Knowing who’s in the lead when it comes to the property market is difficult. The traditional progression used to be: Finish your studies; find a job in which you’ll stay until retirement; get married; buy a starter home; start a family; work hard and finally retire. That tradition has faded away entirely.
The generational divide is nowhere more apparent than in the property market. But is the property market evolving as quickly as society? And is the change happening where it needs to?
Statistics show that the average age of home buyers is 44, smack dab in the middle of the Generation X age bracket, which is 38-53. But Gen Xers may have taken in a difficult niche in the real estate market. Currently, more focus is placed on the generations on both other ends, the Millennials (22-37) and Baby Boomers (54-72), trying to accommodate an older generation that is still thriving and looking for ways to enrich their lifestyles, while also trying to find ways to shape the market for the younger generations.
On one hand, Gen Xers are often as up to date with technology as Millennials, being comfortable with the digital evolution they’ve been a part of since their first antennaed mobile phones and orange-screened Dos computers. In The Dark Knight Rises, Bane says to Batman, “You merely adopted the dark; I was born in it, moulded by it.” With Generation Xers, it may be the fact that they had to adapt to the changing world and be moulded by it that gives them the head start in the real estate market. On the other hand, Gen Xers are more settled in their careers and focused on their families, bringing with them similar financial stability as Baby Boomers.
What makes the Gen X generation so uniquely placed in the economy, is that they incorporate the best of both worlds — being more financially stable, and looking for that stability in their real estate as well, just like the Boomers; but also being able to utilise the advantages of technology and be as connected with the world around them as the Millennials.
That said, Baby Boomers are still proving to play an increasingly active part in the shaping of the real estate industry as the norm of retirement accommodations and “old age homes” drastically fall out of vogue. Those nearing retirement no longer want to be locked up in a room that is barely bigger than a school boarder’s hostel room and have three meals and a corner-mounted television provided in the common room. Thanks to improved health, with regular exercise and a healthier diet, Baby Boomers are looking for ways to make the most of their lives after retirement, creating a demand in the real estate market that had been missing for a long time.
Millennials, while still the largest percentage of first-time home buyers, owning roughly 38% of the market, play a reasonably small part in property sales. But Millennials choosing to rent rather than buy may be out of their hands if one considers the inflation rate was 5.2% in 2018, and salary increases only averaging at 4.9% (resulting in a take-home increase of only about 0.4%, according to BankservAfrica’s Take-home pay Index. Many Millennials are only now entering their careers, and even when they have started a family, they do not have the same financial stability needed to properly invest in their families or become key players in the buying and selling market just yet.
It’s clear to see that shifting the focus accordingly in both the rental and selling spheres has become an essential part of keeping the real estate industry up with the times.