Millennials are Buying Smaller, More Eco-Friendly Homes Than They Grew Up In

Mixed race family of African and Latin descent moving boxes into a new home.
Chauntel Moore /

Are the days of the McMansion coming to a McEnd? Maybe not, but you might see a lot less of them as millennials become a bigger part of the home buying market and opt for smaller, more affordable homes with a smaller carbon footprint.

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As the millennial generation hits the prime home-buying age — late 20s to early 40s — they have begun to enter the housing market in much higher numbers, according to a new report from Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate/The Masiello Group.

This is the case even as the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the home-buying plans of millions of Americans. One major shift that took place during the pandemic, driven in part by a rise in remote work, is that younger buyers have broadened their home searches beyond the urban areas they once preferred into suburban and small-town markets.

Millennials are also scouting smaller homes than previous generations. This is partly due to the importance millennials place on sustainability — smaller homes require less energy than bigger homes. But it’s also the result of economic factors. Smaller homes cost less than bigger ones when all other factors are equal, such as the market and location.

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Before the pandemic, a survey conducted by Clever Real Estate found that the average millennial home buyer considered 1,700 square feet to be sufficient space, while boomers said they were looking for homes closer to 1,900 square feet. And that was after many boomers sold larger homes as a way of downsizing.

One reason millennials prefer smaller homes is because they are more interested in minimalism than boomers, the survey found. Millennials also put a higher priority on walkability — and you’re likely to find smaller homes on smaller lots in densely populated areas where you can walk to work, shops and restaurants.

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But even that might be changing in the COVID era. As Forbes reported last summer, many millennials began moving out of big coastal cities after the pandemic hit and gravitated toward less expensive suburban areas in other parts of the country, where they could find larger homes at better prices.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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