- How the Pandemic Is Persuading Millennials to Leave the City and Make Living in the Suburbs … Cool?
- Changing attitudes about commutes
- A need for more space
- Why pay city prices, when you can’t live the city life?
- Good public schools
- A few drawbacks of buying in the ’burbs
- More from Money:
- Millennials on the Move to the Suburbs? – Commercial Real Estate South Florida
- Not your parents’ suburbia
- The suburban resurgence & CRE
- The COVID-19 connection
- The new American Dream
- More millennials are considering the unthinkable: Life in suburbia
- Searching for connections
- Designing community
- Millennials Remade Cities, But Will They Keep Living in Them?
- Charlotte, N.C
- Los Angeles
- New York City
- Washington, D.C
How the Pandemic Is Persuading Millennials to Leave the City and Make Living in the Suburbs … Cool?
City living treated Dylan Gray well. For two years, Gray, 26, rented an apartment in downtown Indianapolis with bars, restaurants, and his office all in walking distance. But when the coronavirus pandemic required him to start working remotely, Gray set his sights on buying a home in Broad Ripple, a neighborhood with a suburban feel located six miles north of downtown.
“Once my ability to walk to work was no longer a factor, it made sense for me to buy a house, especially given how low rates are right now,” says Gray, a business analyst at Salesforce. He purchased a 3-bedroom detached house for $230,000 last month, using a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with a 3.3% interest rate.
Before the pandemic, many Americans relished the perks of living in a big city. According to a 2016 Census Bureau report, about eight in 10 Americans lived in urban areas.
But COVID-19 has some urbanites reevaluating where they want to live—and the type of homes the want to live in.
During the second quarter of this year, 51% of property views by urban residents of America’s 100 largest metros went to suburban properties, an all-time high since Realtor.com began tracking metro level search data in 2017.
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“All this extra time that people are spending at home has made buyers really prioritize having more space, and you can get that in the suburbs,” says Danielle Hale, Realtor.com’s chief economist. “The suburbs are attractive to a lot of people because, in general, the price per square foot is lower.”
Now largely in their 30s, Millennials, in particular, are fueling the exodus from America’s cities, with the pandemic speeding up their plans to move the city. (Nationally, Millennials make up the largest share of homebuyers.)
Here are four reasons for the renewed interest in the ’burbs.
Changing attitudes about commutes
Credit analyst Kailyn Hart was living in a 1,300-square-foot apartment in bustling Mid-City, Los Angeles with her fiancé, Dominic Wilson, and their 1-year-old son when the pandemic forced her to begin working from home.
Being able to work remotely gave Hart—who had been watching mortgage rates for a good buying opportunity since 2017 —the kick she needed to purchase a 4-bedroom, 2,300 square-foot house with a backyard in Fontana, Calif, a 47-mile drive from L.A.
“My boss told me that I’ll at least be working remote until December, and after that I may only be going into the office just once or twice a week,” says Hart, 32.
She’s not alone.
According to a recent Monster poll, in order to maintain social distancing, more than a third of employers will reduce the number of employees they have in the office at one time, with 18% allowing employees to work from home more than before the pandemic or indefinitely. That may explain why a Realtor.com survey conducted in June found that 9% of active homebuyers said they would be willing to commute over an hour, up from 3% in March.
A need for more space
Another reason Hart moved the city: “Since we are not so close to our neighbors we feel safer, in a way, from catching the [coronavirus],” she says. “We were hearing ambulances all the time when we lived in the city, and it made it so hard to get our child to go to sleep.”
“We’ve seen a surge of buyers who want to leave downtown for the suburbs,” says Nicole Fabiano-Oertel, a real estate agent at Compass in Chicago. “The most common reason is they want more space, whether that’s indoor space or outdoor space, or both.”
Indeed, the median size of a home in the suburbs is 1,800 square feet—7% larger than the average home in a city of 1,678 square feet, according to the National Association of Home Builders.
That extra living space will be useful for parents if schools stay virtual this fall or those who decide to homeschool their children regardless this fall.
(A recent OnePoll survey of 2,000 parents of school-aged children found that four in five are considering homeschooling their kids this school year.)
