Millennials start settling down, but (as always) it’s on their own terms

BY D. LARS DOLDER, News + Record Staff
Posted 5/27/21

A nationwide survey of about 7,000 Americans, mostly millennials, suggests that pandemic living has done more than change our living habits — it’s changed where we want to live.

“For many …

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Millennials start settling down, but (as always) it’s on their own terms

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A nationwide survey of about 7,000 Americans, mostly millennials, suggests that pandemic living has done more than change our living habits — it’s changed where we want to live.

“For many core millennial segments, the pandemic has turned everything upside down,” Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki, a marketing expert and founder of the California marketing firm tst ink, told me. “The millennial generation as a demographic has delayed homeownership by about 10 years from preceding generations and there are a million reasons we can all talk about as to why. But they’re buying houses now and we’re seeing a sea change.”

Millennials have long been partial to rental properties. At the age when their parents and grandparents settled down and started families, millennials elected to travel the world, to restart careers, to pursue lifelong dreams. But now, after a year in confinement, they’re ready to buy, and housing demand has exploded. Millions of new, young buyers are flooding the market all at once.

“And so what you are seeing in the real estate market right now,” Slavik-Tsuyuki said, “is there’s no supply in any market in the country. You put a house on the market, and you get five cash offers in the first five hours — over asking price.”

The housing boom provoked a ripple effect across several industries. In the last year, many basic commodities, including lumber, have more than quadrupled in market value as builders scuffled over waning supplies (see my column from three weeks ago). But the feeding frenzy hasn’t slowed. Millennials want houses, and they want them now.

They don’t want houses designed for older generations, though.

“Millennials have always made their own way, and they’re continuing to do that now as more of them enter the housing market,” said Alaina Money-Garman, CEO and co-founder of Cary-based Garman Homes. “They don’t want the same things as their parents did.”

To identify what millennials want, Money-Garman and Slavik-Tsuyuki collaborated to design and build a concept home that reflects the shift in buyer values. From a two-part survey of nearly 7,000 people called The America at Home Study, Slavik-Tsuyuki found that millennials are less concerned with total living space, and more interested in functionality. They want open spaces that can be segmented when necessary to isolate office space or home-schooling rooms. They can do without the formal dining areas that were indispensable to their parents’ and grandparents’ idea of hospitality. With everything, aesthetic must be tempered by utilitarianism.

Money-Garman has using those findings to build a concept home in Chatham Park — the first purpose-built house for the millennial buyer. The house is 2,600 square feet, two stories high, with four bedrooms and three and a half baths on a 45-foot alley-loaded lot.

I toured the house with Money-Garman and, as a millennial, I dare say I was impressed. The house features an open design, with movable partitions to adjust room configurations as needed. The layout dispenses with any child-specific fixtures (I don’t need a Jack-and-Jill bathroom with a counter two feet off the ground) but includes sensible designs to serve residents of all ages. And for those times when you just want to get away without actually leaving the house? The master bedroom includes a breakaway bookcase that hides a secret chamber. How cool is that?

“If you want to do home building right these days, you have to do this as much as possible,” Money-Garman said of the builder-researcher partnership. “People want to know you’ve considered what’s important to them.”

Traditionally, the country’s largest residential developers have operated in the other direction. They design homes according to what best suits the company’s needs — usually a one-size-fits-all model — and then tell buyers why its their best bet.

But millennials have rebelled against what they perceive as corporate manipulation.

“I think there are some homebuilding companies that still look at their business as if they’re a manufacturer of boxes,” Slavik-Tsuyuki said. “They build houses according to a certain plan they’ve had for the last 20 years. Maybe they make one or two changes, maybe they rename the plan, but they’re less focused on the human and how people live.”

There will always be a place for such builders, Slavik-Tsuyuki added, but their stronghold atop the housing market is crumbling. Even if they can’t afford a truly custom-built house, millennial buyers want personal interest. They want to see builder’s such as Money-Garman take time to evaluate their wants.

“It’s incumbent upon us as market experts and builders to stay on the pulse of each generation, how they view housing,” Money-Garman said, “and then build houses that are a direct interpretation of their wants. We have to concentrate on specific groups of people versus trying to make something for everyone.”

To see the concept home, visit 28 Edgefield St. in Pittsboro at the intersection of Vine Parkway and Edgefield. Construction is ongoing, but Money-Garman plans to unveil the final product sometime in June.

