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What Makes Gen Z Homebuyers Different?

Entering the real estate finance world in the summer of 2022 as a 23-year-old, I immediately felt like a fish out of water. Attending industry-related conferences and visiting clients, I was typically the only person in the room under the age of 30.

Our industry is full of professionals with decades of experience, but with that much experience often comes difficulty with connecting and understanding the next-generation consumer. My goal with my career in mortgage is to help bridge the generational gap between mortgage professionals and next-generation borrowers. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some key characteristics that set my generation (Gen Z) apart from previous generations.

For Gen Z, technology is second nature

Gen Z is considered those who were born between 1997 and 2012 — today, members of Gen Z are between 11 and 26 years old. We are the cohort succeeding millennials and have grown up with rapid technology progression, an increase in multi-generational households and the “influencer” era.

I was seven years old when my parents first bought the iconic Motorola RZR flip phone, and 12 when my parents gave me my first iPhone. The eldest Gen Zs quickly adapted to Apple’s iPhone technology and the youngest Gen Zs usually were “screen kids” throughout their childhood on tablets or their parents’ smartphones. Relying on and mastering technology has been second nature for myself and my peers. It is hard for me to remember a time without the desire for high speed wifi or cellular data.

So, what does this mean for the world of real estate finance? It means that loan originators need to realize the importance of having a digital brand. In the current work-from-home lifestyle, the lack of in-person connection will create a reliance on connecting through digital platforms and communication methods that next-generation borrowers are very familiar with.  

Gen Z’s savings present an opportunity for investment

Speaking of the normalcy of a work-from-home lifestyle, COVID reached its peak when the eldest part of Gen Z was either entering the workforce or attending college. Going through this transitionary stage of life during a time of panic and crisis forced a lot of us to move back home in 2020 to be with family. Three years later, a majority of my friends are still living rent-free at home in our childhood bedrooms because it saved money and was easy. This is a unique characteristic that has given my age group the opportunity to live rent-free and save a lot of money early on in our twenties.

What does this mean for the real estate finance world? This trend of living in a multi-generational household means older Gen Z (ages 20-26) most likely have a lump sum of money saved up just sitting in a bank account. As an industry, we have the duty of educating my age group on the financial implication of investing in real estate and what it means for our financial future.

One last characteristic I want to highlight within my generation is the lack of trust in big corporations. It is crucial for our industry to understand the hesitancy my generation has with trusting large institutions without a lot of research and referrals leading them to that organization. Where previous generations relied heavily on large corporations to build rapport and familiarity, Gen Z relies on public figures or relatable individuals in their network when it comes to choosing a company to work with.

For example, in the past, people may have chosen to work with State Farm as an insurance provider because of its market share or brand recognition. Gen Z does not care about brand recognition — they will choose a State Farm competitor if their favorite influencer or social media account has given a referral or posted about a positive experience with that service provider.

All in all, Gen Z’s entry into the home buying market brings forth new borrower characteristics to the market. If we put forth the effort to understand and reach these future borrowers and lead with authenticity and financial education, I truly believe we can get my generation into the home buying game earlier in life than previous generations.

Ally Carty is a “Gen Z Guru” and national account executive for ActiveComply.

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