Why pay city prices, when you can’t live the city life?
Corey Jones, a real estate agent with Better Real Estate in Plainfield, N.J., says affordability is a driving factor for a lot of urban residents who are decamping to the suburbs. “What we’re hearing from clients more and more now is: why rent and pay city prices when you’re working from home?”
“Right now if you move 25 miles east of downtown L.A., you can get the same size house and lot for about half the price,” says Julie McDonough, a real estate agent at AmeriSell Advantage Properties in Southern California.
But the gap between the suburbs and the city may be shrinking.
Historically, homes appreciate faster in cities, but according to a new Zillow study, right now sale prices are flat in urban areas, while prices are going up in the suburbs—albeit at a slower rate than earlier in 2020. the suburbs. Pre-coronavirus, the suburban median sale price was up 6.
4% year-over-year and urban the median sale price was up 9.3%. But by the end of June, price growth had fallen to 3.3% and 0%, respectively. (The national median sale price growth slowed to roughly 2% year over year.) San Francisco and Manhattan—urban powerhouses for home price growth before the pandemic—saw home values drop 4.
2% and 4.9% year-over-year, respectively.
Another selling point: usually the cost of living in the suburbs is lower, since commodities such as groceries and gas are less expensive. Furthermore, a 2017 Zillow survey found that nationally, families spend an average of $9,073 more per year to cover basic housing and child care costs in the city than in the suburbs.
Good public schools
Generally, public school systems in the suburbs outperform schools in urban areas with respect to test scores, graduation rates, and college placement.
Suburban schools also usually have more outdoor space for sports and other recreation.
And, a number of parents who send their kids to expensive urban private schools have expressed that they’re less willing to keep paying if the schools go remote this year.
One caveat: Public schools in the suburbs are typically less diverse than city schools.
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A few drawbacks of buying in the ’burbs
Purchasing a home in the suburbs has its perks, but there are some disadvantages that urbanites may not have considered.
People who live in the suburbs spend more time driving, since public transportation is often harder to access—and more time behind the wheel has been associated with higher odds of sleep deprivation, obesity, and psychological distress. Also, many Americans are feeling more inclined to drive right now than take mass transport, to reduce their potential exposure to germs and COVID-19.
Suburban homebuyers tend to buy larger homes, which require more maintenance and bring higher utility bills.
Buying a house with a backyard? Lawn care costs can add up—on average, professional lawn mowing costs between $30 and $80 per visit, according to HomeAdvisor.
Property tax rates in the suburbs are frequently higher. For example, homeowners in the Washington D.C. have the lowest property taxes in comparison to its four adjacent counties, according to the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute.
Homes in the suburbs are more ly to be part of a homeowner’s association, which means HOA fees and potentially restrictions on what homeowners can do with their house and landscaping.
Often, homebuyers in the suburbs must make lifestyle sacrifices if they purchase a home that’s not within walking distance of restaurants and nightlife. But many suburban communities are taking steps to offer richer cultural experiences. “The area I moved to has a lot of bars and shops and restaurants, so my lifestyle hasn’t really changed,” Gray says.
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Millennials on the Move to the Suburbs? – Commercial Real Estate South Florida
Leave it to the Millennials. Regardless of the misplaced blame that generation receives, there’s no denying that they have single-handedly changed the real estate landscape as much as Boomers have.
Consider the urban downtown landscape, a space that was transformed by a live/work/play lifestyle that embraces walkability and experiences. With Millennial needs and developer visions coming together, city block after city block filled with residential towers, galleries, cafes, and coffeehouses.
There comes a time, though, when every generation grows up, and priorities change. For a generation of Millennials on the cusp of middle age, those changes have meant children, skyrocketing rents, and the realization that cities may not provide all that’s necessary—things detached homes, private yards, and good schools.
In other words, suburbia.
Not your parents’ suburbia
In many ways, Millennial desires closely mimic those of the Boomers, the generation that grew up in the first suburbs. This new generation, though, isn’t exactly interested in their parents’ or grandparents’ suburban experience, first made popular in places Levittown, NY. Instead, they’re looking for suburbia with an urban twist.
