They're smart, demanding, and restless. Masters of multitasking and technology, they're simultaneously glued to their computers, iPods, and cell phones. They travel in small packs and are willing to swap personal living space for a hip place in the city near coffee shops, restaurants, and nightlife. Who are they? Your next generation of renters.
It's time to get to know this demographic–and fast. Members of Gen Y, born between 1977 and 1994, roughly, are turning 21 years old at a rate of 4 million a year. And these opinionated and choosy youngsters (also known as echo boomers) won't settle for any old apartment community. They demand apartments designed to fit their high-tech and highly social lifestyles.
COFFEE BREAK: Gen Yers jumpstart their day at The Ashton's hip, colorful coffee bar. The space doubles as a community kitchen with top-of-the-line appliances sure to impress the 20-something-crowd. The kitchen also features luncheon seating, a veranda, and cocktail high-top tables for evening gatherings. The Dallas property was developed by The Hanover Co. Courtesy The Hanover Co. Fortunately for developers, echo boomers are willing to spend money to get what they want. "It's like how they buy clothes; if it's a trendy brand, they will buy it," says Steve Donohue, president of Western National Property Management, which caters to Gen Y at several of its properties with WiFi inside and outside, hip gathering spots, first-class fitness centers, and more. "If they see a property over in Newport Beach, Calif., with a great address and amenities, they will spend the money even if it means doubling up in order to afford it."
Developers are holding focus groups with young renters and employees and even chatting with their own children to find out what this demographic really wants. The bottom line: Gen Yers want a hip, edgy apartment building with WiFi throughout and plenty of opportunities to personalize their units and hang out with neighbors and friends in spots like rooftop decks and game rooms–and even laundry rooms. That's right, laundry rooms might just be all the rage with this group. "People perceive you can't lease a unit if you don't have a washer or dryer in it, but that's not true," says Daniel Gehman, a principal at Thomas P. Cox: Architects, an Irvine, Calif.-based architecture firm. "A certain number of people like that interface, that mixing with other people."
So how can your properties best meet Gen Y's ever-growing, ever-changing needs without turning off other prospects who don't know a text message from an e-mail? Read on for the latest design trends–from interior spaces to outdoor amenities–that attract the 20-something crowd.