Millennial parents Brett Walmsley and Susana Navarro enjoy the lifestyle at Barcelona Irvine Spectrum.

The new homebuying generation

by TOM BERG

Millennials are making big moves, literally.

According to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the nation’s largest generation by population is now also its biggest group of homebuyers.

Last year, nearly 40% of homebuyers were millennials, defined by the Census Bureau as those born between 1981 and 2000. Nearly 50% of the generation are now homeowners, up about 20% from three years ago. And of those who don’t currently own, about 80% plan to purchase a home.

And Irvine, where the average age is 34, is high on their list.

“Millennials are starting families and want the lifestyle offered by Irvine,” says Mikaela Sharp, director of the Irvine-based New Home Trends Institute. “This was happening before the pandemic but continued this past year.”

Healthy motivators

For the millennial buyer, market motivators tend to focus on health and wellness, Sharp says. For the first time in her institute’s survey of master plan developers, “health and wellness” ranked second, just behind “family-friendly.”

“Nearly 85% of millennial buyers are prioritizing health and wellness more than they were a year ago.” – Mikaela Sharp, director of New Home Trends Institute

“Nearly 85% of millennial buyers are prioritizing health and wellness more than they were a year ago,” she says. “That’s significantly higher than other generations. Irvine’s access to the trails and open space is attracting millennials because it offers the healthy lifestyle they want.”

She also cites Irvine’s “surban” culture as a key motivator. And yes, you read that right – surban.

It’s a term Sharp and her team coined to define a balance of urban, big-city qualities, such as walkability and entertainment, and suburban lifestyle.

Irvine fits the bill.

“These buyers enjoy walking to a restaurant or entertainment, like Irvine Spectrum,” she says.” But they want the parks, the great schools and safety for their growing family. Everything in Irvine provides that proximity to culture, but in beautiful neighborhoods with parks sprinkled throughout.”

A rising tide

Millennials’ emergence as a homebuying powerhouse also bodes well for Irvine’s economy, says Greater Irvine Chamber President and CEO Bryan Starr.

“Many cities are paying to attract younger generations,” he says.

A report from The Wall Street Journal found that cities with over 500,000 residents were losing an average of 27,000 millennials per year. Governing magazine reports that some cities are using free housing to attract millennials.

But not Irvine.

“Our average age is 34 – the middle of the millennial generation. They’re staying here because there are jobs, and it’s where they want to raise a family,” Starr says. “They’re attracted to what the Irvine Master Plan offers: healthy environments, parks, schools and public safety.”

That, according to Starr, drives a positive economic cycle.

“We’ve attracted employers from Europe and around the world because they want to tap into our well-educated millennial talent,” he says. “That creates jobs, keeps our shopping centers vibrant and drives home values for all Irvine homeowners.”