Nearly 40% of millennials are comfortable buying a house online

Tech-savvy millennials are not only driving the Zillow surfing trend, they could change the way we shop for and buy homes. A new Zillow survey1 finds the largest generation of first-time home buyers overwhelmingly want digital tools available during the home shopping process, and many are comfortable purchasing their biggest financial asset online.

Nearly 40% of millennials (39%) said they would be comfortable buying a home online, and significantly more (59%) said they would be at least somewhat comfortable making an offer on a home after viewing a virtual tour but not touring it in person.

It’s not only homes. Zillow research finds millennials are more likely than other generations to say they would be comfortable making many of life’s major purchases online. A large majority — at least 70% — said they would be comfortable buying furniture, appliances, televisions and jewelry online. Nearly half (45%) would be comfortable purchasing a car online.

Born between 1981 and 1996, this generation reached adulthood in the digital age, with the ability and expectation that they could make transactions happen with the click of a button; for many, that expectation includes real estate. Millennials are more likely than other generations to say they would like to use tech tools while home shopping. More than 80% of millennials would like to view 3D virtual tours (82%) and digital floor plans (85%), and nearly 80% (78%) would like to use self-tour technology to unlock a vacant for-sale home with their phone and tour it on their own time.

A huge wave of millennials — the largest generational group in the country — is now aging into their home buying years and approaching the typical age of a first-time homebuyer: 34.  Zillow research forecasts there will be 6.4 million more households formed by 2025 as a result of the sheer number of millennials hitting their mid-to-late 30s, driving housing demand for years to come.

“It’s clear that strong demand from the next generation of buyers will keep real estate technology in place long after the pandemic is over,” says Zillow Senior Vice President of Product Matt Daimler. “Digital tools rapidly adopted during the pandemic not only make home shopping safer, they make it faster and easier. Technology like Zillow’s 3D home virtual tours and interactive floor plans are allowing shoppers to teleport themselves from room to room of a for-sale home from their phone or tablet. Many transactions can now close remotely, too, saving time and hassle.”

Time-saving digital tools are allowing millennials, who are often first-time buyers, to compete in a lightning-fast housing market. Homes nationwide are going under contract in a median of 18 days, 28 days faster than a year ago. The pace is even quicker for listings with a Zillow 3D Home tour, which sold, on average, 10% faster, as of May 2020.2 Virtual tours and interactive floor plans help home shoppers make faster decisions by enabling them to winnow down their options from their couch. Homes on Zillow with a 3D Home tour were saved by buyers 32% more than homes without, and got, on average, 29% more views than listings without.3

While millennials are currently the largest adopters of this real estate technology, Gen Z is close behind. More than one in three (36%) zoomers said they would be comfortable buying a home online, compared to 7% of baby boomers and 19% of Gen X. This data signals the coming sea change in how people will likely shop for and buy homes in the not-so-distant post-pandemic future.

The “M Word” in the workplace

Politics, Religion, and Millennials: The 3 most controversial topics in the workplace today.  Go to nearly any office building in the Lehigh Valley, or the U.S., and say the word “Millennial” and you’ll receive polarizing reactions, ranging from subtle eye rolls and sighs to more blatant laughter and name-calling.

Millennials, the common term for the generation born between 1980 and 2000, are often labeled as: Entitled, Lazy, Not motivated or driven, Unable to communicate, Addicted to their phones and social media, Job hoppers, Disloyal.

While much debate exists about how this generation got tagged with these stereotypes, it’s a fact that the workforce is changing rapidly.  Time Magazine reports nearly 10 thousand baby boomers retire each day, and the millennial generation is expected to make up half of the American workforce by 2020.  While the sheer numbers demand attention, this segment of the workforce brings several advantages as they become a larger part of the workforce. These advantages include increased involvement and personal improvement, greater adaptability to change, greater knowledge of technology, and greater innovation and creativity.

Not long ago, the employee held most of the responsibility to adapt to their manager’s style and a company’s culture. Generally speaking, baby boomers’ loyalty was to their company and were glad to have steady jobs after the depression.  Similar to the baby boomers, Gen X focused on their careers and generally didn’t want to risk missing the next rung on their climb up the corporate ladder by changing companies. In the current environment of a low unemployment rate, the responsibility to adapt is becoming increasingly shared between the organization, the manager and millennial employees.  Much like cold calling, you can choose to like it or not. You can also choose to embrace it or not. However, organizations that adapt to this generational shift will be in a better place to retain talent in a tight job market, as well as leverage the strengths of the millennial generation.


