In Defense of the Rural Millennial

Young people don’t want to live here.” 

This is something I hear often from local leaders across the state, most often in New Hampshire’s more rural communities. Some go on to explain why, “young people don’t want to live here because there is no nightlife / bars / entertainment (insert millennial stereotype here).”

This is a disappointing message not only because it isn’t true — there are 80 million millennials in the United States, it can’t possibly be shocking to hear we’re all different? But also because it isn’t welcoming and it certainly doesn’t inspire regulatory change.  

I’ve written this before, but it bears repeating: millennials’ housing preferences are as diverse as they are. Yes, some young people are looking for the rental unit in an urban environment, but many are looking for the New England-style detached home on a larger lot, in a wooded area. 

Don’t take my word for it: I brought reinforcements this time!

Meet my new friend (and future neighbor) Becky. Becky and her husband (and their perfect pup) live in a rural part of Lee, NH. I asked Becky why she — a millennial — had forsaken the urban lifestyle we are presumed to desire! Becky, an artist, painted me a beautiful word picture of snow, wildlife, and forest. She wouldn’t trade her rural home; she told me, “no amount of money or convenience would convince me to move to a city. I am a millennial of the forest and land.”

Becky’s house – and beautiful dog – in rural Lee, NH.

Becky went on to explain, “when my husband and I decided to buy our home, we wanted space, tranquility, and beauty. Lee provided all of this…we wanted a place to get away from the hustle and bustle.” Becky added that she and her husband would actually prefer a more remote home in the mountains, but can’t argue with the convenience of being able to get into a car and drive 20 to 30 minutes to do their shopping, visit a museum, and socialize. 

Like Becky, I too look forward to settling down in a rural community. While my husband and I currently live in a (moderately) hustling, bustling downtown, we both grew up in rural communities. We dream of settling down in his childhood home in Lee.

The house were my husband and I were married and where we’ll settle down someday.

To give you a broader sense of housing preferences among New Hampshire’s millennial population, I reached out to three New Hampshire Realtors to find out what they see every day. Ryan Hvizda, Realtor with the Hvizda Realty Group at Keller Williams Metropolitan; Nathaniel Morneault, Realtor and Investor at Wolcott Properties; and Krista Cambara, a Broker with Voluminous Property Sales all agree: millennials are a diverse bunch. 

Nathaniel sees millennial homebuyers looking to buy in rural communities in the seacoast due to lower property taxes [relative to urban communities in the seacoast] – something Becky also cited as a plus in Lee. Nathaniel also mentioned the incentives available from home loan programs, like the USDA home loan program, that allow first-time buyers to put 0% down in rural communities.

Ryan told me that she does have millennial clients looking to put down roots in New Hampshire’s rural communities,

I recently helped a young couple buy a piece of land in Boscawen to build a modular home on 11 acres! There is no one size fits all, millennials are a diverse and savvy group in terms of  their interests in housing.”

Krista finds that while rural means different things to different clients, she also works with millennials looking for a quieter lifestyle. “I find that when my client is from New Hampshire and they’re looking for ‘rural’, they are thinking what I am thinking: a couple acres and at least a 20-minute drive from amenities. When I work with millennials from Massachusetts, their definition of rural is a bit different.” Krista added, “as a millennial myself, my dream is to have at least 10 acres with animals and a vegetable garden. Growing up in New Hampshire, I expect to drive at least 30 minutes to friends, entertainment, and shopping.”

So, to our leader’s in New Hampshire’s more rural communities, here is your call to action: Please strike “young people don’t want to live here” from future conversations about housing and replace it with, “young people should want to live here, because [insert town here] is a wonderful place to live.” 

(P.S. Thank you to all my friends who contributed their thoughts and photos to this piece!)

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