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The Future of Multifamily Living, According to Generation Z

By April 7, 2020No Comments

As the CEO of a PropTech startup, I’m constantly thinking about the future of living. How will our homes, apartments, and communities evolve? More importantly, what will our future residents want in their living spaces?

Right now, no segment of the population generates more buzz than Generation Z. These 13-24 year olds will soon be the largest group of renters in the US. They are also cultural leaders—the type who have outsized influence on their environments, wherever they go.

But who is Generation Z, really? In order to stay relevant in the next decade and beyond, real estate professionals need to answer that question. What better way to learn than to visit with a Gen Zer who is also an expert in Gen Z marketing?

Jake Bjorseth is the CEO at Trndsttrs Media, an agency that connects brands to Gen Z customers. They have worked with companies big and small—from local retail shops to McDonalds—devising strategies for reaching the world’s fastest-growing consumer group.

I wanted to know what advice Bjorseth and his team have for multifamily owners, developers, and property managers for attracting Gen Z residents. There were three trends that came out of our conversation:

1. Be part of their personal brand.

Generation Z are digital natives and have never known a world without the Internet. They have also grown up on social media, especially visual mediums like Instagram and Snapchat. Because of this, personal branding has become a pillar of Gen Z identity.

“Everyone wants to have their own brand or style,” said Bjorseth, “It allows you to build your own influence.”

Gen Zers see their living spaces as part of their personal brand, which means communities need to be “Instagram-worthy.”

“How can [apartment communities] create an experience and culture that’s shareable online? Something that your residents want to be seen by others?” asked Bjorseth.

Generation Z takes word-of-mouth marketing to a whole new level. If you build a community that’s fun, attractive, and memorable, it could be shared dozens of times a day on social media. You should consider every resident a potential ambassador for your brand. Give them a reason to share your world.

2. Lifestyle amenities.

Instagrammable spaces aren’t enough, though. Gen Zers care just as much about their physical lives as their virtual lives. Properties need to cater to their evolving lifestyle preferences.

“Gen Z is the most health-conscious generation yet,” said Bjorseth, “Bad apartment gyms aren’t going to cut it anymore.”

Quality fitness facilities, along with studios for dance or yoga, are important to health-conscious Gen Zers. Additionally, communities should go above-and-beyond the usual vending machine fare and upgrade to healthier options. Services like Stockwell make healthy eating easy and convenient.Additionally, Gen Z renters want a variety of social spaces in their communities. Despite their social media habits, Generation Z values in-person relationships far more than their online reputations. In that way, Gen Z closely resembles pre-Internet generations. Pool decks, game rooms, and lounges allow young renters to get out of their apartments and spend quality time with friends.

Finally, multifamily properties need to accommodate freelance and remote workers. Gen Z will likely be the most entrepreneurial generation in decades, and many will opt to work from home. These renters want high-quality conference rooms and workstations—not the dingy basement business centers of yesteryear.

3. Seamless experience.

In wrapping up our conversation, I asked Bjorseth one final question: What does the future of living look like to Generation Z?“In a word—convenience,” he said, “I should be able to order groceries from my phone and have them delivered straight to my fridge. If I could save 30 seconds by automating the coffee pot each morning, I want that.”

For Gen Zers, the smart home experience has become the default. They are willing to spend more on frictionless experiences: smart locks, smart thermostats, and internet that ‘just works’.

“Automating all of these journeys—that’s what I see as a future of living. It’s a seamless, productivity-first focus,” said Bjorseth.

But that’s just the beginning. One of the biggest points of friction in the multifamily world is paying rent. Traditional payment portals are slow, not mobile-friendly, and make it tough to set up auto-pay or split rent between roommates.

Property owners and managers should not underestimate the importance of frictionless payment. Entire industries are being disrupted by companies optimizing for ease-of-purchase. For example, Bjorseth recently switched from his traditional auto insurance provider to Lemonade—the fast-growing insurance startup— because he could apply and pay via text. The process, he said, took just two minutes.

Adopting an easy-to-use, mobile-friendly payment system is a win-win for multifamily properties and their Gen Z residents. “The more frictionless you make the payment system, the sooner you’re going to get paid,” said Bjorseth.

It’s hard to fit Gen Z into a box. They are both idealistic and pragmatic; social and independent; trendsetting and traditional.

Creating a Future of Living for Gen Z
It’s hard to fit Gen Z into a box. They are both idealistic and pragmatic; social and independent; trendsetting and traditional.

However, one thing is clear about Gen Z: They aren’t afraid to cut ties with sub-par brands. We live in a highly-competitive multifamily market. There is always another place to live. If you don’t deliver the type of living experience Gen Zers want, they will simply move on to the next one.

“What inspires me most about Gen Z is that they won’t settle,” said Bjorseth. “They are going to require brands to create better, more positive experiences.”

Are you creating the future with Generation Z in mind?