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Six Communities for Generation Z

Homes.com’s recent survey of Generation Z, also known as America’s youngest homebuyers, provides new information on where this new wave of buyers would like to buy and why. Generation Z will shape homebuying trends for years to come.

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Homes.com’s recent survey of Generation Z, also known as America’s youngest homebuyers with young adults from ages 18 to 24, provides new information on where this new wave of buyers would like to buy and why. Even more massive than the millennial generation, Generation Z promises to shape homebuying trends for years to come.

Our Homes.com survey provided new insights into Generation Z buyers’ priorities. We found that these new buyers prefer communities that offer:

  • Diversity. Prefer neighborhoods and communities that are racially and ethnically diverse;
  • Accessibility. Want a location that is accessible to work as well as to friends and family;
  • Safety. When Gen Z-ers look for new communities, safety is always a top priority.
  • Affordability. Generation Z is very aware of rising home prices that have kept millions of millennials from becoming homeowners,

The survey found that Generation Z-ers want to be homeowners for the same reason that older generations did: to have a place to call home. Being sure that their first home is a good investment and is also pet-friendly ranked high in their list of “wants.”

By combining these insights, we created a matrix to identify six prospective communities for Gen Zers. We are using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, diversity rankings from Wallethub, demographics from NeighborhoodScoutaffordability indices from the National Association of Home Builders, and market data from Homes.com.

generation z

Gaithersburg, Maryland

Located in Montgomery County, Maryland, Gaithersburg is an outlying suburb of Washington D.C. and the fourth largest city in the state, located in the center of Maryland’s high tech and biomedical corridor. It is accessible to downtown D.C. by train, Metro, and auto. With a population of 59,933, it has an unemployment rate of 3.0%, lower than the national average. Professional services and health care account for 30% of its jobs and more than half of its residents have college degrees.

In WalletHub’s diversity ratings, Gaithersburg ranks number one among all small cities in the nation in 2019 and the second among all cities for its ethnic, linguistic, and birthplace diversity. One out of five of its residents are foreign-born, and only 35% of its population is white.

The median home price is high at $350,932, but so are area incomes. Gaithersburg’s median household income was $85,773 in May, much higher than the national median of $57,652. More than half of its residents own their own homes. Gaithersburg is safer than 49 percent of cities, and a resident of Gaithersburg has only one chance in 790 of becoming a victim of a violent crime.

In the high-priced Washington DC market, Gaithersburg is an affordable alternative for Generation Z-ers looking for good values accessible to both the city and the Appalachian countryside.

Aurora, Illinois

Aurora is an outer suburb of Chicago with 200,100 residents. It is the second-most populous city in Illinois. With a long history of manufacturing, Caterpillar is still its largest employer. Between 2016 and 201, its median household income grew from $63,967 to $66,848, a 4.5% increase. Aurora’s unemployment rate is 4.2%, slightly above the U.S. average is 3.9%, and its median household income is $63,569 a year. At 16 crimes per 1000 residents annually, Aurora is safer than 43% of U.S. cities

Aurora’s population is very diverse, with 56% White residents, 42% Hispanic, and 10% African American. In May, SmartAsset ranked Aurora first in the nation for “Living the American Dream.” It ranked high in each of the award’s five metrics: homeownership rate, diversity rate, upward mobility rate, median home value, and unemployment rate. Aurora also ranks fifth on WalletHub’s list of most diverse medium-sized cities.

Aurora’s median home price in May was $230,000, far below the national median of $277,700. Houses are selling in 75 to 80 days, and market conditions are moving from neutral to favoring buyers.

For Midwestern Generation Z-ers looking for the right mix of accessibility and affordability, Aurora could fill the bill.

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Clifton, New Jersey

Clifton is located in Passaic County in northern New Jersey, within commuting distance to New York City. With a population of 86,607 people, Clifton is the eighth largest community in the state.

Clifton is a city of sales and office workers, professionals, and service providers. Ranked sixth in the nation among small cities in Wallethub’s national diversity ratings, Clifton is home to a variety of racial and ethnic groups, according to the New York Times. The greatest number of Clifton residents are White, then followed by Asian, but it also has a sizable Hispanic population, accounting for 37% of the city’s residents. Clifton is a youthful city; the average age is only 38.

