Key Home Preferences of Generation Z: Essential Features and Non-Negotiables

Caleb Hall, a 25-year-old mechanical engineer, and his 23-year-old wife, who works as a nurse, are facing a pressing dilemma. For the past six months, they’ve been on the hunt for their first home in the Huntsville, AL, area. Their requirements seem modest: they seek a move-in ready home located in a safe community with a garage where Caleb can tinker with their vehicles. However, despite their efforts, they haven’t had any success in getting their offers accepted. Complicating matters further, their first child is expected to arrive in June.

“It’s pretty difficult and discouraging,” shares Hall. “We’re stuck in this limbo. I have a great job, and we have a decent amount of money saved up in the bank, and we just can’t find a house to buy.”

The plight of the Halls is not uncommon among young adults today, particularly those belonging to Generation Z, who are entering the housing market amid soaring prices and intense competition. As the first wave of Gen Z individuals starts to establish themselves in their careers and families, their preferences and priorities are shaping the housing landscape in unique ways.

Unlike their millennial predecessors who were drawn to urban living and communal spaces, many Gen Zers, like the Halls, are prioritizing homeownership in suburban or semi-urban areas. Safety and functionality are paramount, reflecting a desire for stability and practicality. Additionally, with remote work becoming increasingly prevalent, access to a suitable home office space is gaining prominence among this demographic.

The struggle faced by the Halls highlights a broader issue in the housing market, where demand far outstrips supply, driving up prices and leading to fierce bidding wars. For young couples like them, navigating this challenging landscape requires patience, resilience, and sometimes, creative solutions.

In response to the housing crunch, some Gen Zers are exploring alternative options such as rent-to-own arrangements or considering properties in up-and-coming neighborhoods that offer greater affordability. Others are turning to technology, utilizing real estate apps and online platforms to streamline their search and stay informed about new listings.

Despite the obstacles, many remain determined to achieve their homeownership dreams, driven by the desire to create a stable and secure environment for themselves and their families. As they continue their quest for the perfect home, individuals like Caleb and his wife embody the resilience and adaptability characteristic of their generation, undeterred by the challenges they face in the housing market.

For the majority of Generation Z, the dream of homeownership remains alive and well, despite facing formidable hurdles in today’s real estate market. With the oldest members of this cohort reaching the age of 27 this year, many are eager to establish themselves as homeowners. However, the combination of soaring home prices and elevated mortgage rates poses a significant challenge, forcing these young buyers to adapt their expectations and priorities.

According to a recent survey conducted by®, approximately two-thirds of Generation Z still believe that homeownership is within reach. Yet, they are acutely aware of the need to make concessions in terms of the size, location, and amenities of the homes they aspire to own—except when it comes to one particular feature: laundry facilities.

Despite the financial constraints they face, around 18% of Generation Z individuals have already taken the plunge into homeownership, as reported by John Burns Research & Consulting. However, the vast majority find themselves residing with family members, navigating the intricacies of the housing market from the sidelines.

Chris Porter, chief demographer at John Burns, observes that while homeownership remains a central aspiration for Generation Z, the realization of this goal may be delayed due to the significant affordability challenges prevalent in today’s housing market.

Take, for example, the experience of Caleb Hall, a 25-year-old mechanical engineer, and his 23-year-old nurse wife, who have been diligently searching for their first home. Despite their efforts, they encountered a daunting scenario last month when they came across a move-in ready three-bedroom, two-bathroom home listed at $285,000—a figure already stretching the limits of their budget. To their dismay, the 1,300-square-foot property garnered six offers within a mere two days, ultimately being snatched up by an all-cash buyer who waived the appraisal contingency.

“The houses that are listed at a decent price just get swept up really quickly, and swept up by people who are coming in with a lot of equity,” laments Hall. With no immediate solution in sight, he and his wife reluctantly resigned themselves to continuing their residence in a rental property for the foreseeable future.

As they grapple with the uncertainties of the housing market, Hall’s experience serves as a poignant reminder of the challenges faced by Generation Z as they endeavor to achieve their homeownership dreams in an increasingly competitive landscape. Yet, despite the obstacles, their determination remains unwavering, underscoring the resilience and optimism that define this generation.

What Sacrifices Are Gen Z Homebuyers Prepared to Make?

Generation Z, often characterized by their frugality and practicality, is navigating the housing market with a distinct set of priorities. Shaped by economic challenges like the Great Recession and the burden of student debt, many in this cohort approach homeownership with a mindset of financial prudence. This demographic, currently in their late teens to early twenties, is just starting their professional journeys and typically earns less than older generations.

Given the soaring cost of homeownership, Gen Z is strategically seeking ways to economize. Unlike previous generations, they are less fixated on the idea of owning large, extravagant homes. Instead, they prioritize affordability and practicality, considering smaller living spaces like apartments, condos, or townhouses as viable options.

For 22-year-old Riley McConnell, a recent college graduate, the prospect of owning a single-family home is overshadowed by the appeal of a more manageable and cost-effective living situation. Currently residing with her parents in Connecticut, Riley envisions moving into an affordable apartment with her partner, emphasizing functionality and ease of maintenance over size.

This trend is not only driven by financial considerations but also by a desire for convenience and flexibility. Many Gen Z individuals are willing to forego amenities like garages and expansive kitchens in favor of more compact and efficient living spaces. Chris Porter, a demographer, notes that while this generation is willing to make compromises, they prioritize maximizing the utility of every square foot in their homes. Functional and multipurpose rooms are highly valued, reflecting their practical approach to homeownership.

Furthermore, the evolving nature of work plays a significant role in shaping Gen Z’s housing preferences. With remote work becoming increasingly prevalent, young professionals seek homes that accommodate their need for a designated workspace. Home offices or quiet areas where they can focus and engage in virtual meetings are highly coveted features. For many in this generation, their homes serve not only as living spaces but also as productive environments where they can pursue their careers.

