When it comes to millennials, minimalism is in — from “norm core” fashion on the runways (see: fanny packs and “sensible” shoes) to the tiny-house movement, as parodied on a recent episode of Portlandia.
So to find out what’s trending when it comes to square footage, Trulia surveyed more than 2,000 people across multiple cities, lifestyles, and generations — and the results for millennials surprised us.
Despite the fact that 20- and 30-somethings are typed by “simple-ing down” everything from how they dress to how they invest, more than any other generation, the numbers reveal that they’re not ready to ditch all of their creature comforts just yet.
Millennials are generally dreaming of bigger — not smaller — places to live
Yes, this generation has been statistically shown to be more eco-focused (and carbon footprint–conservative) than its predecessors.
But Trulia Housing Economist Ralph McLaughlin may have said it best in a recent article about housing-size preferences: Even environmentally conscious millennials aren’t immune to wanting more elbow room at their tables.
According to McLaughlin, “They’re looking to move on up by a big margin: just over 60% told us their ideal residence is larger than where they live now — the largest proportion among the generations in our [multigenerational survey] sample.”
Given the choice, few millennials would rather downsize
Only a little over 13% of millennials polled said they’d prefer a smaller home to their existing one, no matter the size.
This was also the smallest “downsize me, please!” preference across every generation in Trulia’s survey.
In other words, a typical millennial is even less likely to want to downsize than the empty nesters and baby boomer living down the street from her.
Millennials have their reasons (and they’re not what you may think)
While all generations would generally prefer more space, specific reasons differ across birth decades — and individuals.
Baby boomers said they preferred not to downsize because they were already living in their ideal-sized home.
Gen Xers, who were hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis, mostly want to size up to maximize their steadily climbing paychecks (and down-payment-paying abilities) while also reclaiming the real estate options they missed out on in years past.
Meanwhile, millennials are looking to leave behind everything from the confines of student housing and three-person studio apartments to too-small starter homes.
Family situations matter
Kay Clark, an associate broker in Atlanta, GA, has been selling to young homeowners — including her own 31-year-old daughter and many of her friends — for the past 33 years.
She points out that while the “more space” trend is generally true for all clients, specific reasons are unique to each one.
So much depends on the family situation, according to Clark, bearing in mind that “family situation” can mean everything from an existing one (for couples and parents) to one that’s not even yet in the works (for couples and singles of both genders).
“I think the trend for bigger houses with a lot of wasted space is not as important as it was before the market crash,” says Clark. “The crash allowed people to re-evaluate their situation, and [they] decided bigger is not always better.”
Millennials want more size, but not too much
Turns out, there’s a tipping point behind who wants more and less space, and why.
It goes a little something like this: People start to consider downsizing at around 3,200 current square feet of home space.
In other words, most people, including millennials, start to re-evaluate the pros and cons of more space once they’ve had a taste of it in real life.
Jennifer Warner, an HR analyst living in Buffalo, NY, is one such early 30-something.
She and her husband are expecting their first child this spring and are knee-deep in nesting their current 4,200-square-foot home … while casually keeping an eye on the market for their growing family’s next move in the area.
“When you’re preparing for a child, just about any space can start feeling small,” says Warner. “Still, there is a point at which you see a great place — then start to consider all the work that will go into it — and you realize that, yep, there is such a thing as too much house.”