Monday, July 11, 2011

Gen Y - Good neighbors but crazy home renovators

You see a lot written about how Gen Y doesn't buy into homeownership. But I have observed something very interesting going on in my neighborhood - after five or so years of Boomers moving out and Xers moving in, we now appear to be in a new phase - Gen Y is moving in.

I have Gen Y neighbors on both sides of me - and two more families moved in down the street - and another one around the corner. We still are mostly Xers along the lane at this point (and a few Boomer hold outs) - but the Gen Y influx is fascinating.

I'm not surprised they're moving into my neighborhood, because it's a totally awesome place to live. It's next to the elementary school, walking distance to the grocery store and a couple restaurants, easy access to the highway, and lots of kids running around. What's fascinating me is how much these youngsters (granted most of them are less than 10 years younger than me - but I digress) are working on their houses.

They guy next door is putting in a hot tub (not hiring someone to put it in, but putting it in.) The guy down the street is roofing his house - we wave to him up there everytime we walk by. The guy next to him is redoing his landscaping. All three of them are probably out there working right now.

A few years ago, the Xers in the neighborhood (myself included) did a lot of remodeling, etc., but it did not seem like we put in the actual labor hours. We delegated (thanks Ken-Do).

I don't know if there's something there or not. I'm sure part of all this home improvement is Gen Y's desire for customization. But maybe we have a new generation of Tim "The Toolman" Taylors on our hands. What do you think?


KateNonymous said...

People act like home ownership is generational. It's actually based on life stage, and that's not always even age-based, much less generation-based.

GenXpert said...

Great point Kate! I mostly was intrigued by these guys out in the yards and on their roofs doing this stuff. All of them like to tease my Gen X husband (basically call him a slacker - where have we heard that before Xers?), because we always hire someone to do whatever.

But you are right. All of them are late 20s/early 30s which is when a lot of people get into having a nice place to crash.

Anonymous said...

I'm and Xer and when I bought my first home about 8 years go, we did much of the fix-up work ourselves, except for the new roof and replacement windows, and of course later the cabinets and flooring. I guess now that I think about it we really just did the painting and outdoor landscaping.

Alyson said...

Interesting. Most of my neighbors are still young boomers or X'ers with young kids (like me). But our next door neighbors are Y'ers, and just had their fence replaced and backyard redone by the same company we had used! Unlike us, though, they do wash their own cars. (in our defense, we live in TX, and are currently experiencing over 20days in a row of 100+degree heat. At least that is our excuse!)

Kathy said...

I think it just depends on how handy a person is when it comes to home repairs, etc. As Red Green says, "If the women don't find ya handsome, they should find ya handy."

Anyway - I'm married to a very handy guy, whose dad is also very handy - and so is my own dad. So we (translation: husband) does a lot of home fix-its himself. Bigger jobs, like roofing (because we're both getting to be decrepit Xers) will be hired out. But smaller things - we do ourselves.

In my old neighborhood, we had Xer neighbors who hired out just about everything short of dishwashing because the hubby just didn't know one end of a hammer from the other, and the wifey wasn't interested in doing any home repair/etc. herself.

I don't think it matters what generation it is buying homes - I'm just happy to see that the homes are being maintained and updated :-)

KateNonymous said...

I should have added that we do most of our work ourselves. Mr. Nonymous is handy, and we're cheap.

We are one of the few families on our street who do not have a gardener (well, a guy with a pickup and a lawnmower--it's not like they're building a little Butchart Gardens everywhere else). Mr. Nonymous and I painted all of the interior walls when we moved in. He re-roofed the storage room behind the garage and designed and installed a grey-water system made using reclaimed materials. I cleaned and painted the fence and the exterior trim.

I think the only thing we've hired someone to do was to refinish the floors before we moved in. Oh, and I had a cleaning service for a few visits before and after BabyNonymous was born, but sadly that time has long since passed.

In the end, though, I agree with Kathy. I'm much more interested in seeing other houses maintained, than I am in how that comes to pass!

Anonymous said...

I was born in 1980, so, depending upon how you look at it, I'm either in "Gen Y" or the tippy, tail-end of "Gen X". What that means is that I have lots of generational contact with X - I looked-up to them from adolescence - yet, I also witnessed differences in the generation coming-up behind them.

Over the past decade and a half, a major interior design cult has emerged from the infusion of new technologies, influencing how, both, "spend-spend-spend" Boomers and hopeful Gen Yrs, have approached home design and rennovation. "Polish" and "presentation" has met idealism and you have young people watching design shows, thinking "I can have that, too, with a little 'elbow grease'!" For Boomers, in their youth, home was the ultimate symbol of the level of your "success" - how many and what size and kind of home(s) you had, defined your social status.

What sets X apart, I think, is the difference in levels of creativity and individuality and decorating a house so that it feels personal - like home - as opposed to a cultural/fad-ish ideal. The Gen X homeowners I know are very handy, but they tend to have interesting homes over "perfect", perpetually "new" ones. Their homes have character and even if they are well-maintained, they veer from perfection towards "personality". Gen Yrs need to re-build things from scratch - "if a porch is sagging, then pull the whole thing off, buy new wood and re-build it again." Xrs tend to only re-build what needs re-building and salvage what's saveable, i.e.: "So, the older wood is weathered differently than the newer stuff - so, what? Paint it, then. So, you bought an old Victorian? Work with that design and insulate better. Tan and red are "in"? What if I want a purple room?" In my opinion, there's more sureness in expression of individuality in Xrs, even if it's not a conscious one. They do what they want, fads be damned. Which, ironically, is an attitude that tends to make them "trendsetters".

Gen Y is very eco-conscious in spirit and will tend to buy "green" products over non green ones. Boomers embrace the feeling of social unity and prestige that comes with buying eco-luxe products. But I find X really put their money and habits where their mouths are, when it comes to the motto: "Reduce, reuse, recycle". They consume precisely what they want; as a consumer group they are not obsessed with "brand new", albeit some technologies. I can't tell you how many times I've seen things like re-painted chairs and tables in my Xr friends' homes, whereas, Y would've gone down to IKEA or Target and bought a new set once they were sick of the old one. It would, of course, be an eco-friendly, ethical bamboo wood set, however ;)...

reneemitson said...

i totally think you are onto something. as a gen y i find that my first instinct is to customize everything. buy an ugly table? refinish it. i think people from my generation are less likely to hire painters than gen x's for their indoor rooms. but i also think it comes from the scrappy parenting of my baby boomer parents. who probably learned their can-do-it-ness from their gen w parents who lived during the great depression. food for thought.