Times are tough for the 2.3 million college students set to grab their diplomas and hit the job market this spring. According to Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray, & Christmas, the unemployment rate among the 20- to 24-year-old set hit 13.9 percent in March, up from 9.2 percent a year earlier. Real world-minded graduates without a clue as to where to go could do well to turn to Apartments.com, which just announced its second-annual listing of the top 10 best cities for recent college graduates.
Topping the chart this year? Indianapolis, which sports a healthy job market in the education and medical career sectors and also boasts the lowest average rent of any city on the list at $625 per month. In fact, the top 10 cities read like a list of markets where job creation, multifamily, and the Gen Y demographic collide. “The things weighing on the graduate’s mind is the cost of living, the ability to land a job, and where to live and start their lives,” says Apartments.com public relations and promotions manager Tammy Kotula.
Working in conjunction with CBcampus.com—the collegiate version of CareerBuilder.com—Apartments.com developed the list by evaluating markets based on the availability of entry-level jobs, the average market-rate rent of a one-bedroom apartment, and the relative population density of like-minded (shooters after work, anyone?) young adults.
Even as some of those Gen Y grads are heading back home to live with mom and dad, thousands more are looking for apartments, and the Gen Y demographic—the largest generation since the Baby Boomers—is expected to fuel multifamily rent fundamentals for years to come. That has apartment pros focused on attracting Gen Yers to their properties and retaining them as residents for the long-term.
“Our interest in Gen Y keeps growing every year, and our focus on reaching them is truly via the Internet,” says Pat Mash, vice president of marketing for Dallas-based Riverstone Residential, a CAS Partners Co., which manages some 182,000 apartment units nationwide. “This generation has never been without a computer. We have to be where they are across numerous digital platforms. Wherever they are looking, we have to make sure we have a presence and have everything they are looking for.”
Indeed, the Gen Y set already has a reputation for wanting things “my way, right away,” particularly when it comes to wireless access and five-bar cellular phone reception in their apartment. On the flip side, this tech-savvy demographic typically conducts deep Internet research and consults friends and referrals across their electronic social networks before making a decision, which means that in most cases, they’ve already pre-qualified an apartment before they’ve even set foot on the property.
While technology is one of the highest-rated amenity categories among Gen Yers, Kotula also says that multifamily players would do well to emphasize their carbon footprint as well. “This audience is very environmentally conscious, so communities that offer recycling on-site or have LEED-certified buildings or offer other green amenities could be perceived as a market premium.”
If you’re looking to attract Gen Y beyond your Internet presence, Riverstone Residential experts say multifamily firms don’t need to hide from their brands but definitely have to customize the brand experience for younger adults. “This audience is looking for customization of brand, and for that, the localization of marketing and advertising is crucial,” says Maitri Johnson, executive vice president for Riverstone Residential's internal resources group. “Whether it is a sports arena or a concert venue, identify the areas that draw this generation in each specific local submarket, and localize your marketing efforts through local mediums as opposed to a broad-brushed national approach.”
That, and keep your fingers crossed that the upstarts can at least start up by landing a job.