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This article first appeared in the March/April 2024 issue of Pro Builder.

Believe it or not, but Gen Z—the generation born between 1997 and 2012—is dipping the toe of its 68-million-strong cohort into the new-home buying market and builders are getting anxious about how to tailor their products and features to this generation.

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A recent survey of Gen Zers over 18 by the New Home Trends Institute revealed some key insights, highlighted here with examples to inspire and consider.

What's Driving Gen-Z Homebuyers?

For a start, the survey showed that just 18% of Gen Zers own a home (1). More than half still live with their parents, while others live with a partner or a roommate, or live alone or are single parents.

What does this mix mean as this cohort ages and more of them look to buy homes? And with that, what are they willing to accept in that pursuit? Two main factors are driving Gen Zers right now: attainability and a willingness to compromise (2).

Gen Zers are pessimistic about homeownership, and attainability is the primary reason. It’s not that they don’t want to own a home, but many simply consider it out of reach, so why bother? 

While attainability is an issue for almost all generations right now, the examples here highlight opportunities that appeal to Gen Zers specifically and create opportunities for them to enter the market.


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How to Make New Homes Appealing to Gen-Z Buyers

Reduce costs to make homes attainable for Gen Z

Rancho Mission Viejo in Southern California worked to make its latest village of Rienda the most attainable one yet through strategic land planning and product design choices. 

Exterior view of Pulte's Juniper homes, which have a paired home layout to keep costs down
Paired home layouts, like Juniper by Pulte Homes, shown here, keep costs down, making homes more attainable for younger buyers like Gen Z. | Photo: Tsutsumida Pictures

Juniper by Pulte Homes (above) at the Village of Rienda, in Rancho Mission Viejo, Calif., is a paired home layout that keeps fire insurance costs down—a particularly expensive challenge in Southern California. The smaller home sizes (1,120 to 1,558 square feet) and simple building layouts also help keep costs in check.

Meanwhile, Casa Fresca Homes, in Parrish, Fla., boasts high-quality, attainable homes that are “boldly unboring” with simple layouts that feature open great rooms, flex spaces, and plenty of storage (below). 

Casa Fresca Homes attainable housing well-suited to Gen-Z homebuyers
Simple yet fresh home designs that also keep costs in check for buyers seeking starter homes are available in Florida from Casa Fresca Homes. | Photo: Grey Street Studios

The team also cuts costs by limiting window sizes and collaborating with suppliers to go beyond basic selections for designer packages that resonate. 

Focus on offering outdoor living spaces

Forty-four percent of Gen-Z consumers consider private outdoor space more important than an attached garage (2).

Brookfield Residential's Terra collection offers outdoor living well-suite to Gen-Z homebuyers
Brookfield Residential’s Terra collection at The Landing at Tustin Legacy makes outdoor living space—much valued by Gen-Z homebuyers—a priority. | Photo: Christopher Mayer Photography

Brookfield Residential’s Terra collection of flats and townhomes at The Landing at Tustin Legacy (above), in Tustin, Calif., offers a single-level flat with a generous outdoor living space while only including a single-car garage—a huge cost savings trade-off. The front patio is spacious enough for multiple gathering areas.

Gen Z likes to cook at home, so don’t neglect the kitchen

Popular reputation aside, 66% of Gen Zers say they (or someone in their household) will cook at home somewhat or very frequently.(2) Toll Brothers’ Villa Collection is the only smaller-scale attached offering within the Sterling Grove master planned community in Surprise, Ariz. The smaller homes in the collection don’t skimp on style or space and include kitchens like this one (below) from a 1,300-square-foot flat. Note the integration of the peninsula versus an island to best use the space while still having two walls of cabinetry.

Toll Brothers' Villa Collection at Sterling Grove includes kitchens that don't skimp on style
The smaller-scale attached homes in Toll Brothers' Villa Collection at Sterling Grove still manage to provide a generous kitchen, which can be a draw for Gen-Z—a generation of homebuyers that cooks at home. | Photo: Joshua Caldwell

Focus less on entertainment. It’s not a deal-breaker, as fewer than half (43%) of Gen-Z consumers think it is important to have adequate space to host events and gatherings. Still, why not give Gen-Z consumers what they want at a price they can afford? Pulte Homes built three collections in the Sterling Ranch masterplanned community in Littleton, Colo.

Pulte's Apex Collection caters to younger buyers like Gen Z, with open great rooms
Pulte's Apex Collection targets younger homebuyers, like Gen Z, looking for detached product. | Photo: Rocky Mountain Photography

The Apex Collection (above) caters to younger buyers willing to stretch to get into a detached home in a great community. The three-story homes range from 1,875 to 2,500 square feet with open great rooms that connect with outdoor living spaces and provide multiple gathering areas. 


References/sources:
(1) 2023 Current Population Survey (ASEC) data via IPUMS-CPS
(2) New Home Trends Institute by John Burns Research & Consulting, December 2023 survey of 640 Gen-Z respondents age 18+

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