Generation Y: Our Next Generation of Renters

By: Elaine Simpson Founder:Occupancy Solutions LLC.

Gen Y, also known as the Millenials or Echo Boomers were born between 1982 and 1995. This generation is considered the largest and most powerful group of consumers, leaders, advocates, renters, entrepreneurs and students the U.S. has ever seen. Many of this generation are just entering the workplace and rental housing market. Due to the economy and less job stability, the Millenials are choosing to either continue to live with their parents or are moving back in after a short stint of living on their own, maybe the Gen Y generation should be renamed the Boomerang Generation. Living with parents or family is the new normal for the Echo Boomers in the tough economic times. So in households that can afford it, parents and families are making it possible for their Gen Y family members to live at home and save money and in some circumstances assist parents in meeting their budget obligations.

Our younger renter is now not just choosing between several apartment communities they are now choosing what type of living arrangements they are seeking. Mom and dad are now a feasible and very acceptable option for our Gen Y renters. This is very different from the Gen X renter who was eager to move out and would often be embarrassed if they needed to remain living under the same roof as their parents.

In order to compete with Chez Mom & Dad, the Affordable Housing Industry has to realize and take a position that will attract the newest generation of renters. The best way to do this is to understand how the Gen Y’s cultural experiences have influenced his or her communication style and life choices. Understanding the Generational culture of the Millenials will allow for better marketing to our young renter as well establish a connection and a level of trust that will encourage resident retention and reduce resident turnover.

It is believed that people develop a peer personality through shared influences and events that occur during their formative years approximately ages 10 to 18, which impacts their generation value system and methods of interaction. It is important to consider the following:

  • What were the events of the typical Gen Y’s childhood?
  • What impact did those events have?
  • What changes did they lead to?
  • What values or beliefs were created by those events?

Understanding the values and life experiences of the Generation Y renter will create a stronger marketing campaign and allow for site staff to connect and build a better rapport with your younger renters. Keep in mind that generations transition over time and they do not change abruptly. The descriptive norms and trends do not fit all people of the Gen Y population, they are just guidelines. Remember that not every member of the Gen Y generation will exhibit all of the characteristics described for their generation, but it is fair to say that many members have these tendencies. Also, members born very early in the Gen Y generation will often have more in common with the proceeding X Generation and may take on a bridge status between the X Generation and the Y Generation.

The Echo Boomers generation was brought up during a time where most parents worked outside the home leaving them in day cares. This environment taught this younger generation to be independent and self-sufficient. This generation was exposed to more group interactions through playgroups, team sports and other group activities than the previous generation. This was due in part to their parents using day cares and other activities to occupy the Gen Y’s time.

The Millenials experienced technology as a way of life. Generation X had technology grow into their lives and Generation Y never did without it. The older generation was slow to adapt and use technology as a social tool. The Generation Y group had technology as a normal part of live and do not know what it is to be without a computer, cell phone or any other electronic device the older generation had to adapt into their lives. This Echo Boomer generation is used to getting what they want when they want it. The speed of technology and information couple with rapid delivery systems has made this generation expect things to be done faster and better.

The advent of social networks and electronic communication gave this younger generation exposure to more detailed information about each other than the older generation. The Gen Y can thrive on electronic communication and prefers this type of communication than face-to-face conversation. Generation Yers prefer using the Internet as a means of learning and making purchases. They are exposed to vast amounts of information, music, and media than the older generations. Generation Y is prone to communicating via electronic devices and is capable of multi-tasking while carrying a text messaging conversation.

The Gen Y is trendy and very social but also socially conscious. They are more apt to use smart phones, laptops and tablets for their apartment search and gravitate towards social media, rating sites, apartment community websites and Craigslist as their resource of choice. If they do not have a smart phone or their own lap top, the Gen Y is resourceful and will seek out the use of the computer at their local library or use the computer in the computer center of the apartment community they currently reside in. Often, it is thought that lower income households do not have computers, but Pew Internet Study, 2010 shows that households with less than $30,000 annual income 40% have broadband at home, 57% use the Internet and 75% own a cellphone. Another Pew Internet Study, Washington, 2011 found that Latinos and African Americans are more likely than the general population to access the Internet by cellular phone so they don’t necessarily have to have access to a computer.

When communicating with Generation Y group for marketing purposes and/or for customer service reasons use action words and humor to peek interest. Keep the message clear, concise and short, the Gen Y typically will only read the first couple of lines in an ad and often will only read the subject line of an email. The call to action should never include a phone number or having to call someone, real friends text. The Echo Boomers are a visual group so use pictures, icons and videos to draw them into your apartment community. The Millenials prefer text communication or email if necessary, they do not want to be contacted via the telephone because it infringes on their privacy. Generation Y group appreciates feedback and being kept updated on the latest developments and remember to seek their feedback.

Keep in mind what is important to the Millenials when advertising and trying to attract them to your apartment community. Although, the Gen Yers are trendy and very techy, they are not looking for extravagant flashy extras and amenities. The Gen Y renter is somewhat conservative and seeks out housing based on location, safety and overall value. This generation often will not have a land line telephone, so cell phones/smart phones are their most used communication tool so it is vital to make sure the cell reception is great everywhere in the apartments as well as your apartment community. A great perk to offer the Gen Y renter is wireless access and ensuring that it is available throughout the community will create an incredible value to your Echo Boomer renter.


Ms. Simpson

With over 26 years of experience in the multifamily industry, Elaine Simpson founded Occupancy Solutions, LLC to provide site operations, marketing, leasing consulting and training services for multifamily professionals of market rate, senior and affordable housing communities throughout the United States. Occupancy Solutions, LLC, recognizes and tailors to the unique operational, marketing and leasing challenges faced by their clients to assist distressed communities with proven cost effective techniques and strategies to achieve optimal occupancy while realizing ideal rents and reducing expenses.

Ms. Simpson is a National Speaker, NAA EI Faculty Member, Michigan licensed real estate broker, a Certified Senior Real Estate Specialist, an Accredited Resident Manager and a Certified Assisted Housing Manager.