How Millennials Are Impacting Real Estate

Millennials are the generation born between 1980 and 2000 and, with 92 million among its ranks, it is the largest generational group in the country, even bigger than the Baby Boomers.

Having grown up during a period of rapid change, Millennials have a unique set of priorities and expectations that differ greatly from prior generations. This has impacted everything from their ideas about spending, home ownership, marriage, and starting a  family.

The buying habits of Millennials have forced change among residential developers, including those in San Francisco.

The NEMA apartment tower at 10th and Market is located near Muni, BART, lightrail and the planned Van Ness Rapid Transit station. The developers created the complex, which opened in 2013, with the belief that its occupants would own cars. But most of the 550 underground parking spaces are being used for anything but. Instead, they are being rented or used for extra storage because Millennials typically choose to forego car ownerships and instead use publish transit or car sharing options.

States San Francisco’s planning director, John Rahaim, "They’re using it for all sorts of things, because they don’t have the demand for parking.” He also says that only a few years ago, building large residential developments that do not offer parking would have been "unthinkable."

This goes to show just how significant a role this generation plays in real estate, and the economy as a whole.

Many Millennials are hesitant to purchase homes, luxury goods, automobiles, and even music. Instead, they choose to bypass the burden of ownership by using services that offer access to products in what is being called the "sharing economy."


The parking policy in San Francisco requires no spaces downtown, maximums ranging from 0.25 space per unit in Market and Octavia area (up to 0.5 with special permit) to one space per unit in Transbay. Parking minimums of one space per unit in some outer neighborhoods.

According to a recent San Francisco Business Times article, there’s a financial incentive for developers to build less parking. Each space costs tens of thousands of dollars to build – in some cases over $60,000 if it’s underground – and eats into real estate that could be more profitable housing units. Residents and advocacy groups have also pushed for less parking. They say it helps the environment and reflects a reality where walkable neighborhoods and ride-hailing apps have made car ownership optional. Self-driving cars could make parking more obsolete.

Car ownership in the city is on the decline, with many residents using mass transit, ride sharing or using new bike sharing options like the Ford GoBike.  The SF Business Times article goes on to say that developers of large San Francisco rental buildings say on average that a third of residents own cars, he added. Thirty percent of city households don’t own cars, the highest percentage in the Bay Area, according to 2013 Census estimates.