For developers, this trend is significant. Studies indicate that Millennials will form two million households per year for the next ten years. In Jacksonville, Orlando, and Tampa, for example, Millennials are the number-one new-home purchasers. Similarly, Miami, Miami Beach, and Fort Lauderdale are in the top 10 Florida communities with the largest increase in Millennials since 2010.
The suburban resurgence & CRE
Just after World War II, when William Levitt devised his master plan for Levittown—“the prototypical American suburb”—one of its hallmarks was a town green.
Located within easy walking distance to various neighborhoods, the spaces were reminiscent of the city neighborhoods from which new residents had come.
They included greenery, a playground, and a strip mall with essential services, such as a laundromat and delicatessen. At some point, though, suburbs sprawled, and convenience felt farther away.
With the Millennial push for suburbia, developers are taking a look at the master plan for both new and established communities. Developers are examining how to create town centers that embrace the same live/work/play lifestyle that made city downtowns the place to be.
Desired tenants may include craft breweries, rooftop restaurants, cafes, retail, service businesses that present employment opportunities, shared workspaces, event venues, galleries, and pop-up opportunities to test market ideas. Another priority is businesses that provide Millennials ways to include their young families. A shared trait is that all of these areas should be easy to get to, and just as easy to get home from.
The COVID-19 connection
As with most things these days, there’s a pandemic factor. While COVID-19 isn’t responsible for the new interest in suburbia, it has certainly played a role in revving it up.
As metropolitan areas around the country were quarantined, wealthy residents fled the cities for their summer homes in the suburbs to escape contagion and claustrophobia.
Many younger generations rented homes or moved back into the suburban houses in which they were raised.
In the suburbs, it was simply easier to be socially distant and still get outside, even if that outside was a private yard.
Offices are also looking at the suburban landscape in response to COVID-19. CDC re-opening guidelines suggest employees commute alone and that businesses restrict the use of elevators—two concepts that don’t gel with working in an urban high-rise. For some companies, relocating to properties outside of the city center may make it easier to manage risk.
The new American Dream
It’s important to remember that this isn’t a one-size-fits-all American Dream. The span of Millennial ages runs from 24 to 40 years of age. That’s at least two to three different life stage brackets and an income span that’s just as wide.
While some Millennials may be looking in more affluent suburbs, others are opting for more affordable options. In either case, developers have been presented with an opportunity to look beyond metropolitan centers—and this may be one element of a post-COVID world.
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More millennials are considering the unthinkable: Life in suburbia
Burak and Julie Yorumez had the urban experience that some Colorado millennials only dream of — living high above downtown Denver in two merged condos on the 35th floor of the Brooks Tower Residences.
“I thought I was going to live there forever,” said Julie, a University of Colorado graduate who spent eight years working in New York City and Washington, D.C. many young adults who had developed a taste for what city life could offer, she thought nothing else would do.
But after three years of living downtown together, the couple somehow found themselves owning a single-family home with a yard out in metro Denver’s far fringes. In their case, it was at Sterling Ranch, a new development with room for 12,000 homes near Chatfield Reservoir in Douglas County.
“It wasn’t in our plan,” said Julie, sheepishly. But as the couple planned to have children together, they realized downtown wouldn’t be the best spot to raise them. They moved to the suburbs in the summer of 2018 and haven’t looked back.
A debate has raged over where most millennials, the nation’s largest generation at 83 million strong, will decide to settle down. Will it be downtown areas and nearby urban neighborhoods or in the suburbs and the master-planned communities springing up on the periphery?
Urban studies expert Richard Florida of CityLab has argued that young adults are fueling a renaissance in the nation’s inner cities, drawn by the perks that come with density, such as proximity to work, walkability to restaurants and stores, and a vibrant cultural and entertainment scene.
“The data unequivocally points to millennials wanting to live in urban settings,” argues Jason Shepherd, a partner at Denver-based Atlas Real Estate. “The lifestyle of living closer to the urban core, of less commuting, of going with a smaller space is a tailwind that will maintain.”