What are the keys to engaging this generation in a manner that allows organizations to leverage their strengths?  Studies show the four common characteristics as key factors to leading millennials in the workplace. They are concerned about vision, mission, and company culture than previous generations.  

  1. In today’s economy, with low unemployment, millennials have job opportunities that allow them to choose who they work for.  What this often means is they want an organization whose culture, mission, and vision align with theirs. They don’t view work as the same 9-5 as their parents, and view their role at work just as strongly as their role in the community.
  2. Young workers want a roadmap to success.  This generation has grown up in an environment where the requirements for success have been clearly laid out.  Fifteen years ago you could hand a sales rep an atlas (remember those?), a laptop and an account list and set them loose.  The young workforce wants a clear path to success, with measurable milestones so they can measure success along the way.
  3. Millennials respond to strong leadership.  This also means they respect strong leadership without micro-management.  They engage with leaders who are able to communicate with clarity, give clear boundaries, and who will engage with them to help them improve. 
  4. This group of workers is optimistic, ambitious, and more flexible in learning new skills.  Millennials prefer a clear roadmap and don’t like randomness or chaos. As a result of their ability to adapt to new technologies quickly, they are also the extremely optimistic when faced with change.  They are flexible when learning new skills or overcoming challenges.

What can be done to adapt to this generation, and leverage their strengths as the workforce shifts?  

Leaders can stick their heads in the sand and continue complaining (not recommended), or they can embrace the opportunity:

  • Define company culture so you can clearly tell your story.  This may also present a good opportunity to update your mission, vision, and place in the community.  
  • You can begin working on management (current and future) to ensure they are equipped with the tools to communicate and lead effectively in the future.  

Bottom line: While Millennials may not technically make up 50% of the US workforce until next year, it’s not as if a switch flipped on January 1.  If you’re struggling to recruit, retain and maximize the potential of this group of employees, the challenges will only likely increase as the workforce changes.

Dan Storm is president of Sandler Training by True North Performance Advisors in Bethlehem. He can be reached at 610-509-1869 or [email protected]

Study shows poor health for millennials

Compared to the generation that came before them, millennials are more likely to be depressed, suffer from type 2 diabetes and abuse illicit substances.

That was the conclusion of a report analyzing data collected by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association on the 55 million millennials insured by its members nationwide.

Those members, including Pittsburgh-based Highmark Blue Shield, are sharing the results with millennials in an effort to gather more information on the causes of poor health.

“With millennials on track to become the largest generation in the near future, it’s critical that they’re taking their health maintenance seriously,” said Dr. Vincent Nelson, vice president of medical affairs for the Chicago-based Association for 36 Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurers.

However, the report showed millennials are less likely to have a primary care physician, with 68 percent of millennials having a physician compared to 91 percent of Gen X-ers at a similar age. The data was taken from millennials aged 34 to 36 in 2017 and from Gen Xers at the same age in 2014. Millennials are those born between 1981 and 1996, while Generation X extends from the mid-1960s to 1980.

The Association is holding listening sessions across the country, with Highmark Blue Shield hosting the sessions in Pennsylvania. Independence Blue Cross hosted a session in Philadelphia in April and Highmark hosted a second this week at Highmark’s office in Cumberland County.

Highmark is looking to host more sessions in the coming months but has not announced where those will be.

About 25 millennials of various ages attended the Cumberland County event to talk about their relationship with health care. The attendees had mixed views on a number of topics, including telemedicine, with some millennials liking the ability to confer with a doctor through a video call, while others found it didn’t offer the same results as an in-person meeting.

Attendees also discussed the state of millennial health.

Marknoll Palisoc, 30, suggested that the high prevalence of major depression and substance use disorder could stem from a mix of millennials feeling more comfortable asking for help and of stress due to outside influences like social media.

