IRVINE, CA—Research has shown a pivotal shift in the Millennials home-buying process. TRI Pointe Group and BUILDER magazine has teamed up to develop a new home concept, the Responsive Home, that responds to these buyers’ needs, TRI Pointe’s COO Tom Mitchell tells We spoke exclusively with Mitchell about the concept, why he believes it will work and the top “must-haves” Millennials are seeking in a home today. Why did TRI Pointe Group/Pardee Homes and partner Hanley Wood choose to develop the Responsive Home?

Mitchell: TRI Pointe Group and Hanley Wood‘s BUILDER magazine have teamed up for a two-home concept project, the “Responsive Home,” which is being built by Pardee Homes, a member of the TRI Pointe Group, at the Inspirada master-planned community in Henderson, NV. Research has shown a pivotal shift in the Millennial home-buying process, and the Responsive Home is a groundbreaking venture in developing a new home designed and built to respond to these buyers’ needs.

The primary reason why we have invested a significant amount of time and money into this project is so we can have a better understanding of Millennials and what they’re looking for in a home. We know that this group will be an important home-buying segment in the future. The Responsive Home is providing valuable insights into Millennial home preferences, and we expect the concept homes will be a template for the future. 

The large age range of this group (ages 24 to 34) created the need for two concept homes, each targeting a different type of Millennial buyer: a 2,514-square-foot contemporary farmhouse and a 3,194-square-foot contemporary transitional home. Both concept homes will be unveiled to the public during the 2016 International Builders’ Show, January 19-21 in Las Vegas. Based on your research, what are the top “must haves” that millennials are looking for in a home and how were these incorporated into the Responsive Home? 

Mitchell: We have definitely learned a lot about Millennials’ “must haves.” As expected, most Millennials are first-time home buyers, and one of the most unexpected results from our research shows that Millennials are mostly gravitating towards homes with urban conveniences in suburban settings. Such conveniences include living within walking distance to parks and schools, while also maintaining a strong sense of community.  

Additionally, according to our research by Ketchum Global Research and Communications, 83% of Millennials stated that they are seeking more space, specifically outdoors, and 71% stated they want to personalize their home. The Responsive Home caters to these desires by allowing homeowners the ability to personalize their space in multiple ways, including options for additional bedrooms, offices or fitness rooms, as well as casita living spaces inclusive of small kitchens, full baths, covered patios and separate home entrances.

John McManus, publisher of BUILDER magazine, summarized it like this: “The stories, respectively, are of buyers who may want to ‘grow’ as their ownership of homes passes time. Their ‘means’ may change; they may want to have renters, or, at some point, a family member from the same or another generation living with them. These homes go beyond multi-generational, to reflect the combinations and possibilities the sharing economy, social and cultural trends are evidence of today. Clearly, among the preferences of such households—as confirmed by research by Ketchum Global Research and Communications—is for a dramatically contemporary imagining of traditional space, alchemically connected from inside to the outdoors. But, not lacking in indoor magic of its own.” What are some of the challenges of this project, and how have you overcome them? 

Mitchell: Creatively, each of the principal partners involved in the Responsive Home project has a resource base and a proficiency that, when it’s all working best, gets to shine. This has been a big motivator for us to work together collectively on the Responsive Home, but it’s a learning process. From our research partners at Ketchum to our design director Bobby Berk to our architecture firm Bassenian Lagoni to the landscape architects at AndersonBaron, our focus is on how to “move” a prospective buyer by appealing to his or her desire to have a personalized home. As you’d expect, we’ve seen some challenges around getting new finishes, new products and sometimes new suppliers integrated into these homes. Overcoming these challenges would not have been possible without the support and hard work from each of the sponsors and trade partners, and we’re thrilled with the progress we’ve achieved together. Tell us more about how Millennials buy real estate. Is it different than other groups?

Mitchell: There have been so many interesting revelations that came from our extensive research, especially when you look at how Millennials are purchasing homes and why. It’s a total departure from traditional buyers. Millennials are renting longer and getting married and having kids later, and they take their time to carefully research home purchasing online so when it comes time to buy, they are well informed and quick to actually purchase. The National Association of Realtors has found that Millennials represent the largest segment (32%) of home buyers in America, so it’s important for us to understand their needs. For instance, our research found that 84% of Millennials cite financial readiness as the motivation behind home buying, as opposed to emotional readiness that has long been a driving factor. A staggering 71% say it is important for their home to have the ability to be customized, and 86% desire outdoor space and more living space in general. Additionally, Millennials want to replicate the best aspects of urban life, such as living within walking distance to parks, grocery stores, schools and work, but with more space and affordability. Indeed, the American dream is still alive, but it’s been very much modified. Do you anticipate that some of the design elements you’re seeing in these concept homes for the Responsive Home project will make their way into the production homes you’ll work on in the future?

Mitchell:As mentioned, we’re learning a lot about Millennials and what home buyers in that age group are looking for in their first home and a move-up home. What Bobby Berk and Bassenian Lagoni have come out with really reacts to the desires of Millennials and how they want their houses to flow, what they like and how they want to live in their homes. Both homes feature adaptable floor plans with a level of flexibility that other new homes can’t offer. As household composition shifts from adult roommates to young families to multigenerational living, Responsive Home residents will be able to achieve maximum functionality with minimal home modifications—in some cases, adding one wall will finish off an entire additional room of the house. The design truly will be able to respond to its owner’s needs, while being fresh and contemporary, but still nostalgic. We’re really looking forward to having builders come out to see the Responsive Home during the show and say, “This is something we can apply to our product in the future.”