On the other side of the debate are experts such as Joel Kotkin of Chapman University. His New Geography blog points out that the strongest population gains are coming in the suburbs, not the big cities. For every one millennial that settles in an older urban area, another four are moving into the suburbs, where homes are more affordable.
There’s a stereotype that people in the suburbs pull into their garages and immediately shut the door, never engaging with their neighbors. But Burak said the same distancing happens in city condos and apartments.
“We had nearly 2,000 square feet and one million things to do,” Burak said. And yet he and his wife felt socially isolated, knowing the names of only one neighbor, Barb, and the concierge in the lobby.
Now they regularly have neighbors over for dinners. Happy hour on Fridays involves hanging out with 30 friends at the nearby taphouse, minus the worries about a bar fight breaking out. Julie formed a Wine Down Wednesday group that has about 50 women and Burak formed Men of the Ranch, which has 30 to 40 guys who meet once a month.
Burak said the highlight for him came when he organized a block party last summer, thinking maybe 125 might attend. Instead, he had 250 responses on within two hours and more than 500 people showed up to the event with food, music and bouncy castles.
“That was my dream. We are having a block party,” he said. Some of his neighbors came to his side to pull it off when the numbers got big.
The couple said they have found a much tighter-knit and family-friendly community in the suburbs. And they said they are having way more fun than they ever did downtown.
Lucas Hunter, 5, left, eats pizza with his friend Ayla Yorumez, 6, right, at Ayla’s home while her parents host a small party for neighbors on Nov. 18, 2019 in Littleton.
Searching for connections
At the core, the debate may be more a question of age than a generational shift. Millennials are delaying marriage and having children, in part because of the Great Recession and heavier debt loads. But when they do start their families, city life becomes harder to pull off.
“It would be a mistake to treat millennials as a monolithic block that behaves the same way,” said John Hall, head of economic development in the city of Westminster. “There will be some millennials who want to continue to live in the urban cities and some that want to move to more suburban locations as they start families.”
Dustin and Heather Pike, in their mid-30s, had enjoyed the urban life in Miami and San Francisco and when they moved to Colorado, downtown Denver seemed the obvious choice.
They enjoyed getting cocktails after work and going for brunch on Sundays and not having to drive around everywhere. But they also found it hard to form meaningful friendships.
“We would see tons of people,” Heather said. “But no one is trying to get to know each other. It’s the city mentality.”
And there weren’t many young children downtown, where living space is at a premium and developers aren’t focused on accommodating larger households.
Walkability for a young adult means something entirely different when he or she is holding the hand of a toddler. Heather said she had to stop visiting the Downtown Children’s Playground because her 2-year-old was getting harassed.
“We had some scary encounters,” she said.
The Pikes considered some of Denver’s older neighborhoods but found the homes too small and old to their liking and the social bonds already established.
They also settled on Sterling Ranch, where they quickly made connections with other families moving in. Not only did their social life improve, but so did their son’s. Dustin notes there were a dozen kids in the six nearby homes.
“Everyone is new,” Burak said. “There are no cliques or established groups.”
When she became a mom to twins, Julie said she wanted a community of moms, something she wouldn’t have found as easily downtown. They now have neighbors willing to watch their kids at the drop of a hat or who bring a meal over when they are under the weather.
If millennials gathered in cities to find the connections and sense of community, that same desire may push them to move to the suburbs as they have children.
Burak Yorumez, right, holding one of his twin daughters Skyler, hangs out in the kitchen during a cocktail party at his home on Nov. 18, 2019 in Littleton.
Homebuilders, however, realize they can’t replicate the suburbs of the 1970s and 1980s, with their dead-end cul-de-sacs, wide boulevards of speeding cars, cookie-cutter home designs and big-box retailers swimming in a sea of asphalt.
Communities, even in the already established suburbs, are creating hybrids they think will appeal to young adults. Westminster, for example, is converting its former mall area into a denser “downtown” with an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, apartments, restaurants and workspaces.
“The unifying principle seems to be around experience, walkability and community,” Hall said.
