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The Complexities of the Digital Generation: Insights From the NAA/SatisFacts/ApartmentRatings Survey on Gen Z

Generation Z prevails above other generations as the most ethnically diverse and best educated. To better understand housing trends for this generation, the National Apartment Association in partnership with SatisFacts/ApartmentRatings conducted a survey of Gen Z renters in November/December 2020. Survey results are based on 927 responses from 18- to 23-year-old apartment dwellers. The full report uncovers the cohort’s geographical preferences, homeownership and renting sentiments, and preferred apartment amenities.

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Below is a selection of key takeaways from each section:

Focus on Students - Top Regions for Retention & Migration

24% of survey respondents plan to work in the health care field post-graduation. Demand for health care workers was highest  in Arizona, Colorado, Alaska and Idaho in 2020 as measured by location quotients. Fifty-eight percent of college students plan to stay put after graduation while the remainder will relocate. The top regions for retention and migration combined are the Mid-Atlantic and Pacific.

A map showing the top regions for retention and migration. The mid-Atlantic, South Atlantic, East North Central, West South Central, and Pacific are highlighted.

Location and Property Type Preferences

The trend to move away from cities to the suburbs continues for Gen Z’s; approximately 44% of respondents said they would prefer to live in a vibrant suburb. Also, a significant 43% desire to rent single-family detached properties after graduating. A pie chart showing what types of areas students hope to live in after graduation. "Vibrant suburbs" is the top location, with 44%.

Location Factors

A pie chart showing results of the question, "What factors will influence your decision for the next location of your apartment?" with proximity to work/school in the lead with 36%. Proximity to work or school was the key location determinant for 36% of Gen Z’s still enrolled in college, followed by proximity to entertainment, dining, shopping and gyms.

Renting Sentiment 

The majority (89%) of Gen Z survey respondents agree that renting requires you to follow the property owners’ rules. Although 64% came to the consensus that renting provides an adaptable living arrangement. Gen Z renters also believe that buying a home is more financially sensible than renting; 58% indicated that renting feels like throwing their money away.

Gen Z renter sentiment survey results

Homeownership Sentiment

89% of Gen Z’s surveyed believe that homeownership provides both more control and privacy than renting. Few Gen Z’s consider home prices an obstacle toward homeownership, as 69% are confident that it will be financially feasible to own a home at some point in their life.

Gen Z homeowners' sentiment survey results

Community Amenities

According to survey results, Gen Z renters’ value guaranteed parking, Wi-Fi enabled communities and security and access control features above all community amenities. In contrast, onsite retail, car charging outlets and business centers were of lesser importance.

Top Five community amenities for Gen Z, with guaranteed parking being the top amenity.

In-Unit Apartment Amenities

Gen Z renters are savvy yet practical consumers who additionally value a functional living space with upgraded features. The majority of participants said that strong internet speeds, spacious floor plans and premium features such as a washer/dryer, walk-in closets, balconies and hardwood floors are key factors in their decision-making. However, keyless apartment entry, smart-home controls and a dedicated office/workspace are not critical features.

Gen Z's top five in-unit amenities, with washer/dryer, spacious floorplans, interior features, and internet speed inside the apartment tied for number one. The fifth amenity is cellphone reception.

For more information

For more information, please contact:

Leah Cuffy

Paula Munger

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