Is home ownership still the American dream? This topic was top-of-mind during the 2015 Pacific Coast Builders Conference (PCBC) in San Diego.

The answer, most agreed, was a resounding yes. According to recent statistics, 80 percent of home owners said that buying a house was the proudest moment of their life.

Homeownership is on the rise because buyer demographics are changing. Instead of a population “pyramid,” with baby boomers on the top, soon the population will be the same across all ages. As the pyramid diminishes, all generations will control the demand in the marketplace and the baby boom generation will no longer drive the market.

“I have been attending PCBC since 2004 and this was the first year since the recession that I felt an overwhelming consensus of optimism and excitement,” said Katie Yee, Director of Business Development and Marketing at Latitude 33, a planning and engineering firm. “The industry still has a lot of challenges that it is facing and obstacles to overcome, but it seemed that everyone from suppliers to consultants to developers felt like we are headed in the right direction. The dream of homeownership is still alive. Buyer demographics may be shifting and changing, but buyers are still out there and eager to buy a home of their own.”

The New American Consumer

Demographic shifts, lifestyle choice, and technology are redefining and reshaping the definition of family and how we see the world. For example, consider how the following cultures, family definitions and external influences will reshape the housing market:

  • Male – fastest-growing household
  • Asian – fastest-growing demographic
  • Changing values are redefining the family
  • 41 percent of babies are born to single mothers
  • Polycultural shifts influence home and culture
  • Technology is not just a platform, but a lifestyle

What this means is that housing stock will need to change and reflect the needs of the current buyers. That also means that kitchens and bathrooms, where a majority of woodworking activity takes place, will change and adapt to current needs.

Millennials

Often regarded as the next great generation to influence housing, millennials are defined as potential buyers who are 19-36 years old. Many life stages occur in this timeframe, and so far the generation has not followed the traditional path to adulthood. The 20-somethings prefer a more urban lifestyle, while 30-somethings are moving away from urban and settling into homes and starting families.

While this seems like a challenge, it’s actually an opportunity for home builders to attract the younger consumer by understanding what drives them. Experts at PCBC said that the way to engage this audience is to activate all five of the senses in order to portray how housing will make their lives better and easier in small ways.

For example, home builders should:

  • Use technology to engage
  • Include all family, including pets
  • Stop serving bad coffee and water and serve “Viva Pops.”
  • Create an unexpected experience that gets others to tell about it (social media).
  • Create the unexpected
  • Create an experience, such as a dog park, garden for kids, and engage with sense of community, etc.

“The shapes of our communities are changing and are becoming more inclusive and urbanized with live/work opportunities, vibrant town centers, walkable designs and a variety of housing options from first-time home buyer to senior housing to affordable housing,” said Yee. “We aren't just building homes, we are creating communities, neighborhoods and lifestyles.”  

What questions do you have? What are you seeing in your local market?

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