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Households headed by women have increased in market importance substantially over the last fifty years. Since 1950 the number of female head of households has increased fourfold, and by 2010 the number of female-headed households will be well above 31 million. Historically, many of these female heads of household have been divorced or widowed, and have not been in prime positions to drive major purchasing decisions (such as home-buying). However, recent RCLCO research[why?] into the real estate decisions of Generation Y – those born between 1977 and 1996 – reveals a large proportion of single Gen Y women, who as a group are beginning to outpace their male counterparts with respect to earning and purchasing power, making the decision to purchase their homes by themselves in advance of marriage or children. These Women with Incomes and No Kids (WINKs) may represent 70% of all women aged 20–28 today, and may represent 34% of all Gen Y by 2015. This represents a marked departure from the historical patterns of home-purchasing and could potentially have a large impact on how the industry thinks about its customer base.
RCLCO’s national consumer research into Gen X and Gen Y households uncovered a significant segment of young female-headed households with a very strong preference for living in urban or urban-lite settings. (The latter describes areas that provide walkable environs but which may not be located in a city.) The bulk of this preference emanates from women ranging in age from 26 to 29; while this group includes both renters and owners, this ‘older’ group is just the tip of the iceberg known as Gen Y and renters in this subset do plan on purchasing a home in the next two to three years. These women are highly educated, hold professional jobs, and over half have incomes of over $50,000 per year.
According to our data, 87% of this group greatly prefers urban areas as well as areas termed “urban-lite”. The reasons for their decisions are manifold, but suffice to say that convenience is key. Approximately 95% indicate that they would prefer an urban or “urban-lite” environ in order to be in very close proximity to their jobs - and over 92% desire the ability to walk from home to work. These women are career-minded. Approximately 60% of these women choose between urban locations based on job availability. 58% will move to another urban area for their job and 65% would even settle in a less than ideal home if they could walk to work.
That being said, work isn’t the only factor. These women want to be able to walk to dining, entertainment and of course, shopping – these women have a strong desire to be in a location where walking is always an option. In fact, 60% find it a 'vital’ component of where they choose to live and would be willing to pay a premium for what is now considered a luxury.
These motivations can be tapped into by developers not just by location, but also by choices in amenity packages as well as attention to detail in the homes. One interest of WINKs that resonates overwhelmingly is the need to be physically active – working out and other recreational pursuits are very important to this group. Potentially, there are ways to cater to this demand, which may exhibit preferences for bigger and better fitness centers, access to running and biking trails or softer programming with creation of community running groups, yoga instruction, or hiking excursions. Many easy changes can be made to current developments (i.e. expanding the soft programming of amenity packages) while some will require a full overhaul of product programs and marketing messages. Developers that take note of this group’s strength today may do well in years to come – according to RCLCO analysis, this group is not going away but instead increasing in their presence and could make up 30% of tomorrow’s Gen Y home-purchasing market.