Posted on May 30, 2018 by Jorie Helms

Don't get caught short underestimating the still evolving wave of demand for single-family homes and communities.


Can two statements that contradict each other both be true?

When it comes to Millennials, evidently paradox may be the rule, not the exception.

For instance, age is just a number.

And, demographics is destiny.

So, if age is just a number, which would help explain how 35 might in fact be the new 25, then how can the other statement--that demographics is destiny--also be valid? Age, after all, is a building block of demographics, the science of people patterns.

Remember, demographics technically refers to people and household patterns, and demographically-defined generational cohorts have to do with birth-rate cycles, which tend to encompass subsets of people who share values, attitudes, preferences, and behaviors we generally refer to as psychographics for segmentation purposes.

At any rate, conventional wisdom has suggested that Millennials--a generational cohort most demographers would agree includes today's 21- to 37-year-old adults--have been one of housing's bigger unfurling mysteries of the past hundred years or so.

That's because a perfect storm of a profound, life-altering Great Recession, heaps of college-related student debt, social norms around family formation, marriage and children, technology, and workplace transformation have been playing out simultaneously as this cohort has exited post-secondary studies, entered the workforce, and begun to behave as functioning adults in society.

Seldom--in the times since "housing cycles" have come to be a thing--have such materially important variables with such significant potential impact on housing type preferences, means, aspirations, and intentions been up for grabs.

What's interesting is that much of the focus on the latency of Millennial adults in lifestages having to do with pairing up, forming households, forming families, and creating two-parent households with children--the principle demographic engine of any economy--has been on the financial after-effects of the last decade's downturn and slow recovery. A post-traumatic, deeply indebted, urban-centric Renter Nation seemed to be on the verge of changing how housing, communities, and neighborhoods would work in America.

Not so much.

Age was just a number. And, demographics was destiny. As Millennials crossed the 35-year-old threshold, they've seemed to double-down on more historically common housing preference choices and preferences.

And the funny thing is, it's not all about finances, career trajectories, and economics in the wake of the Recession's destructive effects. Here's a piece from New York Times contributor Roni Caryn Rabin that explores how many Millennials have chosen to wait to form couples and create families with almost entirely different motivations.

Sociologists, psychologists and other experts who study relationships say that this practical no-nonsense attitude toward marriage has become more the norm as women have piled into the work force in recent decades. During that time, the median age of marriage has risen to 29.5 for men and 27.4 for women in 2017, up from 23 for men and 20.8 for women in 1970.

Both men and women now tend to want to advance their careers before settling down. Many are carrying student debt and worry about the high cost of housing.

They often say they would like to be married before starting a family, but some express ambivalence about having children. Most important, experts say, they want a strong foundation for marriage so they can get it right — and avoid divorce.

“People are not postponing marriage because they care about marriage less, but because they care about marriage more,” said Benjamin Karney, a professor of social psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Now, this central insight on shared values--values about the marriage and family relationship--can be an important engagement point for residential builders and developers who seek attributive moments and points of traction with potential home buying customers.

What's more, the demographics going forward are one exceptionally robust prospect for community and home developers who're able to crack the code of price, product, location, and customer care.

The Zelman & Associates team of analysts' latest The Z Report takes a careful look at the data dashboard on the vanguard group of Millennials, those who've crossed the 35-year-old threshold and are now in the 35-to-44 year-old age segment for housing type. The conclusion the Zelman report reaches--which you can sample for free by clicking on this link--is nothing short of astonishing:

"Over the last five years, 69% [of 35-44 year olds] have chosen single-family living versus just 25% for multi-family. Thus, a 35-44 year old is 2.7 times more likely to skew towards the single-family lifestyle. With outsized growth forecasted for this age cohort at the expense of weakening trends for younger peers, to us, it is clear that demand for single-family housing should outpace multi-family, even after considering any secular trends related to young adults forming families later in life. We do not believe that this is appreciated by the vast majority of housing market analysts and investors."

Are you ready for the wait-and-hurry-up generation?

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