“People are probably more open nowadays to come forward and seek help from a mental health professional. We actually see them more now, it’s more talked about,” Palisoc said. “We are also in a generation where social media is a huge thing. You have this sense of being criticized all the time so maybe that is causing more stress.”

Most of the attendees agreed they made infrequent visits to their physicians, but they showed interest in online tools that ease the process of shopping for health care.

“I want a good shopping tool for the things that are commodities for health care like labs and imaging,” said Christy Frownfelter, a millennial and director of integrated provider partnerships for Highmark Health.

The findings of the listening sessions and the report are expected to be presented at an event at the end of the year that will focus on how the health system as a whole can tackle the problem.

“We will be convening stakeholders across the health care spectrum to discuss what we learned in these sessions and we will come together to change the trajectory we are seeing,” said Pankti Pathak, a manager of Health of America, the name for a series of reports created by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

The series relies on Blue Cross Blue Shield data to discover trends in health care, one being that millennials appeared to be less healthy than their generational predecessors.

“After seeing this trend from so many of our reports, we decided to take a deeper look into the population and what was going on,” Pathak said.

The report measured the prevalence of different health conditions among millennials and compared them to Gen-Xers. The report featured a list of the top 10 conditions that were most common among millenials.

Millennials had a higher prevalence than Gen-Xers  of the same age on eight of the 10 conditions, including: major depression (18 percent higher); substance-use disorder (12 percent higher); and type 2 diabetes (19 percent). The generations had the same prevalence for alcohol abuse.

In the Harrisburg-Carlisle metropolitan statistical area, a region defined by the U.S. Census as including Harrisburg, Carlisle, Lebanon and Hershey, millennial health was worse across the board.

Millennials in the region had a 44 percent higher  prevalence for major depression compared to their Gen X counterparts. They also had 12 percent higher prevalence for substance use disorders, 18 percent higher for alcohol use disorder and 26 percent higher for type 2 diabetes.

“With the analysis we found what the state of millennial health was,” Pathak said. “With the listening sessions we want to find why this is happening.”

A conversation with Justin Smith of Corporate Environments, a One Point Co.

Justin Smith – Photo/Submitted

Justin Smith, 38, is general manager at Corporate Environments, a One Point Co. He has been with the firm for five years.

Prior to joining Corporate Environments, Smith was a regional sales manager for an architectural building products company in New Jersey where he traveled the country calling on architectural firms, end users and sub-contractors, mostly focused on the health care industry.

He has a degree in economics from Penn State University and in 2012 he became an accredited LEED Green Associate from Green Business Certification Inc., which focuses on green design, construction and operations.
Outside of work he enjoys spending time with his wife and two kids. He also enjoys playing golf and watching Penn State football.

LVB: What have been some of the biggest challenges and opportunities for Corporate Environments, a One Point Co.?

Justin Smith: One of our greatest challenges is finding good talent and keeping them engaged. Millennials are challenging the old business model. They are looking for flexibility at work, to be part of a team and to work for a company that is going to have an impact in the community. We need to make sure that we are designing and creating the right culture for all of us to succeed.

The way people buy is changing and our customers are coming to us further along in the buying process. They have more knowledge about industry trends and about the products they want in their space. But social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram are giving us the opportunity to reach these customers earlier in the buying process. Companies that can successfully reach their customers early on in the process have a greater chance for success.

LVB: How does Corporate Environments, stimulate the local economy? How does it get involved with the local community?

Smith: We have grown to now employ 40 people with a wide range of skills, from accountants, customer support, sales and designers to warehouse managers, project managers and installers. But I think the biggest impact we have is our community involvement.

Corporate Environments has four pillars to our success: people, purpose, play and profit. Part of our purpose is to make sure we are giving back to the communities in which we work and live. In 2011 Corporate Environments started the One Point of Light Committee. This committee is put together by employees and they decide what organizations we will donate our time and/or money to. For example, we just did a “Chair-ity” auction to benefit New Bethany Ministries, which is in Bethlehem and helps many people in need. Architectural and design firms in the area redesigned iconic Herman Miller chairs and we auctioned them off at an event for this great cause.

LVB: If you could change one thing about your industry, what would it be?

