I was recently contributing to whitepaper by a major bank about the future of the property industry and, as I was writing, something struck me; just as our industry has adapted to the demands that the Millennials brought to market, it’s about to experience yet more change thanks to the arrival of Generation Z.
Just as we’ve come to understand it all, everything, from the tenancy deposit to contract lengths and working habits, is about to be disrupted all over again.
This is not a new phenomenon; property professionals from all generations have had to deal with some kind of shifting marketplace. As I go about my daily work, meeting people and listening to what they have to say, it is clear that most of us are aware that Generation Z are coming, but are we ready?
Transient Lifestyle 2.0
If the Millennials popularised the nomadic lifestyle, Generation Z will perfect it.
In the search for personal freedom, Gen Z will further reject traditional career paths. As a result, the lines between work, play and life will grow increasingly blurred.
For the property industry, this will likely result in a huge demand for short term lettings; and a kick against the standard 6 or 12 month tenancy contracts. Perhaps we’ll see businesses such as Airbnb make a conscious pivot to face the residential market, away from purely holiday lettings.
There is a good chance that the traditional buy-to-let market will suffer with Gen Z’s arrival, more so than it has with Millennials. If we’re not prepared ahead of time, we’re destined for an uphill struggle to adapt.
A generation of cynics
It might sound derogatory, but I assure you, it’s not. Generation Z will be the most cynical yet. By this I mean that they are intelligent, clued up and more aware than ever that , for example, salesmen often say whatever they need to secure a sale.
This cynicism will manifest itself in a demand for truth backed up with fact. Statistics and data will be one of the most trusted sources, second only to the recommendation of a friend or loved one.
Such cynicism means that business will have to work harder to crack their shell. Any attempt to manipulate through clever jargon, rhetoric of massaged data will, very quickly, be identified, highlighted and placed in the metaphorical stocks to be battered with digital tomatoes.
Savvy; like never before
There is no question that Millennials are pretty savvy; clued up to the world’s events and aware of the tricks and techniques that big business uses to stay alive. Generation Z, though, will take this to a whole new level.
Information is becoming increasingly freely available, not least when it aides the intelligent spending of hard earned money.
Generation Z will be the ‘best deal possible’ generation and will insist on getting this ‘best deal’ on everything they purchase.
In property, this means that there will be less room for additional admin fees and excessive security deposits. Tenancy contracts will be placed under far more scrutiny by potential tenants and agents will find themselves being challenged on the things they say more than ever.
And because the internet is the world’s message board, everything a business does will be recorded online by the customers. Think TripAdvisor 2.0; bad customer service simply won’t be an option because you can’t afford the negative, sprawling publicity.
Bespoke and original
This might be the most impactful of them all because it’s going to require considerable time, money and effort to implement.
Generation Z will be a people who insist on tailored, bespoke retail and business experiences.
Homogeneity will be a staple of the stuffy and out of touch; companies who offer homogenous services or products will be considered the same.
For the world of property, this will have particular impact on the house buying process. Consumers are going to expect that each step of the journey is designed specifically for them; or at least feels that way. Why? Because if the service they receive feels like a repeated pattern of phrases and actions, they’re going to get the sense that the agent is not interested in finding them their property, because they just want to sell any property.
As the Millennials move into their 30s and their control over the social zeitgeist wavers, Generation Z will become the driving force behind how the world works. In my opinion, this is only a couple of years away. Before then, property needs to learn from it’s slow adoption of the Millennial mindset and prepare themselves ahead of time. Otherwise, there’s a good chance that this time, traditional property won’t be given the luxury of time. Generation Z are set to be ruthless in their efficiency; are we ready to keep up?