For years, market research has catered to Millennial home-buying trends. Realtors watched with concern as Millennials chose to rent instead of buy, bemoaning high student loans as the reason for delaying entry into the market. Millennials needed education in everything from budgeting and finance to negotiating the emotions of wanting a dream home that may be out of budget. But as Generation Z begins to step into the marketplace, trends are rapidly changing – for the better. Where Millennials had big emotions toward homeownership, Gen Z has big aspirations. Here are the key ways Gen Z is changing the market and how they can better prepare to get a great deal.
1. They want into the market sooner rather than later.
Gen Z believes in the American Dream of homeownership. A whopping 97% of Gen Z want to own their own home, many of them before the age of 35. This is in sharp contrast to Millennials, who put off buying for many years. They are ready, and they are eager. Because they account for approximately 40% of consumers in 2020, they will change the face of homeownership through sheer numbers alone.
2. Though they are young, they are financially savvy.
In contrast to the previous generation – or perhaps as a result of watching their woes – Gen Z are generally risk-averse, practical, and consider themselves savers rather than spenders. They highly value stability and self-reliance. They are typically debt-averse, though they still carry student loan debt. They will not be swayed by “creative” financing. Most have saved a down payment, though the amount is not significant.
3. Gen Z has expectations driven by digital consumption.
For a generation raised with technology, who sold Girl Scout cookies online and submitted their schoolwork in Google Docs, they expect the housing market to be entirely digitally accessible – and customizable. Remember, as children, Gen Z could design a sneaker using an app and have it delivered in a matter of weeks. Buying a product has always been a tailored experience for this generation, and housing will be no different. They are on-demand consumers. That said, while Millennials consistently preferred new-build homes, Gen Z is not afraid of DIY! Since there is currently five times the number of existing homes on the market versus new-build, this could mean a lot of exciting buying opportunities for new Gen-Z home-seekers. Successful marketing strategies will maximize the digital experience, making tours, loan applications, and other parts of the process efficiently handled through a digital platform.
4. But it has to be authentic.
Gen Z can spot fake advertising a mile away, so content, products, and marketing should get to the idea’s truth. They are just as likely to get excited over a renovation project as they are a new build, but either option must be reliably represented. Gen Z prioritizes authenticity and creativity – in themselves and in the products, homes, and culture that represents them. Testimonials will not take them in because they know those can be faked or purchased.
5. “Smart” features will drive smart home buying.
Gen Z expects an apartment or home to support the highest-speed WiFi available, and additional features, like security, thermostat, appliances, entertainment, etc., are all wirelessly connected. Their university experience likely included dorms with a wider set of amenities, and they will expect apartments and homes to offer the same.
6. Gen Z has a clear set of buying priorities.
While Millennials represented very emotional spenders whose priorities were a bit all over the place, Gen Z has a clear set of values for purchasing a home: price point, space, and access to culture. Shared amenities are also highly valued, but instead of the swimming pool and fitness center, Gen Z prefers co-working spaces, pet-friendly communities, shared entertainment, and others. They expect a cost-efficient home model with full options to customize space and cultural opportunities in the area.
Some factors, however, remain the same. Student loan debt burden is still a significant hindrance for Gen Z, just as it is for Millennials. And, just like Millennials, their salaries have not kept pace with rising housing costs. Savvy real estate agents will be prepared to help these new potential homeowners understand their financing strategies. Now is the time to be smart about your digital platform. Gen Z relies on Google searches more than any other generation to find information about everything. The average attention span of a member of Gen Z is 8 seconds, so if a website is slow to load, it might as well not exist. Targeted social media ads are more effective than emails or online ads. Shared photos of happy customers are far more effective to Gen Z.
Understanding and catering to Gen Z’s values and preferences will lead to exciting opportunities in the home-buying market!