We’ve always known home buying is an entirely subjective experience, largely dependent on personal circumstances and tastes. Now, two national surveys shed light on how generational differences can influence the choices buyers make concerning home size, location and age.

The National Association of Home Builders’ “What Home Buyers Really Want” survey indicates the amount of space a buyer requires drops steadily as the age of the buyer increases. Among those younger than 35, the desired home size is around 2,500 square feet compared to the 2,065 square feet averaged by those 65 and older.  That’s a pretty significant proportional difference.

Meanwhile, the inaugural “2013 National Association of Realtors Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends” study released in July reports older generations of home buyers tend to prefer newer homes than their younger counterparts. Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) typically bought homes built around 1986, nearly a decade older than the homes typically purchased by the so-called Silent Generation (born between 1925 and 1945).

Younger buyers also were more likely to gravitate to central-city areas than older buyers; 21 percent of Millennials bought a home in an urban location, compared to only 13 percent of Older Boomer and Silent Generation buyers, according to the NAR survey. Older Boomers are characterized as those born between 1946 and 1954.

Despite their differences, the generations agree on at least one fundamental truth: eight out of 10 buyers considered their home purchase a sound financial investment, the NAR reports. Among Millennials, the number was even higher, with 85 percent of buyers under age 32 supporting the financial merits of homeownership.

“Homeownership is an investment in your future and is how many younger American families begin to accumulate wealth,” Paul Bishop, NAR vice president of research, said in a prepared statement. “The oldest of the Millennial generation are now entering the years in which people typically buy a first home, and despite the recent downturn, homeownership still matters to them. The sheer size of the Millennial generation, the largest in history after the Baby Boomers, is expected to give a powerful boost to long-run housing demand, though in the short term, mortgage accessibility and student debt repayment remain challenges.”

(Editor’s Note: Andy Warren is President of Maracay Homes, the Arizona subsidiary of the Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Company. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona and Greater Phoenix Leadership; as well as the Board of Directors and as an Executive Committee member with the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. He is also an active member of the Urban Land Institute.)

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