Targeting the right markets that can absorb growth is always a demanding exercise. These experts relate the data behind where three generations of households are settling and why.
You know the generational drill—or at least you think you do.
Millennials, the conventional wisdom goes, are tech-obsessed, self-obsessed, debt-laden, and weirdly fascinated by beards and avocados. Generation X: cynical, self-reliant, often forgotten. Baby boomers: rebellious, materialistic, obstinate, unhealthily obsessed with late-night cable news.
But through all of their stark differences, card-carrying members of each group share one unifying goal: to live in a place that neatly checks off the boxes on their master list of needs, hopes, and dreams. As the millennials say, YOLO. Yet when it comes time to pack up the U-Haul and move to a new home, millennials, Gen Xers, and boomers all define this in different ways—and in different places.
The data team at realtor.com® set out to discover which are the hottest markets for each generation. And we confirmed that one size most definitely does not fit all when it comes to where these generation groups are moving and buying homes.
"The different generations are, for the most part, in different stages of life," says Chris Porter, the chief demographer at John Burns Real Estate Consulting in Irvine, CA. So they "are seeking out locales that meet their specific needs."
Despite the high cost, millennials are still headed to tech centers and cultural hot spots, where they can make good money and still have a good time. Meanwhile, Gen Xers, badly scorched by the Great Recession, are all about going to places where they can score a big home without going broke. And baby boomers/empty nesters are still heading to Sun Belt metros, where costs are lower, cold weather is in short supply, and they'll have plenty of like-minded company.
As generations age, they're likely to want some of the things generations before them did. But preferences change too.
Each generation "moves in the same direction [as the previous one], but not quite as far," says Dowell Myers, an urban planning and demography professor at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles. "They'll always be uniquely different [from one another]."
To figure out the most in-demand metros for each generation, we looked at the following criteria:
The metros where each generation is moving, according to U.S. Census Bureau migration data* from 2011 to 2015
The metros where each generation is searching for homes on realtor.com by page views
Percentage change in homeownership from 2016 to 2018, according to Nielsen Holdings
(The Pew Research Center defines the millennial generation as being born from 1981 to 1998, Generation X from 1965 to 1980, and baby boomers from 1946 to 1964. Definitions of generations vary, but we tried to stick as close as the data would allow to the Pew definitions.)
It's also worth noting that although Chicago and New York City have thousands of new residents moving in every year, they lose thousands, too. So we looked at metros that gained more folks than they lost. And because it's not fair to compare a huge metro with a smaller one, we also looked at the percentage change of new residents from each generation moving in and out. That helps to control for population size.