Get Ready for Generation Z

They’re conservative, entrepreneurial, and they favor homeownership

By PATRICK DUFFY

By 2019, they’re projected to surpass Millennials as the largest generation cohort, with 32 percent of the global population. In the U.S., they’re being described as the first generation, which has only known today’s ever-connected digital world, yet are as financially conservative as survivors of the Great Depression. Open-mind- ed, optimistic, and entrepreneurial in nature, they’re eyeing future homeownership at a higher level than the generation before them, with over four-fifths of them hoping to buy a home within the next five years.

Get ready for Generation Z

Loosely defined as those born between 1995 and 2010, most members of Gen Z (who also go by other names including iGen and Post-Millennials) were too young to understand the events of 9/11, but certainly absorbed the stresses and uncertainties surrounding the Great Recession and its aftermath. Similar in some ways to the generation that preceded them, many Gen Z members are still attracted to urban centers, common amenities and smart appliances. But because they’re also aware of emerging social, political and environmental challenges, for them housing also offers the financial safety from what is generally the preferred long-term investment.

Recently, the online service PropertyShark conducted a survey of different generations to gauge their attitudes towards owning a home, intergenerational living, and saving for a down payment. Like the Millennials, Gen Z cite college debt as the primary obstacle towards homeownership, but because they’re willing to compromise more to keep costs down, they’re expected to create some serious competition to their older peers.

With the oldest members of Gen Z in their early 20s, the fact that 83 percent of them plan to buy a home in the next five years may seem like youthful exuberance, but so far their early adopters are proving up to the task. According to a MarketWatch article earlier this year, of the 100,000 Gen Z members who are currently homeowners, just 1.2 percent of them are more than 60 days late on mortgage payments, versus 1.6 percent for Baby Boomers and 2.3 percent for Gen X.

Although Gen Z is the least willing of the different generations to compromise on space, they are willing to consider more far-flung locations, just as long as nearby entertainment options are close by. In fact, nearly 60 percent of them prefer suburban living versus 30 percent for urban environments, which is not encouraging for small towns and rural areas. Like the Silent Generation, which experienced tough economic times and a world war, Gen Z’s focus on homeownership as a safe investment means they’re also more willing to take on fixer-uppers as a learning experience. With nearly half of Gen Z survey respondents reporting putting less than $10,000 down and 93 percent saving for less than five years to reach their down payment goals, their willingness to buy the cheapest homes has reportedly helped them get on the housing ladder much earlier than some previous generations.

Notably, Gen Z seems more risk-averse versus the preceding generation. According to a 2016 study by the child-focused Annie E. Casey Foundation, researchers compared teens from 2008 and 2014, and found a 40 percent drop in teen pregnancy, a 38 percent drop in drug and alcohol abuse, and a 28 percent drop in the share of teens graduating late from high school.

For future employers, Gen Z is also different in the workplace. Whereas Millennials are often seen as more idealistic, Gen Z may be focused more on security and money. It’s not that they don’t want to make a difference – 72 percent of those still in high school surveyed want to start their own business – it’s that they’re more motivated by a secure life outside of work. To this end, more of them are skipping college and moving straight in the workforce versus Millennials, both to avoid crushing student debt and to prove they already have the skills for today’s more technology-oriented workplace.

This combination of pragmatism and focus could even make Gen Z a disruptive force, or what Forbes magazine has dubbed “Rebels with a cause.” Due to shifts in how we communicate, access information, and the culture we consume, today’s Gen Z could conceivably leapfrog older colleagues in the workplace who have let their skill sets wither. Outside of the workplace, these same benefits could also help them practically tackle long-simmering issues such as a rising national debt, an aging infrastructure and climate change. To them, change is comfortable, whether it’s by discovering a new suburb, starting a business, or even saving the world.

Patrick Duffy is a Principal with MetroIntelligence Real Estate Advisors and contributes to BuilderBytes. He may be reached at pduffy@metrointel.com or at 310-666-8288.

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