Moving survey shows Millennials in transition

I’ve been keeping an eye on the moving patterns of Millennials, specifically as it relates to cities, and it makes me curious.

You may hear sometimes that Millennials are big city dwellers, always wanting to be near action and nightlife. You’ll then see that Millennial villages are proposed or developed; these behemoth complex attempt to rope young people into housing while giving them “modern conveniences” and a hip place to hang.

But, like most things developed in modern-day America, those behind the work are well behind the curve.

For one these Millennial villages, while pie in the sky, don’t get to the truth behind the generation, namely, that many are looking for affordable options that allow for accessibility to people, places and things. Over-developed villages tend to become very insular and, often, the price points are still higher than a one-bedroom apartment in an under-developed neighborhood (often the location of choice for 20-something Millennials).

Anyway, the developers also don’t understand that while there’s still a cohort of Millennials between age 15 and 25 (Late Millennials), the Early Millennials (age 26-34) are settling into family life. So they’re moving to more affordable domains, looking for larger spaces (houses) and seeking community, good education and safety.

Mayflower’s recent survey about 2015 moving trends says that 57 percent of Millennials “desire to live in a big city or an inner suburb near the city.” That doesn’t necessarily mean Millennials want to be in cities still. It means the idea of a city commute, or the opportunity to still be around a larger community, is desirable.

Note the “inner suburb near the city” piece. Inner suburbs near cities are still suburbs, whether they’re city neighborhoods 45 minutes from the city center (plentiful in Philadelphia and New York City) or incorporated towns with city feel 45 minutes from the city center (think Chicago, Los Angeles). Either way this is a very gray control – it doesn’t tell you what kind of city Millennials prefer, how far away from a city center Millennials would rather be, etc.

To be fair they surveyed Millennials on “distant suburbs” and “medium-sized towns.” The survey found 14 percent of Millennials currently live in medium-sized towns and distant suburbs.

I’ve reported on the Millennial shift to the smaller city and, moreover, the new shift to the suburbs of all cities. So I don’t expect medium-sized towns and distant suburbs to grow Millennial numbers. These are slightly too rural for the generation; as Mayflower shows, Millennials do like the idea of being close enough to cities. Expect big city suburbs and small cities to be the major population centers for Millennials over the next several years.

The Mayflower survey also notes Millennials move for new experiences (48 percent) and love (46 percent), and when they move, they seek good restaurants (56 percent) far more than child-friendly activities (23 percent).

The love note is throwaway – people move for partners and spouses all the time. But the restaurant note sheds light on the fact that Millennials are seeking more authentic and local food choices. Doesn’t mean they won’t move to suburbs though – restaurateurs have made good money selling “good looking” food at “good looking” “local” “artisan” places off the highway.

As for 23 percent looking for kid-friendly stuff? Expect that number to grow substantially over the next several years.

Mayflower’s findings show Millennials at a transition point. They’re ready to grow families and make their next move, but many more are still living a 20-something life in an urban center. Part of this is the problem with the Millennial generation – it’s too large, basically encompassing two separate cohorts (Early Millennials, Late Millennials).

Still, the generation is about to shift tremendously. Give it three years and you’ll see a generation much more focused in the suburbs and small cities of America, worrying about child-friendly activities a lot more, but still wanting “artisan” food, drink and experiences.