Most real estate professionals are aware that Millennials as a group are more tech-savvy and diverse than their forebearers. They are also fond of suburbs, and a sense of community is important to them. For demographers, these young 20-somethings are endlessly fascinating for another reason, however: the Gen Y gender gap.
In the average metropolitan market, single women in their 20s are earning 105 percent of what their single male counterparts are bringing in, according to James Chung, a speaker at this week’s Pacific Coast Builders Conference (PCBC) in San Francisco.
Chung is the founder of New York-based strategy and research firm Reach Advisors and co-author of "Demographics: A Glimpse into the Postcrash Environment," an article that appeared in Urban Land Magazine in March.
Single women are "beating the pants off" single men in urban areas, Chung said. Women still earn, on average, 79 cents on the dollar compared to men. But in cities where jobs are concentrated in the information sector especially, young single women are making as much as 120 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts, he said.
In 1972, men earned bachelor’s degrees and advanced degrees at 1.5 times the rate women did. Now, that gender gap has reversed; it is now women who earn degrees at 1.5 times the rate of men, Chung said.
And at the same time that women have been outpacing men in terms of educational attainment, the economy has eliminated many manufacturing and construction jobs traditionally held by men. Consequently, as a group, men are making less money — but they are also spending more.
"Educated young women are more fiscally conservative than their male counterparts despite relative income gain,"Chung said. "They’re saving. Young men aren’t saving. You can see where the money is going to be."
The average age of women at marriage is also rising. For all of the last decade, that average age has been 25; higher for women with college degrees and lower for those without them, Chung said. In the next decade, he is fairly certain that that figure will rise.
"For builders and developers, the implications are that single women in their 30s will increasingly be the norm, at least for higher-end rentals and first homes," Chung told Inman News.
Moreover, women are fundamentally different than men in what they look for in a home, Chung said. Part of being fiscally conservative is that they are more willing to make trade-offs as far as home luxuries in favor of preferred community characteristics.
"Women want a sense of security, physical and social. The ‘lock and key’ kind of stuff, yes, but also, do they feel safe if they take a run in the early morning or evening?" Chung said. "There’s a higher level of sophistication in terms of trade-offs. The men want everything and are willing to pay more for it despite having less income."
Chung half-joked that all men really want is a basketball court in their rental. His firm, Reach Advisors will be looking more closely at how gender dictates preferences as far as amenities and — since men and women do generally live together — how those preferences converge.
A survey released by brokerage company ZipRealty Thursday bore out that there are some differences between house-hunting men and women. In a survey of 1,000 registered ZipRealty users conducted in May, the brokerage found that men crave "a luxurious bathroom, a guest bedroom, a dining room and views" more than women.
At the same time, women placed more value on a home office than a kids’ playroom or those rooms deemed important by men.
"It is interesting to see men place a higher priority than women on things often characterized as stereotypically female priorities, such as a luxurious bathroom and a dining room," said Leslie Tyler, ZipRealty’s vice president of marketing, in a statement.
"Also, women’s growing desire for a home office may speak to the fact that more women are working from home these days," she added.
Preference for home offices rose among both genders, to 39 percent in 2010 compared with 35 percent in 2008.
A home with a view was a high priority for 44 percent of men, but only 33 percent of women. A luxurious bathroom ranked highly for 28 percent of men vs. 23 percent of women, while a guest bedroom was a "must-have" for 70 percent of men compared with 63 percent of women.
Women were particularly turned off by small bedrooms compared to men: 60 percent vs. 49 percent.
Real estate professionals should pay attention to what these women want, Chung said.
For example, "Women want to be with other like-minded, educated women. How can you create a hub in that community that draws these women?" he said.
The quality of public schools will also be a big issue as incomes in general are not expected to rise in the next decade, despite these gains made by women, Chung said. Parents will be less able to send their children to private schools. Affordability will therefore also be a major factor in home-purchase decisions.
As the population grows more diverse, real estate professionals should also take care with their marketing materials.
"The population is twice as diverse as when I grew up," Chung said. "(Marketing) photos of all Caucasians say ‘old school’ or ‘old fashioned.’ It just doesn’t look right."
And as for where to market, taking women’s behavior into account would not be a bad idea.
"Young women are seven times more likely to read for pleasure than men. That tells you where you should be advertising," Chung said.
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