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All generations seek convenience in housing options

When it comes to what people want in their living space—homeowners and renters alike—nothing is too much to ask for.

From millennials to Generation Xers to baby boomers, each generation has different asks when it comes to housing, but one common thread weaves its way throughout: Convenience.

“This, I think, is a general statement that affects all groups who are living in apartments: They want convenience, they want what they want when they want to use it,” said Sibley Square asset manager Ken Greene. “They don’t want to pay for it if they don’t need it and at the same time, they want access to it when they do need it.”


The Landmark at Sibley Square features one- and two-bedroom subsidized apartments for those 55 and older who are on a fixed income. Photo credit: Provided by Winn Cos.

At Sibley Square, for example, Winn Cos. offers 130 or so market-rate apartments that go for $1,700 to $2,700 per month. The Spectra at Sibley Square apartments are occupied by empty-nesters who are downsizing, as well as millennials who do not need a lot of space, Greene said.

The Spectra apartments occupy floors nine through 12 of the 110-year-old Sibley building. Winn Cos., the building’s owner, has incorporated a number of amenities based on the apartments’ demographic. Downsizers and millennials have access to a conference room for meetings, a library and a kid’s playroom adjacent to an exercise facility.

Opening in the spring is a rooftop terrace. Residents also have access to an indoor dog park that connects to an outdoor pet area.

The community space also includes a living room, a TV room that resembles a small theater, a kitchen area and common space with game tables, a pool table and plenty of seating. All of the amenities are available 24-hours a day, Greene noted.

“People’s schedules are so different today,” Green explained.

Sibley Square also features apartments for those 55 and older. The Landmark at Sibley Square features one- and two-bedroom subsidized apartments for those on a fixed income. Winn Cos. found that the older generation wants amenities that are similar to their younger counterparts, so they too have access to a fitness center, community space with a kitchen and living room, a library and more.

Another common thread among each of the generations who occupy housing at Sibley Square is the need to feel safe, Greene said. To that end, Winn Cos. has spent some $500,000 in security cameras that are monitored 24 hours a day.

Sibley Square has a daycare center and the company is in conversations with a healthcare provide to add an urgent care and pharmacy to the building, Greene said. Eventually the building will feature a food hall, a vertical greenhouse, co-work space, an art gallery and, Greene said, the company’s objective is to put in a virtual, augmented reality arcade and programming studio for its younger tenants and others.

“We think the millennials want entertainment space that is cutting edge and we think the virtual, augmented reality is just the way to go,” he said.

Greene noted a move away from McMansions, especially as Baby Boomers age and their children leave home.

“So they’ve built themselves these staycations in Pittsford or Penfield or Webster and then all of a sudden the kids are gone, they’re empty-nesters, now there’s two people living in this house,” Greene explained. “And their kids observed it, their kids watched it and now the kids are saying, I may want access to those things but I only want to pay for them when I’m using them. I don’t want to pay for them all the time. It’s almost like the Uber effect for homes.”

Also affecting what millennials want in homes is the fact that they came out of school during the Great Recession, said Nathan Rozzi, principal of Rozzi Architects PLLC and a director of the American Institute of Architects Rochester.

“Millennials came out of school at a time when it was very difficult for them to find jobs and often they had to postpone some of their home-buying or family development because of that,” Rozzi said. “So we’ve seen a great uptick in the amount of rental units that millennials were seeking, especially in urban environments.”

Overall, Rozzi said, lifestyles have changed. They are less formal than they were 30 or 40 or 50 years ago.

“And spaces tend to reflect that,” he said. “You have open areas, multipurpose rooms, great rooms, less defined spaces such as formal dining rooms and things like that.”

Rozzi also noted a national trend among millennials for micro rental units.

“We haven’t seen too many of those locally at this point, but I suspect we may,” he added. “The micro-units are much more compact, individualized units but then there’s more communal space, more game rooms, more spaces where people can co-mingle and also that could be available to sign out if you wanted to have a dedicated gathering.”

Karina Chamberlain Ribis, an associate broker with Howard Hanna, said younger generations are open and receptive to fixer-uppers with some potential.

“They’re wanting to do some of the upgrades themselves, maybe at a later point,” Chamberlain Ribis said, noting that taxes are a big component of that.

School districts still play a large role in where and what millennials buy, and families with kids with special needs are looking for convenience as well.

“There’s a growing segment that are dealing with that and it’s very important that they get the services that they want for their children,” said the 15-year veteran of the industry.

By comparison, empty nesters are looking for a different kind of convenience, that of fewer stairs, walk-in showers, grab bars placed strategically in bathrooms and entryways and walk-out basements. That’s had an effect on both selling price and availability of ranch and patio homes, Chamberlain Ribis said.

“When I started you could get a ranch in Henrietta in the $70s, $80s or $90s (thousands), and now some of them are going as high as $139,900, if not higher sometimes because there’s such a shortage,” she added. “It’s a bidding war.”

Rozzi noted that while Boomers may be downsizing, the overall size of a home that a millennial might look for would be smaller than previous generations wanted. That’s part of the less formal lifestyle with multiuse spaces, each of the generations are looking for right now.

“The residential market is demand driven,” Rozzi said. “I think we’ll continue to see integration of smart devices, and as we peak in the housing stock we’ll begin to see more renovations for folks who really like their location and renovate in place.”

vspicer@bridgetowermedia.com / 585-653-4021

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