Home Sweet Millennial Home
They’re on their way. Research shows the nation’s Millennials – born 1981 to 1997 – will play a big role in Colorado Springs’ future. Impressed by the city’s professional growth opportunities, small town feel, low cost of living, safety, low traffic congestion and easy access to great outdoor recreation, their numbers already comprise more than a quarter of the Pikes Peak region’s population – and are expected to rise.
Great, you say. These aspiring, tech-immersed folks will start companies, fill community work spaces and meet-up at trendy brew pubs and coffee bars. Some will earn advanced degrees and promotions. They’ll help build a more vibrant cultural and economic community... but where will they live?
As a generation, Millennials defy “one size fits all” stereotypes. They usually prefer urban centers over suburbs. Economics, however, determine where and how they’ll live. The cost of renting or buying a first home – even in the affordable Pikes Peak region -- is out of the question for many 20-somethings. Twenty-five percent will live with family early on. Others share apartments to cover rent.
Colorado Springs real estate broker Tim Sheridan tells of colleagues whose centrally located rentals attract young clients. “What they love is our great access to the mountains, hiking and biking. They’re social and like proximity to downtown, Ivywild and Lincoln Center in the Old North End.”
In contrast, older Millennials are usually higher earners. They’ve benefited from the Pikes Peak region’s good-paying jobs in cyber-technology, healthcare and software engineering. Over time, their housing preferences shift. Cramped singles’ quarters give way to nicer, larger apartments and lofts. Some get married and start families. “That’s when they usually decide to buy a home,” Sheridan says. Fortunately the Pikes Peak region home builders and developers have ramped up to accommodate this wide-ranging generation.
Unlike large metropolitan markets, it’s still possible to find a starter home in an older Colorado Springs’ neighborhood in the $200,000s -- or an affordable one- bedroom apartment for under $1000 per month. Comparable units in Denver or in many East and West Coast cities command $1600 to $3,600-plus per month – and average home prices range from $500,000 to $1 million or more. In pricey tech areas, stories abound of 30 young people sharing an upscale 10-bedroom San Francisco home where bunkbed rentals start at $650/month – or new Google hires living in vans or trucks. Young entrepreneurs sleep on office floors, build tiny homes or become “boom-mates,” renting a room in the home of an older adult.
Here in the Pikes Peak region, Millennials will find new communities already emerging to meet their requirements. These range from apartments near booming Interquest and Flying Horse developments on the city’s north side to exquisitely appointed urban-chic units in the city’s core and more.
Two new downtown apartment communities will soon join the district’s vibrant landscape. Developers at Nor’Wood estimate 40 percent of residents at 333 ECO (opening mid-summer) and The Cascades (at Rio Grande and South Cascade) will be Millennials. The former will offer rents from $900- to- $1,000, says Nor’Wood President Chris Jenkins while The Cascades are “a little more upscale.” Features will include “top-of-class” elements, from bike lockers, pet wash station, a salt water pool and concierge to regular tenant events, classes and communal gathering spaces. Both will enjoy easy access to restaurants, art galleries, bars, pub, entertainment, co-working spaces like The Quad and more.
Some young buyers will qualify for entry-level single family homes, patio homes and townhomes, starting from the mid-$200s. From enclaves and infill communities to new home construction in east and west side neighborhoods, builders like St. Aubyn Homes, Aspenview, Oakwood, Challenger and Richmond Homes are preparing for a generational influx. Richmond’s Paint Brush Hills, Challenger’s Courtyards at Woodmen Hills – or Oakwood Homes’ Banning Lewis Ranch Carriage House Collection, for example, target first-time buyers. And demand is definitely there, says Quantum Residential Group Principal and Managing Partner Creed Spillane. “Seventy-five percent of sales at our new Yorkshire Townhome community off North Academy and 25 percent of the Canyon Creek Townhomes near Ivywild have so far sold to Millennial buyers,” he says.
Thirty-one-year old Georgetown Mortgage Branch Manager Brandon Grant says Millennials account for about half his business. Most college grads now carry $20,000 to $30,000 in college debt, he explains, compared to $150,000 five years ago, and mortgage rates remain low. He recommends prospective buyers work with a Realtor and a lender who understands first-time loan and down-payment assistance programs. Grant estimates it takes $100,000 in annual income to afford a $400,000 house --and today’s supply of affordable homes is tight. “Inventories are on the rise,” he adds. “My advice: “Be patient and don’t give up.”
Sheridan agrees. “My son is almost a Millennial,” says Sheridan. “I don’t know if he’ll stay here, but this is – and will be -- a great place to live.”