I’m getting a little tired of writing about Gen Y and millennials, and, by now, you’re probably growing a little sick of reading about them.
Or maybe it’s the countless articles we’ve done on social media marketing, or micro units, or technology amenities. Or maybe it’s all this talk of paperless leasing offices, the Apple Store approach, or about how Starbucks-like common areas are in vogue because this generation is so much more social (and caffeinated) than previous generations.
Do they want to own a home? They don’t want a dining room, right? Do they even want to talk to anyone in the leasing office? Are they more interested in a bike repair space than a parking space? Would they like a yoga room, perhaps?
And on and on and on (and we wonder where that sense of entitlement came from).
We are so keenly interested in the housing wants and needs of Gen Y, so wrapped up in pandering to this voluminous generation, that we forget ourselves. We forget how fickle most 20-somethings are, how they barely know what they want, or even what the choices are.
Are we designing our communities based on their passing fancies, like a drunk sailor getting a tattoo of his girlfriend’s face? Are we too hung up on things that appeal to a 25-year-old, but not a 35-year-old (or a 15-year-old, for that matter)? Will we regret some of these decisions in 10 years, like the sailor who sobers up the next day and realizes he’s really not all that into his girlfriend?
Let’s face it, folks, these kids just leaving college are as capricious and unformed as any of us were when we hit the legal drinking age. Maybe we’re lavishing too much attention on them, and not enough on their parents or grandparents.
Consider this eye-popping fact: In the next decade, a little more than half of all new renter households will be baby boomers, ages 45 to 64, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. That’s a fascinating statistic, and one that doesn’t get a lot of airtime in the press. It’s not all that sexy.
But the issue got some airtime at the MFE Leadership Summit, in Vail, Colo., in early March. Rick Graf, CEO of Pinnacle, talked about how baby boomers tend toward macro, not micro units; how big closets and extra space (maybe even dining rooms) are important to his generation; how they have almost the opposite design needs from Gen Y. “We have a lot of stuff,” he said.
Cindy Clare, president of Kettler Management, talked about how interesting it will be to see the approach leasing offices take in serving these two radically different demographics. The young-ins may like to text, but baby boomers still want to talk to people face-to-face. Gen Y might like an interactive video tour on an iPad, but baby boomers may actually want to see the unit for themselves.
It’s a little schizophrenic, but, then, so is America. No one size fits all.
So, as you think about the design and operation of your communities, and question whether you’re cutting-edge enough, try to be age-agnostic. Ignore wrinkles and baby fat alike. Because, in the end, all that matters is price, quality, location, and customer service. And that stuff, beyond all the bells and whistles, is pretty damned timeless.