A new report by youth marketing experts YPulse titled “No Place Like Home” provides significant new insights on how the Covid pandemic has changed how Gen-Z and Millennials view the homes. The following statement summarizes key findings: “As young people look to their spaces as mental health retreats, at-home items and services that comfort, declutter, or foster a feeling of escape that from the outside world will resonate.” The opportunities for marketers are clear and will be elaborated on below.
YPulse previously observed that millennials have homebody tendencies, with a majority preferring to go to a café or watch Netfix at home as opposed to going to a party on a Saturday night. A recent survey confirms that this sentiment was present even prior to the pandemic, with, “…67% of 19-37 year olds telling YPulse in January this year that they would rather stay in on the weekends than go out.”
Both Millennials and Gen-Z (widely regarded as the most stressed out generation in history) are seeing the home as a refuge from the outside world, as many have felt stressed by issues such as climate change, the 2008 recession, student debt, and now Covid-19.
Shifts in How Young People Use Their Homes Will Create Opportunity
With a strong majority of Millennials and Gen-Z having the goal of owning a home, how they use that home will be of interest to markets in many product categories. YPulse points out several Covid-related shifts in emphasis among the younger consumers in terms of how they will use space, including heightened demand for:
- Fully equipped home offices (seating, lighting, desks, temperature control), with many indicating a preference to work at home even after the pandemic.
- Home fitness space and equipment, with 63% indicating that when the pandemic ends they would prefer to exercise at him.
- Private outdoor space, with many preferring having their own private space even after Covid passes as opposed to using public parks for this purpose
- Cooking supplies and well-equipped kitchens. While the demand for eating out does not appear to have done away, there has been an uptick in the number reporting that cooking is a hobby.
- Play space for children; this has been spurred by many dealing with home schooling while trying to keep them busy via fun and productive entertainment.
Renewed Emphasis on Comfort, Simpler Design, and Home Improvement
YPulse reports that Covid has led to 80% of young people self-quarantining and, 83% reporting that their home has provided them with comfort during the pandemic. In addition, 71% actually indicate that they actually enjoy being able to spend additional time at home. This “shelter from the storm” as YPulse puts it, brings comfort to young consumers, who describe their ideal home as being comfortable, cozy, safe, calming, and quiet. Accompanying these feelings is a desire for simplified décor that is calming and reflects a less cluttered environment. The report also suggests that “Cozy, homier ads are more relevant than ever to young consumers,” advice that would appear very sound going forward.
The “comfort” element of the home is making young consumers more likely to indicate they want to engage in do-it-yourself home improvements. The report indicates that 64% of young consumers say they are more interested in-home improvement than before Covid. DIY may be especially important in the short-term, as these young consumers look to make improvements while limiting expenditures, and may become a longer-term trend as well.
A Shift from Urban to Suburban and Rural Living
The report observes that while about 3 million Millennials have moved back with their parents during the pandemic, a majority live on their own. Prior to the pandemic, 34% of Millennials and 8% of Gen-Z consumers owned their own homes, with and additional 46% of Millennials and 9% of Gen-Z being renters. Clearly, it is a goal of both of these generations to own their own home in the future, with 85% of young people reporting that they plan to eventually buy a house.
Once the pandemic ends, this desire to should produce good times for the housing market. Assuming a reasonably healthy economy and no dramatic changes in federal tax code, it remains likely that once the crisis passes that there will a boom in Millennial wealth, leading to an even better housing market.
Ypulse’s report indicates that 48% of those ages 19-37 who rent or live with parents are putting off home ownership because of Covid. So where will they live? A notable trend that is that more urban Millennials are considering or planning a move to a suburban or rural area. YPulse’s data shows that the top reasons for this sentiment are lower housing costs, low crime rates, being close to friends, being able to afford a larger home, and having more outdoor space. Unless the significant violent crime increases taking place in many major cities can be held in check via policy changes, it would appear that this trend could be exacerbated as real estate experts are already reporting exodus from many major cities as a result of increased crime and high tax rates. As YPulse’ report states, “Moving out of cities is also becoming a dream as some plan for a new future.” If more work remains remote post-Covid, this may become a very realistic dream for many young people.
For example, As the pandemic devastated New York City in March, schoolteacher Ali Iberraken and her young family rushed to relocate outside the city—way outside the city. They left their two-bedroom Brooklyn brownstone for an Airbnb in the woods of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. The Iberrakens had planned to decamp for three weeks but ended up staying for two months, not least because they loved the peace and beauty of the bucolic environment.
“Virginia made me realize that’s exactly the lifestyle I wanted,” Iberraken said. “We tried to stay as long as we could, and upon coming back to New York, it was such a big difference. Now we’re going back to the same old playground in 90-degree heat and horrible humidity.”
She’s not the only one pining for a rural escape during the COVID-19 crisis. A spate of recent headlines such as “Coronavirus may prompt migration out of American cities” and “Americans flee cities for the suburbs” suggest a major demographic shift is underway—a shift that could have profound consequences for housing prices and the broader real estate market.
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