Essentially, millennials want the best of both worlds — the more affordable and spacious housing and better school districts found in the suburbs and the walkability and bustle of activity that older city neighborhoods offer.
The Urban Land Institute and accounting firm PwC, in their Emerging Trends in Real Estate report for 2020, have coined a term for the crossbreeding that is taking place — hipsturbia.
“Many of these ‘cool’ suburbs are associated with metro areas having vibrant downtowns, illustrating the falsity of a dichotomy that pits central cities against ring communities,” according to the report.
Hall said he learned a lesson on dichotomies after jumping on a pedicab on the 16th Street Mall last summer. The driver had tattoos on his calf and wore a bright pink shirt and shades. Hall pegged him as a millennial urban hipster.
But then he told Hall he had a family and recently moved to the Standley Lake neighborhood in Westminster.
“The market is a lot more fluid than we assume,” he said.
Harold Smethills, the driving force behind Sterling Ranch, along with his wife and children, said his goal was to create a community that allowed for “free-range” children many baby boomers grew up in.
Safety is a top priority. Street design and traffic controls keep speeds below 35 mph. The wide boulevards and parkways that divide neighboring Highlands Ranch are not part of the plan. Nor are cul-de-sacs.
“Bad things happen in cul-de-sacs,” Smethills said.
Intersections are pinched down in size, which makes them easier to cross. But that created another problem. County snowplows were too big to pass, and smaller ones had to be ordered to keep the streets clean.
Shrubs that grow to only 3 feet in height were planted as a way to improve visibility. Porches on homes make it easier for people to hang outside and get to know their neighbors. There are pocket parks, so families don’t have to hop into a car to enjoy the outdoors.
But the most important thing that Sterling Ranch is building is a sense of community, Smethills said. There is a constant flow of community activities such as Halloween hayrides and a Santa Village, and a community coffee shop and taphouse where neighbors gather.
“Your neighbors are your first line of response,” Smethills said. They are the ones who spot smoke wafting from an emerging fire or find the family pet wandering away.
Smethills’ son, Brock, said walkability is a must in any new community design. Sterling Ranch will intersperse more retail and restaurants throughout its neighborhoods rather than congregating them in big strip malls.
It’s also working hard to get away from relying on chains and to bring in a more independent mix of restaurants and retailers. Home designs are varied and not mass-produced. And Sterling Ranch has 1-gigabit fiber to the home, which has made it attractive to people who want to work at home.
Millennials Remade Cities, But Will They Keep Living in Them?
For years, millennials have been hailed as fundamentally different from prior American generations in their attitudes toward cities. As large numbers of them have gravitated toward urban centers, local governments and private developers have responded, providing new housing, transit and other amenities aimed at luring them in.
In the past, starting families was the tipping point that led young adults to relocate to the suburbs.
Now, as millions of millennials — generally defined as those born between 1982 and 2004 — reach this stage in their lives, recent commentary has called into question just how urban they truly are.
As a matter of absolute numbers, more of America’s roughly 75 million millennials live in suburbs than in central cities.
What is clear is that millennials have delayed marriage and child-bearing longer than their parents.
Large numbers have lived in cities for prolonged periods of time and may be more rooted to their communities and less willing to decamp for suburbia.
Some of those wanting to stay put, however, may struggle to do so once they start families, as many cities simply don’t possess an adequate supply of affordable housing for families.
To gauge where this generation might be settling, Governing interviewed demographers and local officials in a few of the hottest millennial markets for an update on what’s happening on the ground.
Over the past decade, few regions have seen the rapid boom that’s taken place in Charlotte, N.C. In the years immediately following the recession, Charlotte’s Mecklenburg County recorded faster annual population growth than in outlying suburban counties.
But that could be shifting: 2014 Census estimates indicate neighboring counties surpassed Mecklenburg’s growth, which dipped slightly. Jeff Michael, director of the Urban Institute at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, says it’s too early to know whether the change represents a one-year blip or a return to stronger suburban growth.
“There were so many people eager to write off the suburbs,” he says. “I was always a little skeptical of that.”
