Generation Z zones in on housing

Born between the mid-90s and early 2000s, they're more eager to own than millennials, a new survey reveals

Much of Generation Z, generally defined as Americans born between the mid-90s and early 2000s, were grade-schoolers when the housing meltdown swept millions from their homes and vaporized the wealth of many more.

So, presumably, much of this cohort was at least somewhat oblivious to the carnage. Perhaps it should come as no surprise, then, that Generation Z is more optimistic about homeownership than millennials, according to a survey by PropertyShark, a property report provider.

A whopping 83 percent of Generation Z, the oldest of whom PropertyShark said are no more than 23, plan to purchase homes in the next five years, suggesting that Zers could pose significant competition to millennial homebuyers, and also that they may suffer from a high rate of Instagram-fueled naivete.

The survey was based on responses from 2,134 renters, owners and people living with family through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk — a sample size with a 99 percent confidence level, according to PropertyShark. It treated Americans born before 1980 as Generation X; those born between 1981 and 1994 as Generation Y (millennials); and respondents born in 1995 or after as Generation Z.

“[T]he high numbers of the Instagram Generation who see themselves becoming homeowners in the near future may be attributed to youthful optimism and lack of knowledge, but that’s not necessarily the case,” a PropertyShark report on the survey said.

It noted that MarketWatch reported that 100,000 members of Generation Z are already homeowners, and only 1.2 percent of them are more than 60 days late on their mortgages, compared to higher rates of 1.6 percent for millennials, 2.3 percent for members of Generation X and 1.6 percent for baby boomers.

Meanwhile, the share of millennials who plan to buy homes in the next five years is only 4 percentage points higher than Generation Z homebuyers, at 87 percent, even though members of Generation Y have had considerably more time to accumulate wealth and climb the career ladder.

Millennials are most pessimistic when it comes to the housing market, according to the survey. As evidence, the survey report cites their expectation to have to save more for a down payment than Generation Z and Generation X; the higher likelihood that think they’ll have to save for between five and 10 years to afford a down payment; and their tendency to report a smaller gap between the size of their dream home and the size that they can afford compared to other groups.

Generation Z considers student debt the biggest obstacle to homeownership (32 percent), even more so than saving enough for a down payment (30 percent).

Meanwhile, 17 percent of millennials saw student debt as the biggest hurdle, while 35 percent considered the biggest obstacle to be a down payment.

The survey also found that members of Generation Z dream of lots of space and amenities but are ready to compromise on nearly anything to minimize cost.

They also desire suburban living more than millennials. But overall the survey suggests “rural and small-town communities [will] continue to thin out and vanish.”

Another interesting tidbit: “For Gen Z, nearby entertainment options rank significantly higher than living close to friends or convenient access to green spaces,” the report said.

“Then again, they are the first fully digital generation in history, used to the instant gratification of the online world, growing up mostly indoors and used to communicating with friends via devices as much, if not more, than through face-to-face contact.”

Email Teke Wiggin