Generation Z: The New Renters

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Millennials have dominated the minds of marketers for more than a decade, but a new generation is right behind them vying for the “prime generation” spot. Generation Z members turn 22 this year and, as they become college graduates and more of them enter the workforce, their needs and desires will become more and more important to businesses, including apartment property developers, owners and managers.

Who is Generation Z?

Though the start date is debated among demographers and marketers, Generation Z includes those born as early as 1995 to those born as late as 2010, making the oldest 22. Estimated to outnumber millennials by almost one million, the 60 million-strong Generation Z makes up 25.9 percent of the U.S. population. They have been reared in a world with smartphones, social media, global warming and 9/11. The New York Times reports that, as products of the small, cynical Generation X, Generation Z grew up in safety-conscious homes during a time of uncertainty stemming from economic troubles and global and political turmoil. Given that, they possibly have just as much in common with the silent generation as they do with millennials. With volunteerism a main component of Generation X’s makeup, it’s only fitting that their offspring be actively involved, globally aware and fiercely independent with an emphasis on individuality and privacy. Observing the uncertainty of life and seeing millennials struggle with traditional choices that often led to moving back in with parents, Generation Z is entrepreneurial in nature, hardworking and hyper focused on the future.

The first true digital generation, members of Generation Z are more likely to text than email and be even more connected than millennials, though with smaller attention spans. Generation Z, which is also referred to as post-millennials, homeland generation or the iGeneration, not only require access to instantaneous information but its members are able to process the information assault better than those who came before them. According to Harvard Business Review, this means that they demand content from multiple sources.

When it comes to social media usage, Facebook dominates as far as what they use for overall communication with family, friends and acquaintances. Forbes notes that, though Gen Z will use Facebook and maintain a presence there, they tend to prefer more intimate and selective platforms like Instagram and Snapchat for more personal communication. Tumblr and messenger apps are also widely popular.

Generation Z as Renters

As Generation Z members look for his or her first or next apartment to rent, property owners and developers need to make sure their technological capabilities are up to par in terms of not only what they offer in the form of amenities but also how they plan on reaching potential Gen Z renters.

In terms of marketing apartment communities to this hyper-connected generation, the more information available online, the better.

“Growing up with the internet from infancy, a Gen Z renter will have done his or her research,” said HFF Associate Director Joey Rippel, who is a member of HFF Houston’s Multi-Housing team. “Selling to Generation Z is mostly going to be done online. They will walk into a property to confirm what they have learned on the Internet and through friends. They will know how a particular property compares to others they are considering; they will know what kinds of specials are being run and where they are going to get the best deal.”

Rippel suggests that any online marketing campaign needs to place video front and center to catch the attention of a Gen Zer. Given that YouTube is popular with this generation, the National Apartment Association has been urging its readers to start thinking about Generation Z for years. Their advice is that “video should be at the center of any marketing strategy.” For a generation that grew up with YouTube, they are incredibly visual and often turn to YouTube for information versus Googling for answers. Developers and owners should consider investing in producing video property tours.

“Some Class A communities are already incorporating drone technology to provide visual pictures of their properties, and they are using social media to help deliver the message,” Rippel added. “Having a varied and active social media presence through Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and SnapChat is vital to reaching these potential renters. And reaching them through social media shouldn’t end once they sign a lease. For example, hosting a private Facebook group can help them feel connected to the community.”

But keep it genuine. Given their cynical parenting, they value things that are sincere and transparent and can often see through marketing campaigns, forcing brands to abandon the strategies that worked for the previous generations. 

In terms of amenities, offering free cable is a perk for millennials and Generation X, but Generation Z wants a better tech package; they are more interested in Wi-Fi for streaming than traditional cable. Their music is stored in the cloud, so iPod docking stations would appeal to them. Additionally, the quality of cell phone service in a particular location matters with or without Wi-Fi, as this is a generation that believes land lines are unnecessary. In direct contradiction to previous generations, square footage is less of a concern for this generation; members prefer space that is devoted to being social, such as common areas of an apartment community, to their personal, private space. Creating community space in a development or existing property is wise to appeal to Gen Z.

According to Multi-Housing News, apartments that have smart technology like smart locks, smart lights and smart thermostats are something property owners and developers should investigate adding to properties to help lure the tech-hungry Gen Z renters and save money through saving energy. Energy savings is appealing to a generation that has been eco-conscious since birth plus the features will help property owners keep down costs for things like re-keying apartments and overall maintenance costs. Additional features for a technologically advanced apartment could be window treatments that can be controlled via remote or water sensors that monitor usage and turn water heaters on or off to save energy .

A generation that grows up online wants to be able to easily transact business online, so providing them this is vital. Though this was something that was important to the two previous generations, especially since the introduction of internet banking, it’s even more important to Generation Z given their multi-tasking nature and emphasis on expedited and streamlined communications. The more that is available to do online – from executing leases to paying rent to requesting maintenance service – the better.

As Generation Z looks for apartments, property owners and developers need to make sure the technological capabilities the property offers are up to par and that their marketing and messaging delivery will pack enough technological punch to attract and retain this generation of renters.

By Kimberly Steele, Digital Content/Public Relations Specialist

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