- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 17, 2005

Dave Moyer’s intense six-month search for a house fizzled in July. He thought he had everything going for him — a good job, good credit and a workable plan for becoming a homeowner. “I was looking for a house I could use for four to five years and then upgrade to a better one,” says Mr. Moyer. “The plan was to purchase a single-family home that might need some work and had key access to major interstates. I was looking for something perhaps with an unfinished basement to use as a project for increasing the resale value.”

It is not surprising that Mr. Moyer, 25, began his home search on the Internet.

He is on the leading edge of Generation Y — a generation that is starting to change the dynamics of real estate — not only in how people shop for homes, but also in how land and housing are developed and marketed.

David A. Morrison, president of a marketing strategy and research firm specializing in young adults, TwentySomething Inc., says general industry-accepted estimates are that Generation Y numbers some 73 million Americans born between 1987 and 1994, currently ranging in age from 11 to 28.

In the Washington area, more than 1.5 million residents fit the Gen Y profile. They are wired and connected. They are the generation of high-speed Internet access, cell phones and instant messaging.

U.S. Census Bureau demographic data, which segments population by age groups, makes it difficult to get an exact count, since 25- to 34-year-olds are grouped together.

However, the numbers suggest that in the immediate Washington area Generation Y is a significant group, with more than 193,900 District of Columbia residents in the 10- to 34-year-old group, based on the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) 2003 Data Profile. The average age of District residents, according to the Census Bureau, is 35.7.

For Northern Virginia, the ACS provided data for Fairfax County and the 8th and 11th congressional districts, where slightly fewer than 750,000 residents comprise the 10 to 34 age group.

In the Maryland counties of Montgomery and Prince George’s, almost 590,000 residents fall in the age range.

Mr. Morrison says Gen Y buyers are split between being focused on a first home or “buying their second [investment] home first.”

“There are those who are looking to buy a four-bedroom house, taking advantage of low interest rates, with plans of being there for a long time,” says Mr. Morrison. “And there are those who are looking to buy their first home, live in it for two to three years, and moving on with plans to continue to rent the property.”

He says Gen Yers have experienced downturns in the stock market in their lifetime and view real estate as a tangible investment and source of equity.

Mr. Morrison says the alternative for young adults who cannot afford to buy in the Washington area is to look to more affordable property away from the city.

After his initial search on the Internet, Mr. Moyer worked with a real estate agent for assistance in locating a house he could afford and help with navigating the home-buying process.

His search began in Montgomery County. He encountered high prices and quickly shifted his focus to Prince George’s County.

“During the spring and early summer, I looked at three dozen houses and made some 12 offers. I waived home inspections and agreed to make concessions to sellers. But in every case I was outbid, including many instances when I was outbid by $40,000 to $50,000,” Mr. Moyer says.

In the end, Mr. Moyer says he decided to share an apartment in Montgomery County to “regroup and solidify my financial standpoint,” with hopes that the market will be “kinder and more advantageous in the future.”

Mr. Moyer’s experience is not unique. Industry insiders expect developers to step forward to help Gen Yers bridge the gap between home or college and homeownership in the Washington area.

Mr. Morrison says an “urban renaissance” will likely be driven by developers renovating existing buildings. He says the most successful real estate marketing will recognize the unique needs and wants of the burgeoning young adult market.

The Lofts at Ontario in Adams Morgan are scheduled to open within the next 30 days, says real estate agent Kathleen Eder of Long & Foster Realtors.

Five units are available, from a two-bedroom, one bath condominium for $429,000 to a three-bedroom, two-bath condo, featuring a deck and roof terrace for $979,000.

Ms. Eder says the Adams Morgan location and the proximity to Columbia Heights and Metro provides ample shopping and entertainment destinations within walking distance that appeal to those “who don’t want to drive.”

She says initial interest in the new condominiums has come from “young professionals.”

There are many condominium projects under construction in the Washington area, says Tim Liu, who has been inventorying and updating the status of condominiums for three years now. His Web site (www.dclofts.com) posts information on some 380 new condo developments.

An attraction to condominium life is one thing Generation Y has in common with baby boomers.

“Young professionals wanting to live in the city and empty-nesters, older couples whose children have left home, are those currently most interested in condominiums,” says Mr. Liu.

In Virginia, the Ballston Metro area and Arlington’s Court House Square area have drawn several condominium developers.

Now selling is the Wills Cos.’ 1001 WestView and 1001 EastView at Ballston Metro.

The development features 185 residences with 16 floor plans with an emphasis on the ability of buyers to customize units.

One bedroom, one bedroom and den, or two bedroom units are available from the mid-$300,000s to mid-$500,000s, according to the development’s Web site (www.theviewatballstonmetro.com).

“Generation Y is very much into customization and self-expression,” he says. “You see this in products like the IPod and the cell phone. The cell phone began as a utilitarian device but has evolved into a form of self-expression, such as individualized ring tones and other features.”

Flexibility is key, Mr. Morrison says, as Gen Yers want to customize their living space. This is an important consideration for developers.

“They need to be able to transform their living space,” he says. “They are into home theaters, from watching ‘Cribs’ and other programs on MTV. They are into computers and television, particularly as the technologies converge and you can download movies.”

Mr. Morrison says real estate agents need to recognize and embrace the way Gen Y communicates, since members of this generation have a great deal of say in how, where and when they will reached.

“Real estate agents need to accelerate discussions with Generation Y,” Mr. Morrison says. “They have yet to make full use of cell phones. With a cell phone, a real estate agent can make the call or send an instant message to inform the client that a home has just come on the market. They can send a photo, provide directions, and GPS (Global Positioning System) location.”

He also says the real estate agents will do well not to view Gen Yers as one-time customers.

“Generation Y purchasers will be highly influential for future business,” he says.

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