What builders need to know about millennials

Homeownership is increasing among this generation
As builders encounter more millennial homeowners, they may find their priorities and expectations are different from older homeowners.

Millennials are the largest generational cohort in the U.S. There are roughly 1 million millennials in Colorado, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which counted 1.3 million people between the ages of 18 and 34 in 2016 (that includes some people who aren’t millennials, the youngest of whom are in their early 20s).

Many millennials started their careers at the same time that the economy was beginning its downward spiral. Instead of starting their 20s with marriages and home ownership, they faced layoffs and extended time as renters—or stuck in their parents’ homes. Now, Census data show that homeownership rates are creeping up among under-35-year-olds, rising from 34.3% in the first quarter of 2017 to 35.3% in the same period this year. Between 2012 and 2016, 11.5% of homeowners in Colorado were under age 35, according to the ACS.

[Related: 11 outdoor projects to thrill homeowners]

Here’s what landscape designers and maintenance companies need to know about this generation of potential clients.

They’re tech savvy. Millennials may be more likely than older customers to embrace or demand things like Wi-Fi controllers and rain sensors. While the oldest millennials may not have grown up with smartphones, they’ve adopted them wholeheartedly. A Pew Research Center study found 92% of millennials own smartphones, compared with 85% of Gen Xers and 67% of boomers.

In fact, over a quarter of younger prospects access the internet exclusively through a smartphone. Landscape professionals who are working with this generation should make sure their websites can be viewed easily on mobile devices.

Service matters, but not the way you think. If there’s something millennials want, there’s an app to help them get it. Mobile-based lawn services like Lawn Love and GreenPal have popped up to connect lawn care and landscaping professionals with consumers. If millennials are hailing rides and buying food with an app, it’s not a stretch to think they’ll find someone to mow their lawns the same way.

[Related: Leisure defines consumer landscaping trends]

Even if they aren’t using these tools to connect with professionals, millennials expect to be able to get the information they’re looking for quickly and easily. A 2015 report by Salesforce found 80% of millennials prefer social media for customer service support and they expect a response within 10 minutes of reaching out. That may not be realistic for smaller companies, but it shows how important it is to make information readily available to potential customers.

Millennials care about sustainability. Millennials are widely touted as being concerned about the environment, but a 2013 report by the Shelton Group found this may be more nuanced than proposing a native plant garden or xeric landscape.

The report found millennial consumers weren’t as willing as other age groups to sacrifice personal comfort for the environment. They will, however, take on large projects or try out “more disruptive behaviors.” Millennials were more likely to grow their own food, or at least some of it, the report found. They were more interested in buying (or making their own) all-natural cleaning products and in alternative energy sources like solar.

“Millennials have a long way to go to fully integrate their beliefs and actions, and they still have a lot to learn about sustainability,” according to Shelton Group. “However, what they’re focused on is telling.”

[Related: Ewing, Audubon partner on water sustainability award]

Danielle Andrus

Danielle Andrus was previously the managing editor for Colorado Builder, and is currently Editor for the Journal of Financial Planning.

Danielle Andrus has 190 posts and counting. See all posts by Danielle Andrus

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