Gov. Cooper issues executive order to help North Carolinians return to work

Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order last week to encourage and assist unemployment beneficiaries to rejoin the work force.

Early in pandemic, Cooper waived work search requirements for North Carolinians seeking unemployment assistance when many businesses were forced to close under the mandated statewide lockdown. Under Executive Order 216, though, all existing unemployment benefits claimants will be required to fulfill work search criteria starting June 6. New claimants have been required to perform work search requirements since March 14.

“Unemployment benefits have provided a critical lifeline for many North Carolinians living on the edge due to the pandemic,” Cooper said in a press release. “As our state emerges from the pandemic, we want to help people safely return to work as soon as possible. Reinstating the work search guidelines will help connect claimants with employers, resources and tools to help them return to the workforce.”

The order also directs the N.C. Dept. of Commerce to explore opportunities, consistent with federal law and through the use of certain federal funds, to establish a reemployment incentive program for jobless workers who find and maintain employment.

Work search requirements benefits claimants include the following:

• Anyone receiving unemployment payments must document contact with at least three different employers each week. One of the three weekly job contacts can be satisfied by attending an approved reemployment activity offered by a NCWorks Career Center or a partnering agency.

• Unemployment claimants will be required to register on NCWorks.gov, North Carolina’s online portal for employment and training services. Job seekers can use the site to search and apply for jobs, access labor market information and find opportunities for workforce training.

Since the start of the pandemic, North Carolina has distributed more than $11.7 billion in unemployment benefits across multiple state and federal programs. Approximately 245,000 North Carolinians are currently receiving benefit payments each week.

For work search assistance in North Carolina, job seekers can contact NCWorks at NCWorks.gov or 1-855-NCWorks. Information about unemployment benefits can be found at des.nc.gov.

Other business news

• PolarOnyx, a California-based advanced laser 3D manufacturing company, has relocated to Chatham County from Silicon Valley.

The company will inhabit the 142,000-square-foot former Performance Bicycle building off U.S. Hwy. 15-501 in Chapel Hill.

“This move will create many new jobs in North Carolina,” company Director Shuang Bai said in a press release, “and enable PolarOnyx to expand the emerging 3D printing business.”

Founded in 2002, PolarOnyx designs, develops and manufactures products for the medical industry and defense and aerospace markets.

“We’re delighted to welcome PolarOnyx to Chatham County, and grateful for the work of the EDC and related agencies in attracting more high-quality jobs to our area,” said Mike Dasher, chairperson of the Chatham County board of commissioners, in a release.

The Economic Development Corporation, under new leadership from former Sanford Economic Developer Michael Smith, has been instrumental in the county’s efforts to promote Chatham as one of the nation’s top locations for aspiring and established businesses alike.

“We are very excited for the arrival of PolarOnyx,” Greg Lewis, chairman of the EDC’s board of directors, said in a release. “Their purchase of an existing building is immediate proof of their investment in our community. Their presence in Chatham County will create new jobs and opportunities for our residents and confirms that Chatham County is a great location for business.” The EDC worked with a number of key allies to bring this new company to the area.

Besides the EDC, Chatham County staff and Central Carolina Community College collaborated on the effort to secure PolarOnyx’s relocation to Chatham.

“The announcement of new jobs and investment in Chatham County by PolarOnyx is great news for our citizens,” Smith said in a release. “These advanced laser 3D manufacturing jobs from a Silicon Valley company moving to the Triangle is another example of our strong workforce and quality of life attractions.”

PolarOnyx is actively hiring at its new location. Jobs include production technicians, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, mechatronics engineers, laser processing engineers and software engineers. For more employment information, visit http://www.polaronyx.com/employment.php.

• Siler City was one of seven N.C. locations selected earlier this month by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to receive Brownfields grants totaling $2,800,000. Siler City is slated to receive $300,000.

The money is to be used for environmental site assessments and to develop three cleanup plans. Funds may also be used to support community outreach activities.

Assessments will focus on the 11th Street Corridor and the 2nd Avenue Corridor. Priority sites include a 2.3-acre former auto dealership, and a cluster of four adjacent vacant parcels that previously housed a restaurant, dry cleaner, car wash and propane dealer.

The funding is part of a larger effort to support underserved and economically disadvantaged communities across the country in assessing and cleaning up contaminated and abandoned industrial and commercial properties.

Have an idea for what Chatham business topics I should write about? Send me a note at dldolder@chathamnr.com or on Twitter @dldolder.

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