Smith: Our industry has been late to adapt to new technology. Our customers’ needs have really changed over the past decade. They need pricing and drawings turned around faster than ever before. They want to be able to visualize what their space will look like, not just see it on a piece of paper. The industry has started to come out with new programs that allow us to do this. We now have access to virtual reality which allows our customers to walk through their space before it is ever built. These are great steps in the right direction, but we need to continue to improve this technology and make it accessible to everyone.

Region’s development shows encouraging patterns

The number of people willing to invest in the Lehigh Valley in any given year has always been a reliable barometer of how the regional economy is doing. Based on the 412 land development plans we reviewed in 2018, we’ve come a long way from the bottom we hit in 2012.

While the continued proliferation of warehouses remains something to be viewed with concern, our recent “BuildLV: 2018 Annual Development Report” reveals some encouraging trends. The move toward apartment living continues and the single-family home – once the hallmark of the region’s residential preferences – has re-emerged.

Residential development, in general, has rebounded since being devastated in the Great Recession just over a decade ago. Last year, 1,438 residential units were approved for development. That’s the second-most since 2008, behind only 2016, when a spike in apartments units drove that number to nearly 1,800.

Digging a little deeper into the numbers shows two factors that speak well for future home development, if our local municipalities manage this growth well. The mix in types of residential development is becoming more diverse and the amount of land being used to build them is less than in previous decades. Both good signs, if we want to preserve the farmland and open space that has helped shape this region’s identity.

For the sixth consecutive year, apartments led the way with 596 units. That makes more than 3,800 apartments approved since 2013. It’s a clear sign that the Lehigh Valley is following the national trend – a trend bolstered in this region by millennials seeking a more urban lifestyle and empty-nesters looking to downsize from big homes.

But unlike most of those recent years, apartments aren’t alone on the development ledger. Last year included 226 townhomes, 66 twins and 27 planned residential units, but, most notably, 523 single-family detached homes – the most single-family homes since 2007.

Perhaps the most encouraging trend is that we’re using less land to handle our new development. While developers were building just two units per acre back in 2007 at the height of the building boom, in 2018 the 1,438 approved units were on 361.5 acres. That’s roughly four units per acre.

We’re still months from completing “FutureLV: The Regional Plan,” but I can say with certainty that, in order to preserve the character of the Lehigh Valley, the plan will recommend clustered communities that can utilize existing infrastructure, rather than spread out development that requires building new roads and utilities. It’s encouraging to see that people, developers and our municipal partners have already begun to prefer the type of development trends that we believe are best for the future of the region.

The same can’t be said for our non-residential development trends, which shows 6.7 million square feet of approved development – most of it warehousing – approved for 635.3 acres. And with another 11.5 million square feet of industrial development proposed, but not yet approved, there’s no indication that trend will end anytime soon. Of particular concern are the number of projects being proposed for rural areas that don’t have the roadway, water or sewer infrastructure to handle them.

Other good signs revealed in “BuildLV” include redevelopment of the region’s three major downtowns. Allentown continues to add new office space and apartments to meet increasing demand, while Bethlehem’s collaboration with Lehigh University is resulting in adaptive reuse in the South Side. Though Easton didn’t see as much downtown development in 2018, it updated its downtown zoning code and continued to support reuse projects at the former Simon Silk Mill, in the City’s West Ward neighborhood.

There’s a reason the “BuildLV” report is a favorite of municipal leaders, planners and investors. The statistical picture it gives of past development shows clear patterns of where we’re headed, and how we should be adjusting and preparing for the future.

It’s particularly relevant as we prepare “FutureLV: The Regional Plan,” which will serve as a blueprint for the growth and evolution of the Lehigh Valley through 2045 and beyond. For the first time, this region’s comprehensive plan will be combined with a $2.8 billion long-range transportation plan. “BuildLV” gives us a clear picture of development and redevelopment projects that influence future infrastructure investments. Ultimately, it gives us direction on what new policies should be adopted and perhaps what regulations should be change to manage the growth that appears inevitable in a region that’s become attractive for its beauty, convenience and quality of life.

Matt Assad is managing editor at the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission. He can be reached at [email protected] or 610-264-4544. The commission prepared the “BuildLV: 2018 Annual Development Report” to inform the public on new land-use activity in accordance with the Pennsylvania Municipalities Code. A full copy of the report is available at lvpc.org.