Next Generation of Renters: Generation Z

Monday, June 1, 2015

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Originally appeared on: The Modern Buzz - Serendipit Consulting

The end of 2014 marks one decade since the millennial generation came to its end. Starting in 1982, the millennial generation spanned all the way until 2004, according to William Strauss and Neil Howe, who coined the term millennial. As of 2005, a new generation began - Generation Z.

Using 2005 as the point of reference, within the next several years, the first crop of Generation Z will be entering the rental market, mostly as student tenants. Just as the student housing industry came to understand the millennial renter’s needs and desires, it’s already time to start thinking about this next generation of renters.


Considering the eldest of Generation Z is only 10 years old now, it’s somewhat difficult to project exactly what type of renters they will be or their accommodation preferences. However, by using some of the research done on millennial renters, we can predict the accommodation trends that are likely to extend into Generation Z.


One trend that’s almost certain to continue is making accommodations more than just a place for tenants to lay their heads. What this means is that as of late, purpose-built student housing providers have been making an effort to create an atmosphere that supports a balanced lifestyle. These accommodations represent a place to work, play and live. Generation Z renters are likely to expect even more out of their accommodations than their predecessors, the millennials. It’ll eventually become commonplace for purpose-built student housing properties to have a variety of communal areas, recreational rooms and other spaces to promote socialization. Those communities that don’t implement these features for the future, might find their properties less appealing to student renters and have difficulty competing in the student housing marketplace.


Another trend that’s already taken root is the transition to everything being handled online. Generation Z renters will expect information to be easily and readily available online. Apartment managers and student housing providers that do not embrace the shift to online operations will lag behind. These tenants will see it as a great inconvenience, if they cannot complete services online and must deal with leasing agents in person or over the phone. Instead, Generation Z renters will prefer to submit tenant applications, pay rent, submit maintenance requests and access rental receipts online with only a few clicks. Online community portals will be utilized and seen as more effective by Generation Z renters.


One more trend being anticipated is the expectation for instantaneous customer service. Generation Z tenants will likely have the highest expectation for prompt customer service and turnaround times for issues like maintenance repairs in their accommodations, etc. They will likely expect an extremely easy way of reporting such issues, as well as a quick resolution. To accomplish this, some property managers and student housing providers can implement either mobile apps or text-messaging features, so that tenants can quickly and easily report issues through their mobile devices. A recent study conducted by J Turner Research, revealed that 33% of students believe that when something breaks in apartment, it should be repaired in 12 hours or less. That percentage will probably increase with Generation Z renters.  

Also, when considering instantaneous service, Internet access immediately comes to mind. Many student housing communities boast about high-speed Internet connections, yet the definition of high-speed is somewhat a matter of interpretation. Generation Z renters will expect lightning fast speeds - typical broadband speeds likely won’t cut it! Internet services like Google Fiber, which boasts speeds of 100X faster than basic broadband, may become prominent in student housing communities to cater to these high-volume bandwidth users. Student renters will likely be disinterested in properties with slow internet speeds.


Lastly, but certainly not least, online reputations will become much more important. Appfolio claims that more than 75% of millennial renters base their accommodation decisions on ratings and reviews. Without a doubt, online ratings and reviews will become even more important to Generation Z renters, as they are expected to base their decisions predominantly on what others have to say online. Online reputation management will become of paramount importance to student housing owners and operators. Bad reviews online will become even more costly than they are now.  

In summary, while most of this information is simply speculation, many of these predictions are very likely to hold true when Generation Z tenants begin to enter the rental market. Student housing owners and operators are wise to slowly start considering how they are going to cater to this next generation of renters. After all, the first flock of Generation Z students will be heading to college or university as early as 2021. That’s only seven years away! 

The Team