Meanwhile, a new cohort, reported to make up a quarter of the U.S. population, turns 22 this year. They were 10 when iPhones came out. Millennials may have been the first digital natives, but this new generation of adults takes what that means and why it matters to a new level altogether.

Coming of age when they have--their birth years range from 1997 to 2012, or thereabouts--we look to map social, economic, political factors from their birth to coming-of-age, and levels of educational attainment. From those pillar-like macro forces, we then attempt to understand what influences cohort characteristics, patterns, potential grip-holds on what might appeal or repulse this new generation and the way they behave as consumers, as work-mates, as leaders, as grown-ups in the room. By some counts, they're the biggest generation ever, and we've come to call them Gen Z.

  • Half of this 7-to-22 year-old group are--demographically--racial or ethnic minorities.
  • Almost 60% of them--vs. 53% for Millennials--go to college.
  • 43% of them grew up in homes with college-educated parents (vs. 32% of Millennials).

Are you ready for this?

Are you talking to them, Gen Z humans on a one-to-one level, about the ways growing up as the most-educated, informed, and most diverse generation of people might align with what we're offering them in terms of houses, apartments, and communities, solutions to the problem of well-being and prosperity at home?

Importantly, have 22 year-olds made it into your customer journey mapping? Should they have?

Perhaps even more importantly, have you mapped 22-year-olds into a career and talent journey map to engage these people--with cross-domain knowledge, huge wells of curiosity, boundless energy, and virtually no preconceptions as to how things need to be done based on no-longer-relevant legacy constraints--into your workplace?

Here are several analyses from one of the better sources of insight into these considerations, Pew Research, that roadmap generational research conventional wisdom. Suffice to say that having spent 50 years making constructs--ranging from 16 to 20 years--to help marketers with shortcuts for scaling messaging and positioning, it's popular now to deconstruct those constructs into better ways of trying to do the same thing.

Ultimately, and quite materially important during a government shutdown that has begun trapping data in the stalled gears of federal agency sources, what data are you turning to to navigate an already-challenging patch of housing's activity trajectory? Yesterday, the Census Bureau's monthly release of starts and permits did not happen. How will these vacuums of data--as they progress and accrue across the duration of the shutdown--impact planning, capital investment decisions, knowledge of what's going on nationally and in more localized jurisdictions?

Zillow director of economic research Aaron Terrazas writes:

Ultimately, the less data collected and published by the government, the fewer decisions there are that can be made based on that data and the more vulnerable we are to economic surprises or lack of foresight. This lack of data being collected and published is much more than inconvenient at this point – it is close to becoming a real national problem with no easy solution the longer it lasts.

There are a few issues here to unpack.

One intended point of focus is on America's--and the world's--next generation of adults, which has already arrived at age 22, and will be followed by another 16 years of people whose entire frame of reference to the world around them has been heavily influenced by what can be seen, connected to, and accessed instantly on a hand-held device and any number of voice-recognition IoT devices.

The first, most critical "customer journey map" for home building enterprises who'll have a sustaining future, is the one that focuses on mapping GenZ into their organizations as the knowledge-based talent braintrust of the future.

Then, folks, come on, a home buyer's customer journey does not--naturally--begin when they show up on your site, searching your communities, heading to your sales centers. Customer journeys begin with your ability to show yourself of value to people--even the 22 year-olds at the vanguard of what social and cultural experts are identifying as a whole new generation--who have needs, preferences, attitudes, dispositions, and susceptibility to the kind of value you can offer them, well before they start the process of looking for a home, new or otherwise.

You, after all, have made yourselves experts in the most important life decision most of us ever make. Nobody gets the opportunity to learn and discover more about how that works and what it means as you do. Why ignore or trash the opportunity to see a new home purchase as part of a journey that begins well before the 16-month pre-purchase period conventionally associated with the home buying funnel?

Dispel the myth that home buyer friction--and the opportunity to offer value--only starts once a pre-purchase engagement with you begins. That friction--and your opportunity to eliminate it by surfacing ways that you help people solve life problems--occurs earlier than you think. And the emergence of a new generation of adults might be the best time for home builders to take stock of that.

Too, whether or not federal government data points are MIA, there are smart, safe places for you to turn and leverage for empowered real estate, investment, community timing, product design, and budgeting information you need right now.

Here and here, for instance. We know we're biased, as these resources are BUILDER siblings. But we know for a fact that many of you are getting the best available real-time market and sub-market level insight and decision-support from them.