A panel composed of five members of the generation following millennials, Generation Z, young people ages 14 to 18, discussed their social media habits, shopping preferences and their desire to become homeowners, during a session titled "The Gen Z Consumer" at the 2016 Realtors Conference & Expo.
"We are here today to talk about the future of real estate. We know enough about millennials, now we need to learn about the next generation," said Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate. "Generation Z are the teenagers of today that will shape – and are already starting to – the way we live, the way we and the way we do business."
According to Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, 97 percent of Generation Z believe that they will own a home in the future, and 82 percent indicate that homeownership is the most important factor in achieving the American Dream. "That might sound a little traditional, especially when compared to what we’ve seen with millennials, but this is a generation that values homeownership," said Chris.
All five of the panelists expressed a desire to own a home and are certain that homeownership will be part of their future. When asked about their ideal homes, the panelists varied in wanting to live in either rural or suburban areas and in a home with traditional or modern décor. All the panelists expressed a desire for a large amount of square footage.
"I want a big house," said panelist Cayman, 17. "I want a room for each of my kids, a master bedroom, a few guest rooms, a movie room – I want a lot of space."
The panelists also had very specific ideas about the features they want in their home. Most panelists mentioned hardwood floors, granite counter tops and high-end appliances. "I watch a lot of HGTV, so I know exactly what I want," said panelist Brooke, 17.
When asked about whether or not they would work with a real estate professional when they purchase a home, the answer was a resounding yes. According to BGHRE, 81 percent of polled Gen Z-ers believe they will work with a real estate agent during the home purchase process.
Even though they will most likely begin their search online, Gen Z-ers believe that it is important to have a professional at their side. "Real estate websites might not be as accurate as an expert’s opinion, and you are spending too much money on a house to not have accurate information," said panelist Thomas, 12.
The desire for human interaction in their purchasing decisions goes beyond homeownership and into their day-to-day shopping. The panelists all agreed that they are much more likely to listen to endorsements and opinions from friends and family than online reviews. They said they need to be able to trust the source of recommendations, and Gen Z-ers tend to view online reviews as the opinions of strangers. So do they use crowd-sourced reviews from sites like Yelp? "I don’t know what Yelp is," said panelist Elizabeth, 11.
When it comes to social media, the top platforms used by the panelists are Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Tumblr, and they are frequently interacting with these platforms. "We are called Generation Z, but we should be called generation distraction because we are constantly being pulled to check our phones," said panelist Ethan, 17.
However, none of the panelists are regular users of Facebook. "Facebook is not for us," said Thomas. "Facebook is more dominated by millennials and people in their 30s."
The National Association of Realtors®, "The Voice for Real Estate," is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.
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