Many of Charlotte’s millennials have been drawn to apartment complexes along a light rail line that opened in 2007. They tend to be employed in the banking and energy sectors, two of the city’s leading employment bases.
Accordingly, Michael says, they’re more conservative — and possibly less committed to dense city life — than millennials elsewhere.
If they do decide to move, however, Michael expects them to opt for close-in suburbs or smaller, older towns with urban characteristics Belmont and Davidson.
The Chicago metropolitan area isn’t experiencing the same population growth as some metro regions. But many of its neighborhoods had already begun to transition long before millennials started moving in.
More recently, the new arrivals have been drawn to jobs in and around the city core, particularly in the tech sector. “There’s no sign of it slowing down,” says Rob Paral, a Chicago demographer.
“The expansion of the neighborhoods that are being rehabbed or gentrifying is still happening without a doubt.”
One advantage Chicago has working in its favor: Housing costs aren’t as high as in some of the nation’s other hot cities. So when millennials desire a larger living space, remaining in the city might be a more plausible option for them than in costlier places.
Los Angeles has historically served as a gateway for Latin American and Asian immigrants. In recent years, though, immigration rates from foreign countries slowed significantly and white millennials started taking the place of Hispanics in some working-class neighborhoods.
Dowell Myers, a demographer at the University of Southern California, says he hasn’t detected signs that millennials are fleeing to the suburbs just yet. “They’re still flowing in the door,” he says, “and not flowing out the back door.”
That could change, Myers says, once the effects of the recession fade, but they’re still more ly to stick around than their parents. One reason is that the number of housing units in downtown L.A. has grown dramatically.
By now, millennials are well established in the city. “The longer millennials stay,” Myers says, “the more they’re cultivating a new culture of urbanity that will permanently make them different than their predecessors.
New York City
New York’s millennials embody some of the generation’s most commonly cited characteristics: Not only are the vast majority of them single and highly educated, but they live in the only major U.S. city where most households are carless. They are also more ly to have migrated from outside the metro region, lured by cultural amenities and a diverse economy.
With Manhattan neighborhoods becoming unaffordable, many young residents are seeking outer-borough neighborhoods such as the South Bronx and Brooklyn’s Bushwick, places that were once crime-ridden and declining.
As millennials start families, they’ll seek larger living arrangements, but space may not be the near-universal draw among millennials that it was for the city’s past generations.
“A lot of it,” says Joseph Salvo of the city planning department, “will be efforts by all of us to provide people with more affordable housing options.”
The region’s suburbs have their own challenges. Nassau and Westchester counties are aging and plagued by some of the nation’s highest property taxes. Salvo suspects some millennials will decide that those taxes aren’t worth the tradeoff of the additional space, and they’ll stay put in the urban core.
Seattle has emerged as one of the nation’s fastest-growing big cities, competing with the s of Austin, Texas, and Charlotte, N.C. Many of its newest residents are millennials who have moved to Capitol Hill, Eastlake and other rapidly changing neighborhoods.
Seattle grew more than 5 percent between 2010 and 2014, outpacing the rest of King County for the first time in decades, according to state Office of Financial Management data. Diana Canzoneri, the city’s demographer, says most millennials prefer to stay in the city.
This preference, she says, “doesn’t just switch off when they get older.” But they may not be able to afford to stay once they start families. Families with children account for a mere 19 percent of households, less than in many other U.S.
cities, according to a city planning report.
The young, single millennials who transformed some D.C. neighborhoods virtually overnight are now marrying and starting families of their own. The question confronting D.C. officials is how to hold onto these residents.
D.C.’s Office of Revenue Analysis found that about two-thirds of married taxfilers remained in the district three years after adding their first dependent in 2007, 2008 or 2009. That rate has remained steady since the early 2000s. But many D.C. residents decamp for the suburbs by the time their first child turns 4.
While the D.C. economy remained relatively strong during the recession, the city now faces stiffer competition for millennials from other parts of the country. One way D.C. has sought to appeal to young families is by expanding its pre-kindergarten programs to 3- and 4-year-olds. A zoning change also protects some family-sized row houses from being divided into smaller units.
Mike Maciag Data Editor
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