In essence, Generation Z’s approach to homeownership reflects a pragmatic and adaptable mindset. By prioritizing affordability, functionality, and flexibility, they are redefining traditional notions of homeownership and embracing a more streamlined and practical lifestyle. As this cohort continues to enter the housing market, their preferences are poised to influence trends in real estate, driving demand for versatile and cost-effective housing solutions.

In the age of digital connectivity, Generation Z places a premium on home technology and seamless internet access. For this tech-savvy demographic, comprised of individuals born between the mid-1990s and early 2010s, a home equipped with high-speed internet is not just a luxury but a necessity.

Mark Beal, a public relations professor at Rutgers University and an expert on Gen Z, underscores the significance of reliable internet connectivity, particularly in the context of remote work and virtual meetings. As Gen Zers increasingly rely on platforms like Zoom for communication and collaboration, the ability to access high-speed internet from the comfort of their homes has become paramount.

Moreover, Gen Z’s affinity for technology extends beyond mere connectivity to a desire for smart home features that enhance convenience and efficiency. Jonah Stillman, co-founder of GenGuru and co-author of “Gen Z @ Work: How the Next Generation Is Transforming the Workplace,” emphasizes that while technology is appealing, it must also be sophisticated and practical.

For this generation, which has grown up in a digital era, smart technology is not just about novelty but about streamlining everyday tasks and improving quality of life. Whether it’s smart thermostats, automated lighting systems, or voice-activated assistants, Gen Z expects their homes to be equipped with cutting-edge technology that seamlessly integrates into their daily routines.

However, for Gen Z, technology is not merely a standalone feature but an integral component of a holistic living experience. Beyond the allure of gadgets and gizmos, this generation values functionality and practicality in home technology. They seek solutions that not only enhance convenience but also contribute to their overall well-being and productivity. As such, the emphasis is not solely on the latest gadgets but on technology that serves a purpose and adds value to their lives.

In summary, Generation Z’s relationship with home technology reflects their digital-native upbringing and their desire for a connected and efficient living environment. With a reliance on high-speed internet for remote work and a preference for sophisticated smart home features, Gen Z is reshaping the way homes are designed and equipped. As this cohort continues to enter the housing market, their preferences for tech-forward living spaces are poised to drive innovation in the real estate industry, ushering in a new era of smart and connected homes.

The Unyielding Demand of Gen Z Homebuyers: What They Refuse to Compromise On

There is a non-negotiable aspect for Gen Z homebuyers that they refuse to compromise on.

According to a survey conducted by John Burns, approximately four-fifths of Gen Z individuals are adamant about having a washer and dryer or central air conditioning in their prospective homes. Additionally, 61% of them wouldn’t consider moving into a place lacking a dishwasher, while half insist on having a private outdoor space.

For recent college graduate McConnell, the convenience of having laundry facilities close at hand holds considerable weight. “The closer the laundry is, it’s honestly what a lot of us look at, those little luxuries,” she remarks. She emphasizes the importance of work-life balance for her generation, expressing that after a day’s work, the last thing one wants to do is venture out for something as mundane as laundry.

Moreover, these young homebuyers are forward-thinking about potential expenses.

Hall, who is currently in pursuit of his first home with his wife, prioritizes avoiding additional financial burdens associated with homeownership. He meticulously inspects prospective properties to ensure they do not have aging roofs or heating and cooling systems that might require immediate replacement. “It would be tough to recuperate the costs if one of those has to be replaced,” he explains, highlighting the financial prudence prevalent among Gen Z homebuyers.

Gen Z’s Homebuying Priorities: Beyond Location

The Shifting Housing Preferences of Gen Z: Exploring Beyond Urban Centers

The landscape of homebuying preferences is evolving among Generation Z, influenced by factors such as remote work and lifestyle priorities. Unlike previous generations, Gen Z appears less inclined to flock to expensive urban downtowns. Instead, they are increasingly drawn to smaller cities and different regions of the country where affordability and attainability are within reach.

The rise of remote and hybrid work arrangements has played a pivotal role in this shift. With the flexibility to work from anywhere, many Gen Z individuals are seizing the opportunity to explore housing options in more budget-friendly locales. Chris Porter, a prominent demographer, notes that remote work has expanded the geographical scope for Gen Z, allowing them to seek out areas where housing affordability aligns with their financial goals.

However, while Gen Z may prioritize affordability, they still value proximity to vibrant community hubs. Rather than solely focusing on urban centers, they seek neighborhoods with accessible gathering spots where they can socialize and engage in recreational activities. Whether it’s a local brewery, trendy bowling alley, or unique experiential venues, Gen Z craves opportunities for in-person interactions and memorable experiences.

Jonah Stillman, co-founder of GenGuru, emphasizes that while Gen Z may aspire to the energy of big-city life, they are mindful of the financial trade-offs associated with it. They seek the benefits of urban amenities without the exorbitant costs, reflecting a pragmatic approach to homeownership.

Nonetheless, it’s essential to recognize that Gen Z’s housing preferences may evolve over time. As their careers progress and financial circumstances change, they may eventually gravitate toward urban centers or suburban areas. Like previous generations, they may embrace the suburban dream of spacious homes and family-friendly environments as they establish themselves professionally and personally.

In essence, Gen Z’s housing journey reflects a dynamic interplay between affordability, lifestyle choices, and career trajectories. While their current preferences lean towards cost-effective and socially vibrant neighborhoods, future shifts in priorities may shape their housing decisions differently, echoing the evolving narratives of homeownership across generations.

Matthew Graham
Matthew Graham
Articles: 63

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *