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Millennials on the Move to the Suburbs?

July 8, 2020

The new downtown is often in suburbia

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 like 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 like 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.

To learn more about what Morris Southeast Group can do for you now and in the future, call us at 954.474.1776. You can also reach Ken Morris directly at 954.240.4400 or via email at kenmorris@morrissegroup.com.

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