Clifton’s median home price is $395,880, about 4% higher than the state average. At $71,830, the median household income in Clifton is 30% higher than the national average. At 3.6%, its unemployment rate equals the national average. Clifton’s crime rate is lower than the state average and it is safer than 37% of U.S. cities.

For Generation Z buyers looking for a suitable location within commuting distance to New York, Clifton is a great option.

Houston, Texas

With a population of more than two million, Houston is the largest community in Texas and the fourth largest in the nation. Its economy is thriving, adding 86,200 new jobs over the past 12 months, trailing only the Greater New York City market and Dallas in job growth. In March 2019, Houston’s unemployment was 3.7%, the lowest level in a decade.

Houston is an ethnically diverse city. Latinos account for 35.3% of the population; Whites account for 24.9%, African Americans are 16.8%, and Asians 6%. Eldridge/West Oaks, Willowbrook, Westchase, and Briar Forest are four of its most diversified neighborhoods.

Houston’s metro crime rate is high, at 4%, but not in safer neighborhoods like Dogwood Acres/Walden Woods, Westheimer Pky/S Ferry Rd, Clodine, and Sandtown Cir/Sandtown Ln.

Houston has one of the nation’s healthiest housing markets though sales are slowing down in 2019. June single-family home sales were down 3.4% in dollar volume, and Houston’s metro median price of $252,000 was 2% lower than a year ago. However, listings are up 11%, creating a stronger market for buyers.

With jobs and inventory on the rise, Houston’s suburban and residential neighborhoods are good bets for Generation Zers.

Danbury, Connecticut

Situated on the western border with New York State, Danbury is a diverse, safe, and affordable place to buy a home. Western Connecticut home sales have been softening in 2019, inventories are improving, and prices are rising at an annual rate of only 1.5%.

With a median home value of $281,878, Danbury is one of the better housing markets for first-time buyers in New England and is ranked eleventh in WalletHub’s list of most diverse cities in the nation. It’s about 50% white and 30% Hispanic, while African Americans and Asians account for about 6% each. One out of three residents is foreign-born and Danbury is home to a sizable population of Portuguese and Brazilian heritage.

At 3.2% in May, Danbury’s unemployment rate is lower than the national average and the lowest unemployment rate in the state. Danbury’s diverse industry base, ability to maintain manufacturing jobs, and proximity to New York City have contributed to job growth. However, Danbury is a 70-minute commute to the city by train. In 2015, more than 7,200 people in the Danbury region traveled more than 50 miles each way to work, compared to just 4,600 in 2002.

 

Madison, Wisconsin

According to U.S. Census Bureau data, nearly 7 million American households were housing cost-burdened in 2016, meaning they spent over 50% of their income on housing costs. Only 6.03% of Madison, Wisconsin’s homeowners are severely housing cost-burdened, according to a report from SmartAsset.

That’s a remarkable statistic in light of Madison’s current market conditions. For the past four years, Madison has been in a strong seller’s market. From shrinking inventories and strong demand, the Madison real estate market saw median prices rise to a new high of $313,123 in February. About one out of three transactions became competitive, and homes that sold in 46 days are now spending only 26 days on the market, according to the South Central Wisconsin MLS. The Madison single-family home market has had less than two months of supply since December 2015. Cash offers now account for 15% of all single-family sales.

Signs of change, such as rising inventories and slackening sales, suggest conditions for buyers will improve. Low-interest rates will keep demand secure for the near term, but the days of Madison’s long-lived seller’s market may be numbered.

With an unemployment rate only of only 2.1%, a rate of job growth faster than the national average, a per capita income of $138,960 for a family of four, and a healthy housing market, Madison’s Generation Z members should be able to find first homes they can afford.

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Steve Cook is the editor of the Down Payment Report and provides public relations consulting services to leading companies and non-profits in residential real estate and housing finance. He has been vice president of public affairs for the National Association of Realtors, senior vice president of Edelman Worldwide and press secretary to two members of Congress.

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