Next Dominant Generation Rejects Baby Boomers’ Home Preferences
It sounds like a group of beings from another world — straight out of some low-budget sci-fi movie. However, this population group, comprising a colossal demographic segment of American society, is very real, indeed. And, while they may be known as Generation X, Gen X, Xers, Gen Xers, or even the “Lost Generation,” they are quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with in the real estate world.
Although this generation is usually defined as those Americans born between 1965 and 1979, there are some demographers who assert that a Generation Xer is anyone born between 1961 and 1981. This inconsistency is, perhaps, befitting of a group known as the “Lost Generation.” But, if the latter case is accurate, it would mean Generation X surpasses even the Baby Boom Generation – 81 million versus 67 million.
More importantly, as far as the real estate community is concerned, a large percentage of Gen Xers are now in their prime home buying years. Realtors and home builders should be particularly sensitive to the needs of Gen X homebuyers, as well as the values they embrace. – especially considering that, by some estimates, Xers comprise just over half of the market for the nation’s newly-constructed homes. Certainly, that’s nothing to sneeze at. In addition, some real estate analysts note that Gen Xers are entering their peak trade-up years, as well.
So, how do these twenty somethings and thirty somethings approach their housing needs when compared to the previous generation? One major factor driving their home buying decisions concerns timing. Real estate experts remind us that many Xers started entering the housing market shortly after the run-up in home prices began about ten years ago. Thus, affordability was more of an issue than it was to the generation before them. Houses boasting bloated square footage dimensions and immense kitchens aren’t nearly as impressive to them as they are with Baby Boomers.
Another factor influencing home buying habits of Gen Xers’ concerns their intentions to be more family-oriented than their parents’ generation. Gen Xers’ return to traditional values – values which were often absent among many in the Baby Boomers’ generation, where individuality was embraced. As a result, Generation X places a premium on community living, in very close proximity to other like-minded neighbors — as opposed to choosing the an estate, separated by acres of land from the nearest neighbor.
Other issues viewed as significant by Generation X concerning housing:
- They shy away from suburbs (to which so many Baby Boomers were attracted) – claiming the homes in these “indistinct neighborhoods” are bland clones of each other – in favor of homes which display original charm and character. In fact, Gen X appears to be the first generation since World War I to migrate back to inner city areas, as they flee from the ‘burbs.
- Perhaps owing to their social nature, Xers desire close-knit communities conducive to spending more quality time with their friends and families – communities designed to feature schools in the heart of the community rather than on the outer edges of it. They feel that their communities should help to foster healthy relationships with their children.
- They also prefer neighborhoods with a diverse mixture of people from different cultures – again breaking away from the tradition of many of their parents’ communities.
- Xers maintain that their home designs should stress more space for practical living and less space for entertaining – common in many Baby Boomers’ homes.
- Gen Xers concerns over environmental issues dictate that their homes should be more “environmentally friendly” — as far as the selection of building materials, conservation of energy, and landscaping goes.
- Xers prefer classic American architecture in their home designs. Brick or clapboard for the exterior is fine with them.
- Extravagant amenities are not as much of an attraction for Xers as they are with the Baby Boomer crowd. For example, an opulent kitchen would be looked upon as very impractical — many Xers rarely cook at home. Functionality is the key word in Gen Xers’ home design choices.
- Xers are very tech-savy – more so than the generation preceding them – and, thus, expect their homes to be pre wired to take advantage of internet access, home networks, and high-tech devices.
- Homes with lofts, and unfinished space are attractive to Gen Xers. These types of homes invite their inhabitants to express themselves by customizing these areas.
Although there continues to be a mismatch between the current housing inventory and the home needs of Gen Xers, the market is slowly, but surely responding. It’s just a matter of time before home builders, as a whole, seriously take into consideration many of Gen Xers’ housing concerns into their home designs. More likely than not, they will want to do all they can to win the business of this soon-to-be-dominant segment of the real estate market.