Last week, after speaking with Simon Fitzpatrick of Simon Fitzpatrick Exceptional Properties to learn about what the older generation is looking for when they downsize to a smaller home, I thought it might be interesting, conversely, to find out about what the first time home buyer might be looking for today. I bought my first home 15 years ago and the market and times have changed greatly since then, and so, it seems has the makeup of the first time buyer.
Today’s first time home buyers are more cautious than those in the past. While our economy seems to be well on the way to recovery, and home sales are indeed picking up and moving swiftly, today’s younger buyers are moving slowly than those who preceded them. Their expectations are realistic and they are much more conservative. Today’s first time home buyer realizes that this purchase is a big investment and because of this they take this decision very seriously. They are also much less flamboyant with their purchases than their predecessors, and are realistic in their expectations, knowing that they are most likely not going to have that picture perfect “dream house” immediately, but are willing to build “sweat equity” to create one.
For best return on investment, first time home buyers should consider staying in their for 5 – 7 years before moving on. This generation of homebuyers can actually be divided into two groups. There’s a younger group; those who are in their early to late 20s, and the older group who range from their early to mid 30s. Those in their 30s typically have more money to spend and can afford a slightly larger or more updated home as they’ve had more time in the workforce and have been able to save more. This first time home buyer can also be divided into another 2 categories – those who are looking to purchase a house and those who are looking to purchase a condominium. Condos are typically less expensive than houses and as a result can often be seen as a more realistic, viable option. Because condos are less expensive than houses, return on investment will be less as well. Fitzpatrick advises his young clients to stay in their homes for 5 – 7 years, for greater earning capacity, but many prefer to stay for only 3 – 5 years before wanting to move on.
First time home buyers should consider their current and future needs. Those who are purchasing condos may not be considering children, whereas those who are purchasing a house quite often are planning ahead to their growing family. They are looking for additional bedrooms, typically 3 bedroom homes, and it is important that these bedrooms are all on the same level so that the parents can be close to the children. They are looking for small, but manageable properties. They don’t necessarily need new and updated kitchen as they are willing to have some work done themselves, but kitchen layout and size are important as they will need to accommodate a growing family. Bathrooms that are equipped with bathtubs are required (as a means of bathing young children). Open floor plans remain popular with everyone.
This generation knows exactly what they are looking for. Family rooms are usually at the top of the list of priorities for this group of homebuyers and the traditional dining room is not nearly as important as it was to the generation ahead of them. Room for visiting parents is also high on their list of importance. Driveways and garages aren’t terribly important, neither is a laundry room on the main living level. Central air conditioning isn’t at the top of the list of priorities either. Much of what is important to the older generation bears of no importance to the younger set. Simply put, it seems that the first time home buyer wants space and is willing to wait for the “bells and whistles” whereas the older generation seems to want just the opposite.
This generation is very cautious about such a big investment. I asked Fitzpatrick about the general makeup of this generation of new buyers. He described them to be a fussy lot – in the sense that they know precisely what they are looking for. They do a tremendous amount of research on the internet and yet they need an incredible amount of education in the home buying process which can be quite complicated. They need to be educated about appraisers, insurance, lawyers and the entire mortgage process. They understand, perhaps, more so than generations past, that this purchase in indeed a big deal and they are very cautious and serious about this investment. Many buyers are financially ready and some are not as they seem to understand the product, but not the process. It is not uncommon for a first time home buyer to have a parent or in-law involved with the purchase, often for approval reasons. Fitzpatrick was quick to tell me that these young home buyers are a grateful and fun group to work with. They are appreciative of the education they are receiving in the process. They are looking for realtors that are experienced, but young enough to be able to relate to them and their needs, as well as being technically savvy. A sense of trust is of huge importance.