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Gen_YRISMEDIA, December 29, 2009—Whatever the label—Gen Y, Millenials, Echo Boomers or Generation Now—the next generation of home buyers is a different kind of consumer. Gen Y is leading the charge into the future, and they are wired, inspired and viewing life through a different lens.

As a Boomer, it’s sometimes hard for me to realize that the first tier of the Gen Y group, born just before 1980, has already passed the 30-year-old mark. My daughter, the quintessential Gen Yer, is now in her late 20s, married and has already purchased her first house. She and her contemporaries are thoughtful, idealistic consumers who, as first-time home buyers, are often willing to choose place over space in order to have the lifestyle they envision. According to Yankelovich, Inc., the relative income of the average Gen Y is twice as high as it was for Boomers at the same age. This new group of home buyers is also much more educated. With so many options for information gathering at their fingertips, they will likely come to you armed with knowledge about marketplace options aligned with a precise list of wants and needs.

Personal authenticity is the guiding principle for Gen Y. They’ve grown up with diversity as the norm, and community and social interaction are important to them. A neighborhood or condo complex with owners of mixed generations, family structures and global views will likely appeal to Gen Y clients, as will a home with good traffic patterns and flexible space for entertaining and accommodating overnight guests. Most Gen Yers are tech-savvy, wired or wireless, so spaces for flat screens and other AV equipment will be a priority as they assess floor plans and flow and envision frequent social gatherings. And any opportunities for taking the party outside to a deck, patio or balcony will also be on the must-have list. Customizing and putting their own stamp on a home will be appealing and exciting. This generation, empowered and entertained by the home-makeover shows that flooded the airwaves during their youth, is looking forward to finally getting to decorate their own space…their way.

Part of being true to oneself for Gen Y equates to personal and social responsibility. They advocate for RE: reduce, reuse, recycle. For this group, a neighborhood of older homes or a fixer-upper may not only be tied to a way to get into the housing market for less but may also underscore their appreciation of the charm of a home with history. By not buying into a new cookie-cutter neighborhood, they may also feel that they are living their creed to recycle and reuse. Communities that make environmental efforts easier with curbside recycling or recycling centers nearby are attractive to this generation.

While the recession has hit Gen Y just as hard as other age groups, most of the younger set is poised to take advantage of falling home prices with the added benefit of not having to sell a home in order to buy. But you may have to adjust your tactics a bit in order to resonate with Gen Y. They are savvy and confident about everything from negotiating a fair purchase price to home decorating.

The upside of Gen Y? They may think that 70’s-style home with shag carpet and a sunken living room is retro and very cool!

Melissa Birdsong is vice president for Trend, Design & Brand, Lowe’s Companies, Inc.

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