In reading up on Gen Y – loosely defined as those born between the late ‘70s and late ‘90s – something that struck me as significant was this notion that Gen Y and baby boomers view home buying as starkly different things. A baby boomer would say buying a home is an investment, whereas their younger counterpart would say it’s a lifestyle choice.
I came across an article that dove deeper into the reasoning behind why Gen Y delays home buying compared to boomers. Based on a panel discussion sponsored by the Urban Land Institute, the article mentions that most in Gen Y do not have the resources to buy a home in their 20s. They tend to take breaks from work to travel, which can cost them lost wages and earning potential at this point in their careers.
The article also looks at affordability:
“(T)he average Baby Boomer could afford a home with $48,000 annual income if they bought a home in the early 1980s whereas a Generation Y household would have to bring in $142,000 per year to afford a home today.”
Obviously, all of these things have an impact on the housing market as young, first-time buyers are essential to the move-up market.
What strikes me about this trend of Gen Y delaying home buying is that there’s not a bigger conversation going on. Is it really that Gen Y does not want to buy homes? Or is it that they can’t afford the homes that are available to them? Are they really looking for a different type of ownership than we’re used to?
I think it’s important to engage in this conversation. Statistics show that Gen Y, estimated at 70 million individuals, is even larger than the baby boomer generation. Their habits, preferences and economic situation will have a big impact on real estate.
The current slowdown we’re seeing in real estate is no doubt caused by economic forces – job loss, foreclosures, tightened credit. But in the recovery, there is this other aspect that’s not being discussed as much – this “lifestyle” choice that is a little fuzzier than what we’re used to.
The good news is that lifestyle is exactly what real estate agents are good at understanding. Who better can tell you the little things about a neighborhood or city that don’t get captured in an online listing or for-sale sign? I believe that the more we understand each other, the easier it will be to accommodate Gen Y’s lifestyle choices.