Millennials, those born between 1981 and 1997, introduce a set of norms and expectations befitting a new generation, now the largest in the United States. Traits such as digital savviness, remaining single longer, and elevated debt levels represent not only a cultural transformation, but also a shift in the way this generation views its housing needs.
For modular home builders and even factories, this requires building systems and processes that address Millennials’ specific priorities in order to remain ahead of more digitally enhanced on-site building competitors to create advantages in both single- and multi-family housing markets.
The Millennials are challenging many long-held norms within the housing industry. They are well educated but have high levels of student loan debt. In the United States alone, there are 43 million borrowers with a total of nearly $1.3 trillion of debt, while the average graduate in 2016 has $37,172 in student loan debt, a six percent increase from 2015. Additionally, Millennials graduated college during the recession, and as a result tend to be underemployed given their skill sets. High levels of college debt coupled with underemployment has resulted in a generation of cash-strapped borrowers.
Millennials also represent the first generation to grow up in the largely digital age with instant access to a record amount of data. They are tech savvy, capable of conducting independent research, and expect results quickly. Builder and factory websites have to be more than the 7 basic pages. Now they have to be sources of information and provide links to data about all types of stuff.
Finish Werks in Savage, MD does not have the typical ‘feel good’ look of a traditional builder site. Instead it is fact and information driven. Links flow from it to all parts of building High Performance homes which is something dear to Millennials’ hearts.
Further, the housing market landscape is transforming from this generation’s influx of immigrants, making it a more diverse population, according to the US Census Bureau. Finally, Millennials are delaying traditional major milestones, such as marriage and having children, both of which correspond with buying a house.
Modular builders in the single-family housing market have struggled to rebound after the housing bubble burst almost a decade ago. However, the Millennial generation presents an opportunity for builders to capitalize on a new market. In fact, 91 percent of the approximately 87 million Millennial “would-be homebuyer” population plans to own a home in the near future.
These may not look like the homes bought by Gen X or Boomers and builders and factories that don’t soon embrace the Millennials may find themselves serving a dwindling market devoid of them.