calls the last 10 years “the lost decade,” but says “it is finally coming to life. [People between] 34 and 44 are deciding they are going to buy houses when 20 years ago they would have bought between 24 and 34.” But they’re not buying the same home as their parents or grandparents. They are interested in smaller homes or condos with more value placed on walkable communities than past generations. This has helped Connecticut condo prices rise at a greater rate than single-family homes over the past year.

Gen X

Born between 1965 and around 1980

“Once they get into their 40s, you’re getting a lot of move-up buyers in that age range,” Breen says. But she adds, like millennials, they don’t want high-maintenance homes or properties. “Everyone wants turnkey,” she says. While past generations would buy a house that needed work and invest sweat equity in it, for Gen Xers and younger generations, that is often not an option. “Both parents work. They just don’t have time. They’ll pay more money to get in a smaller home that’s completely turnkey than a larger home that needs the work,” Breen says.

Adams says this trend is causing some Connecticut homes to stay on the market for a while. “No one’s interested in the very large backcountry homes that are older and need work. Those are the most difficult to sell.”

Baby boomers

Born between 1946-1964

OK, let’s talk about the boomers. Many baby boomers are buying winter homes in places like Florida. Of those who stay in the state year-round, many are moving into 55-and-over communities, as well as other condos. Though they are ridding themselves of their large lawns, they are not exactly downsizing when it comes to square footage, says Breen, herself a boomer. “We’re spoiled. We’re not downsizing, not really. We still want the space.” However, Breen says that they are interested in space that is laid out differently, with more one-level living to avoid stairs. While boomers may not share their millennial or Gen X offspring’s aversion to gluten and cable, they do share an aversion to fixer-uppers. “The baby boomers don’t want to fix their last house because they’ve been there and done that,” Breen says.

This article appeared in the April 2020 issue of Connecticut Magazine. You can subscribe here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get the latest and greatest content from Connecticut Magazine delivered right to your inbox. Got a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com. And follow us on Facebook and Instagram@connecticutmagazine and Twitter @connecticutmag.

The senior writer at Connecticut Magazine, Erik is the co-author of Penguin Random House’s “The Good Vices” and author of “Buzzed” and “Gillette Castle.” He is also an adjunct professor at WCSU’s MFA Program and Quinnipiac University