Burns likes to ask what a 17-year-old high school senior born in 2002 has in common with a famous Millennial, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who was born in 1984. Not much, he says. Instead, he recommends grouping generations by the decade of their birth. His firm uses these names and traits:
1930-39 — The Savers: Warren Buffet, Meryl Streep, Hank Aaron, Maggie Smith.
Raised during wartime, people in this group learned to save pennies along with paper, string, and other materials that could be reused. Their thrifty habits led them to be conservative spenders when it came to housing decisions as well. In general, they are settled into their homes and not in the mix of potential renters in large numbers.
1940-49 — The Achievers: Dolly Parton, Bill Clinton, Martha Stewart, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
This was the first group that normalized two-income households and began spending on credit rather than with cash. This group also is made up primarily of homeowners. But because there are so many of them in this generation, and they are still healthy and in many cases still working, there are more rentals than the industry typically sees from people in their 70s. Those who can afford higher rents tend to like to be in age-restricted communities, where they’re treated as if they’re at a resort.
1950-59 — The Innovators: Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Ellen Degeneres.
This group started businesses at rates not seen in previous generations. Many of them amassed wealth and acquired large houses and sometimes second homes. As they begin to retire, some of them are predicted to enter the rental market.
1960-69 — The Equalers: Sarah Jessica Parker, Stephen Colbert, Michelle Obama, Robert Downey Jr.
This group is one of the hottest segments of the rental market right now. “They’ve been driving a lot of demand, especially in Florida,” Deutch said. “They will continue to be a big driver, and apartment complexes aren’t paying a lot of attention to them yet.” More women in this group graduated from college than men. Title IX was a game-changer for this group, helping propel women into power. This group is now gravitating away from the responsibilities of homeownership and starting to rent in larger numbers. They are looking for what has been termed “surban” housing: a downtown village-like atmosphere in the suburbs, where people can live within walking distance of groceries, restaurants, banks, and other retail. Those who had children are empty-nesters now and thinking about downsizing from the suburban homes where they raised their families. They don’t have as much net worth as those born in the decade before them, and they are trying out new locations, so they are not rushing to buy homes.
1970-79 — The Balancers: Jennifer Garner, Lance Armstrong, Reese Witherspoon, Kobe Bryant.
Many in this group were raised with two-income households and high rates of divorce. They are balancing out the family equation now by reacting against the workaholic lifestyles of their parents and spending more time at home. This group purchased houses at a younger age than The Equalers before them. Then their homes were foreclosed on during the Great Recession. Today many of them are renting, but they gravitate to single-family homes so their children can play in yards. Those who do choose to rent houses or apartments choose them not based on amenities but on location because they want to be in the strongest school districts, Deutch said.
1980-89 — The Sharers: Mark Zuckerberg, Beyonce, LeBron James, Taylor Swift.
They have significantly delayed marriage and children to focus on life and career. This is the most educated generation ever, and those who attended college have amassed student debt well beyond what those born in earlier decades experienced. Many of them continue to work in lower-wage retail jobs after college because when they graduated, corporate jobs were running dry. A full 20 percent live below the poverty line. They invented the shared economy out of necessity, living with roommates, taking mass transit, and using their mobile phones for entertainment. They drove the apartment boom that brought competitive amenities such as granite countertops and hip locations. Now they’re starting to get married and are expected to move out to the suburbs to save money. They will increasingly become less of a factor for apartment communities.
1990-99 — The Connectors: Selena Gomez, Jennifer Lawrence, Justin Bieber, Malia Obama.
People born during this decade use their phones whenever possible. They drive less than their older counterparts did when they were in their teens and 20s because it’s cheaper and easier to use public transportation or a ride-hailing service like Uber or Lyft. Only about 77 percent of people in this age group drive, compared with 89 percent of those born in the 1960s when they were in their early 20s, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Highway Statistics. Many born in this decade are still living with their parents, and those who work are underemployed. They want to live in hip urban areas but can’t afford it on a barista’s pay. Eventually apartments will see them come in as residents.