Millennials and the Demise of the Single Family Home

Do millennials want their piece of suburbia? Explore research from the Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies and what the findings mean for the CE industry.


If you get to the point where you are semi-retired, freelance, and have no other life whatsoever, I have a suggestion to help wile away your day. Instead of spending hours trying to beat Candy Crush Level 181 or watching a Leave it to Beaver marathon, get print and online subscriptions to other industry’s trade magazines. They are fascinating.

My reading/bathroom is knee deep with magazines like Hospitality Design, Kitchen & Bath Business, Business Travel News, Incentive, and Collection Advisor. Online, I regularly read Burger and others. Not only do other trade mags give you the feeling you’re in the know where you shouldn’t be, they very often have fine reporting and analysis. A few of those pieces have inspired stuff I’ve written for CE Pro.

Recently, a great magazine called Builder has had a series of articles focusing on the Millennials (Generation Y, if you prefer) and their attitudes towards home ownership. After all, these folks (born between 1977 and 1992) already aren’t big on buying automobiles (thank you, Uber). Are they ever planning on settling down to that quarter acre with “3 bd/2 ba”?

Some research, including reports from the Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies, have concluded that besides the sociological indications that hipsters don’t want their piece of suburbia, there are practical regulatory roadblocks today that could doom the continued construction of the single family home. These speed bumps include layer after layer of code and compliance expenditures, local impact fee foolishness, and the inevitable corporate and governmental paper shuffling.

Then there are the socio-demographic considerations, including statistics that show “lower rates of marriage and family formation, and increased focus on education and career development in the early years of adulthood have all contributed to fewer people buying homes in their 20s and early 30s,” according to data compiled by Rachel Bogardus Drew, a Post-Doctoral fellow at the Harvard Housing Center.

Could this really be signaling the end of the single family home? I hope not.

Will the hipsters move to Levittown or forever be domiciled in a rented brownstone in Williamsburg or similar digs in East Austin? Will it be their choice or will their suburban dream have morphed into a vast wasteland that is half Thunderdome/half Eight Mile by the time they’re ready to move?

And, most importantly what are the short- and long-term impacts on our business?

Keeping in mind that this is all a theory, albeit one based on some pretty solid evidence, and if this does come to pass, it’s a trend and trends take a relatively long time to develop, here are some thoughts.

Market to Them: Given that single family homes aren’t going to just disappear any time soon, plus the fact that some millennials will be buying new or used homes, you have to market your brand to them. This is especially true if you’re not aligned with a builder, architect or interior designer.

This generation doesn’t read newspapers or magazines. They’re pretty much done with conventional radio and almost done with traditional TV. But they are still listening to music.

It will cost you about ten grand to start a campaign on the free platform at Spotify. There are seven options to choose from, including audio ads, display and billboard ads. Pandora is likely in the same price range and gives local options which should be more cost effective.

Start a Campaign on Groupon or LivingSocial: It’s often said millennials feel entitled and love these social deal sites because they like getting good stuff cheap. A few words of wisdom: make certain you have a true “value” proposition that makes you stand apart from your competition. Also, treat coupon redeemers like royalty, not second-class cheapskates. If you want more upscale coupon junkies, consider Gilt City which is available in most metropolitan areas.

Get Yourself on These folks are outspending Angie’s List on every media platform. It’s disrupted Angie, who had a nearly 20-year head start, to the point that her list now provides names of tradesmen and others for free. Yes, has sections with lists of both security and home theater companies. And they are rated.

Target New Buyers: You can start your own marketing campaign by soliciting business (again, with a solid value proposition) from those who have just bought a new or used home. In New England, you can subscribe to a newspaper and website called Banker & Tradesman which will give you names and addresses but no ages.

Local papers often list transactions in either their Thursday pull-out real estate supplement or their weekend/Sunday edition. Keep in mind the local listings are usually about 60 days old.

You could also pay a realtor for a list. Zillow is pretty up-to-date but doesn’t provide names.

Network with Other Trades: There certainly has been sufficient proof over the years that networking is a good thing. These days it’s probably more important than ever. Stay in tune with what’s going on in your trading area. Consider connecting with your local chamber of commerce where you can socialize with builders, bankers and designers.

Although it may not be for everyone, give some thought to joining a buying group, especially in light of the recent group mergers and/or alliances. It might be less expensive than you think.

The types of structures in which you’ll be working in the future will be changing, from co-owned side-by-side duplexes to managed care complexes. But with a solid marketing plan in place you can stay a step ahead of the shop down the street and prosper regardless of where any generation might plan on calling home.

About the Author

Chuck Schneider
Chuck Schneider:

Chuck Schneider is a freelance writer with a long history in consumer electronics. He started and restarted his award-winning manufacturer’s representative firm - Value Added Marketing - and was also a vice president and general merchandise manager for a multi-regional CE chain, as well as a buyer for Lechmere's (a division of Target). Today, he is a freelance writer.