Where We’ve Gone Wrong in Real Estate Design (And How To Fix it)

Imagine this: a large, open concept, stark white kitchen with an 8-foot quartz island and recessed lighting that makes the room come alive.

A dining room with a living edge table framed with floor-to-ceiling windows that show off the luscious ravine that is your backyard.

Aside from the 20-foot ceilings, you realize that there is a spiral staircase leading up to a lofty bedroom, sprinkled with jade plants, fiddle leaf figs, and devil’s ivy across mid century furniture pieces and a generous egg-shell rug on hardwood.

This sounds beautiful, idyllic even.

So why is almost every home you walk into not this? More than likely, it’s a 1970’s American Craftsmen, ranch-style rambler, or American Colonial with little windows, a chimney, and plenty of partitions.

If you’re a home buyer, maybe you tour these houses and often it’s dark, has small hallways, shaggy carpets, all with the blinds down. You might as well be in a fortress.

At least in America, homes are often built with the “old Baby Boomer” generation in mind (born 1946-1954), when they only make up 14% of total buyers.

It’s a huge mistake.

Tastes have drastically changed and with “Late Millennials” (born 1980-1989) making up 26% of total buyers, it’s a much more promising audience to target, build, and design for.

The real question is: are developers, remodelers, and interior designers operating under stale data?

That the closed, private concept is what people want? Perhaps.

Perhaps they’re just working with what they’ve got and there’s a surplus of post-WWII homes for sale with dated designs that would be too expensive to remodel.

Regardless, we’re in dire need to adapt to the audience.

Believe it or not, “Late Millennials” are actually a phenomenal, safe audience worth marketing to.

They’re getting married later (only 51% in 2017 vs. 61% just 20 years earlier) and often skipping their starter home and opting for the larger dream home.

In a recent study, the major motivating factor for moving was “to move into a better home”, in short optimizing to something that fits their dreams.

Open concept IS that, so why not lean into that and cater to their wishes?

For any real estate development company, leasing agent, or house flipper who is looking to appeal to this audience, I’ve compiled a list of must-have elements so you can be selling and closing more effectively.

No, you don’t have to do a $50K remodel and sledgehammer walls; these are proven, highly executable elements that cost $1000 or less.

#1: Go Minimalist

Declutter. Practice the mantra of “less, but better” with the space, as well as every item you put in the room. Put otherwise, quality or quantity in every detail.

In other words, let the space breath.

Spread each piece of furniture some elbow room, frame rooms with generously sized carpets so to give the room a more welcoming, luxurious look, and take down any posters or paintings (people like to visualize the potential of the house and how it’d be personalized to them).

You bought those lamps at IKEA and it’d feel like a waste to not use them? Tough it up and put it in a storage unit or closet. Trust me, they won’t even notice it (as planned).

#2: Level Up to Mid-Century

Mid-century modern furniture has become a mass-market favorite, the soup du jour, with IKEA, Target, and Crate and Barrel all adapting their furniture to this design. You should too.

Pinterest search “Mid century design” and you’ll quickly get a sense of what you should be buying. Clean lines, geometric shapes, and furniture with wood and tapered legs incorporated to give spaces a lived-in look. Aesthetic perfection meets agronomical and simple, makes it a home run of a style.

Start with a low-profile couch in a neutral-toned color and then incorporate muted accents like avocado green or mustard yellow. Throw in a unusually shaped wood table, a lounge chair and throw a cross-knit blanket over it. There you go.

#3: For Christ’s Sake, Stage The Home, Walter

Speaking of designing the place, if you’re selling or leasing, for heaven’s sake spend the money and stage the damn thing.

It’s 10x cheaper than hiring an interior designer and historically it sells 88% faster and for almost 17% more than non-staged homes for sale. And of course, the place comes to life and gives it that brand-new, look & feel.

Say you want mid-century furniture, choose a couple accent colors, and they’re off. You won’t regret it.

#4: Get Theatrical and start POV’ing

After you stage it, get into the shoes of the shopper and imagine 3-4 moments you can bring color to. We call this POV’ing. Some ideas:

  • Place an open book & throw on the upholstered chair in the bedroom
  • Arrange some beautiful cookbooks on the desk in your kitchen.
  • Pile an attractive bowl with fresh fruit on the kitchen island.
  • Set up a tea service at a small table by a window overlooking a garden.

Appeal to their emotions and bring to life their visualizations of the ideal home.

Your mission should be to make them feel like THIS is their home and they already feel comfortable in it (“Babe, I can imagine myself working in this office/making breakfast in this kitchen”).

#5: Incorporate Smart Home Stuff

Incorporating a full smart home can run you excess of $2K (hub, speakers, lighting, door locks, plugs, thermostats), but starting with just the most marketable element, lighting will be enough.

Buy a hub like a Google Nest ($230-$400), smart lighting bulbs (connects to WIFI), and motion sensors, and you’re ready to wow your leasers or homebuyers.

Not only does it appeal to Millennials tech-forward nature but it gives you an edge over other homes since it’s still relatively uncommon to have it in place.

#6: White with plants, a beautiful duo

Finally, if you don’t have the luxury or budget to extend a living room or bedroom, incorporate white pieces to make the place feel bigger and more expansive.

White carpet and a speckled white swivel chair paired with white window treatments will give you exactly what you you’re looking for.

To breath some air into the space, add indoor plants around so they’re backdropped by the white furniture pieces. Pothos, Cast Iron, and Peace Lily’s will do perfect here.

Give the people what they want. If they spend 1 to 30 years here, they should be happy and energized in their space. Not residing in another generation’s template.

How did you like this article? How do you think the real estate and rental industry should be appealing to the right audiences? Please share in the comments below!

~JK

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