Denver millennials, forced to buy older houses, are investing in “must do” home improvements

Millennials like to play it cool when it comes to the home improvement project they request more than any other from contractors in metro Denver.

Local millennials hire help for the installation of central air-conditioning units more than any other improvement, and it isn’t about them not being able to take the heat, according to a report from HomeAdvisor, a Golden company whose website links contractors with homeowners needing work done.

“That is a function of the older homes that millennials are buying,” said Brad Hunter, chief economist with HomeAdvisor.

Unable to afford new or near-new homes, millennials — the generation currently in their 20s and early 30s — are buying lower-cost properties with deferred maintenance. The average vintage of the homes they buy — 1984.

After air-conditioning units, which cost $5,250 on average to replace in metro Denver, additions represent the third most requested project by millennials. They average a pricey $40,825 and allow older and smaller homes to accommodate growing families.

Concrete driveway replacements rank fourth. At an average cost of $3,881, concrete represents a cheaper option over pavers. Drywall installation is the fifth most requested home improvement project, at an average cost of $1,639, and young homeowners in Denver are especially fond of adding closet space.

“When they buy a home, they don’t have a cash on hand to do all the projects. They take on the projects that have to get done right away,” Hunter said.

Tighter finances and uncertainty about getting a fair deal result in millennials tackling repairs and some improvements on their own, a task made easier with online instruction videos, Hunter said.

The most popular home improvement project in metro Denver among owners regardless of age are bathroom remodels. Unlike some of the “must do” projects, a remodel represents a “want to” project.

“Any kind of a room remodel is about the aesthetic you are going for. It is a whole separate category,” Hunter said. Other “want to” projects that make the top-five list of improvements, driven heavily by Baby Boomer spending, include building a deck or porch, average cost of $6,935, and installing a concrete patio, average cost of $2,443.

Showing that AC unit failures don’t discriminate based on age, that is the fifth most requested project overall.

What millennials and buyers of all ages share in common is the second most requested home improvement, an exterior paint job.

In theory, homeowners could paint their own homes. But the job can get messy, and errors are out there for everyone to see. An exterior paint job costs $2,647 on average in metro Denver, the survey found.

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