At a conference recently, I heard an economist give a presentation on the remodeling market. He was witty and likable, making jokes about Baby Boomers, Millennials, and other aspects of popular culture. Most of the audience laughed, myself included, but then I started to think about the message behind his humor.
I was born at the very end of the Boomer generation, so I’m just old enough to remember the late ‘60s and how everyone over 30 constantly made jokes about hippies and free love. I can also recall the reactions from the young people who were the butts of those jokes, people like my babysitter and her boyfriend who would roll their eyes contemptuously at Johnny Carson as he launched into yet another televised comedic monologue mocking their values.
The cohort that followed just behind the Baby Boomers—Gen X—were never teased the same way, maybe because other than MTV and a certain world-weary cynicism, there was nothing especially remarkable about them.
But then came the Millennials.
Millennials now make up more than a third of home buyers nationwide. And while they aren’t spending as much on renovations as their Boomer counterparts, they are twice as likely to complete bathroom and kitchen projects.
We are a nation obsessed with people born between 1981-1996. Part of this is because of their sheer numbers—the Millennial generation overtook Baby Boomers this year as the largest adult population segment in the United States. And part of it is the fact that, as a group, Millennials have a strong, utterly singular flavor that makes them easy to identify as well as interesting to study.
In the remodeling industry, the vast majority of company owners are Boomers or Gen-Xers. Over the years, I’ve sat through countless presentations from industry speakers attempting to explain the Millennial mindset to an older audience. Often, there’s many jokes about this generation living in parents’ basements with their avocado toast and participation trophies. But while humor is absolutely fine, in this case I’ve seen it contribute to a subtle, but pernicious, lack of respect that older generations have for this younger one. And while that attitude may not be a problem if you’re retired, it can easily become an issue if you’re trying to sell a remodel to a Millennial homeowner.
Millennials now make up more than a third of home buyers nationwide. And while they aren’t spending as much on renovations as their Boomer counterparts, they are twice as likely to complete bathroom and kitchen projects, according to research from HomeAdvisor.
Every generation is unhappy with the subsequent one—here is a quote from a 13th century scholar: “The young people of today think of nothing but themselves ... and what passes for wisdom to us is foolishness with them.”
So instead of viewing Millennials through the lens of clichés, or studying the entire group as if all 73 million of them were the same, try learning to appreciate the nuances that make this unique generation stand out.