The fastest growing home buyer population that will reach its peak buying years beginning in 2012 will be Generation Y women. Shyam Kannan with RCLCO told attendees at Big Builder's 2nd Annual Architect Challenge session on Nov. 3, that this consumer group will "peak in 2015, and the group is poised to outnumber and outspend the boomer generation." This segment, dubbed by RCLCO as WINKs--women with income and no kids--is bringing to the table a consumer market that has very distinct demands for what they want in their homes, mainly a balance of the live-work lifestyle, with amenity-stocked homes in communities that offer all their necessities.
Women making decisions when it comes to buying is no new phenomenon, with them typically being in control of 80% of retail purchases for a home, but WINKs are expected to make up 43% of all Gen-Y, bringing the total number of female heads of households to 31 million, four times what it was in the 1970s.
"They multitask and have found the work-life balance early on," Kannan said. They want "smaller and closer" he added.
Taking RCLCO's research on one of the next forces in home buying, Big Builder challenged five architectural firms to design a community for WINKs for one of two sites: a plan for East Coast living, plus two product lines across the street from a university with public transit nearby; and a West Coast for an 11-acre site with an abandoned big box store and an elevated freeway as neighbors in a mature neighborhood.Designs by BSB Design, Cubellis, Dahlin Group, BcDc, and KTGY took on the challenge and designed communities with an "urban-lite" feel, combining amenity-enriched neighborhoods with individual residences that would allow for entertaining, relaxing, and working.
Designing for the West Coast site, BSB Design's Cooper Walk placed 250 units on 11 acres, offering WINKs 15 floor plans in condo models because "WINKs want choice," said BSB's Kerrin West. The design brought in plentiful parking in an underground facility with a retail/residential mix above.
John Thatch with Dahlin Group took a different approach to the West Coast design, utilizing Spanish-style architecture in the community of 164 units with paseos throughout. The overall theme was outdoor living, with residences having large patios to act as outdoor rooms and connectivity through the neighborhood with walking trails and a Main Street in the center of the design.
KTGY's Manny Gonzalez took the book "Trillion Dollar Women" to heart when designing for the West Coast site, picking up on three types of future women buyers: the Sophisticated Entertainer, the Modern Urbanite, and the Serenity Seeker. KTGY took the attributions of each woman and designed a unique space that would fit into their lifestyle--offering different floor plans and elevations to match each personality.
Each design featured a "memory point," as Gonzalez put it, which was a reading nook off the master suite for the Serenity Seeker, along with a large gourmet kitchen. The Modern Urbanite has the conveniences of everything being practically designed along with units being places in the heart of the community, in the mix of everything that is happening. And the Serenity Seeker's design is based off resort-style architecture with definitive spaces for entertaining and personal space, also specifically separating the in-house office from the sleeping quarters.
Cubellis' Rohit Anand focused his residence designs with entertainment and community in mind--small front yards with large porches, integrating the private space into the community's public areas. He also added that buyers need to make sure WINKs know that "[builders] get their lifestyle."
BcDc's Bernie Costello added his vision for the East Coast site by presenting the idea that people want "new in an older neighborhood." He did this by designing urban, modern architecture into the infill project that utilizes the older, surrounding spaces as the community amenities for walking areas. He also brought in indoor/outdoor living through residence design with a lot of glass spaces in the smaller structures that have an "urban loft ideology taken down to a smaller size."
The session on Monday brought builders into the wave of future products to capitalize on the upcoming generation of buyers. Kannan also said builders need to rethink the way they market to home buyers of the future. But Kannan also pointed out that the building industry does not only have to rethink the design of homes in the future, it also must rethink the marketing tools to get products noticed--through social network avenues such as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and the blogosphere.