Too many ‘participation’ trophies. Addicted to their phones. Spending all their money on avocado toast. Living with their parents, forever.
It’s a fact: millennials have been the target of more unfair, lazy takes than any previous generation. But as this chronically misunderstood and underestimated cohort comes of age, they’re driving seismic shifts in American culture, politics, and the economy which will shape our country for decades to come.
The way millennials view home ownership and energy use are intertwined with all of these macro trends. In fact, this generation’s preferences may power the next big boom in the home energy market sooner than you think – and smart solar installers and home improvement contractors should be gearing their business to meet their needs today.
Millennials Are Buying Homes
The first step towards installing rooftop solar and making other home energy improvements is owning your home – and as alluded to above, there’s been a perception that millennials are somehow more attitudinally inclined than previous generations to rent or, yes, live with their parents. As if coming of age during the Great Recession and housing crisis didn’t have anything to do with that!
The reality is, while extenuating macroeconomic circumstances have pushed back their homebuying timelines, millennials are catching up fast. As noted in Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. homeownership rate increased in 2017 for the first time since 2004 – a milestone driven by a homebuying spree from under-35 year olds, which saw “by far the biggest [homeownership] increase of any age group.”
Millennials value homeownership for the same reasons as every previous generation, and as the economy continues its recovery from the trough of 2008, this cohort is increasingly settling into careers and settling down. A recent Better Homes and Gardens survey found that a whopping 85% of millennials view owning a home as an important part of their “American Dream.”
However, they want more from their homes than just a nice lawn and room to raise a family. Another Better Homes & Gardens survey found that almost two-thirds of millennial respondents say that having a home customized to their tastes is a top priority, and a similar percentage say that having a home that is "a reflection of me" is more important to them than to their parents' generation.
Putting Your Money Where Your Values Are
While purveyors of negative takes on millennials – you could call them haters – might call this ‘narcissism’, coming of age in the digital era has simply made millennials more self-aware than any previous generation. And far from being a turn inwards, that self-awareness includes being aware of how their spending and finances manifest their values and hopes for the world around them.
According to the 2017 edition of Morgan Stanley’s “Sustainable Signals” study, 38% of millennials are “very interested” in sustainable investing – nearly double the percentage of the overall population. Not only that, but a whopping 75% of millennials believe that “their investments can influence climate change.” (And they’re 100% right.)
Well, buying a house is one of the biggest investments most people ever make, so it’s no surprise that this emphasis on sustainable investing literally begins at home for many millennials. Countless articles have highlighted the fact that millennials want their homes to be smart, sustainable, and energy-efficient.
This interest in investing in a sustainable, modern home understandably translates into a strong desire to go solar as well. According to Deloitte, nearly two-thirds of millennials are “extremely” or “very” interested in installing solar panels on their homes; Nationwide Mortgage similarly points to research that nearly half of millennials want solar panels and energy storage.
When you throw in the fact that going solar can save tens of thousands of dollars in electricity costs, as well as adding tens of thousands to the resale value of a home, it makes even more sense. After all, thanks to the aforementioned economic headwinds, it’s taken this generation awhile to save enough to buy their first home – why throw away those savings on unnecessarily high energy bills?
Making The Process Easy – Including Financing
We’ve established that millennials increasingly have the opportunity as well as the motive to go solar – what about the means? Let’s turn another overused millennial pejorative on its head.
While baby boomers might accuse this ascendant generation of being ‘lazy’, the reality is that they’ve grown up in a digital world - and they expect to have well-designed software tools at their fingertips to make once-complicated questions simple. Whether it’s finding the best vegetarian-friendly restaurant, planning and booking a perfect hiking vacation, getting a good group deal on yoga classes – or, yes, buying a house – millennials want tools that are easy to use and built for their tastes.
Making home energy improvements is no different. Whether it’s comparing pricing, evaluating different brands of smart home gear, or determining if their home is in a good location for solar, homeowners of any age have a range of resources available to them that would have been unthinkable a few years ago. So instead of having to educate prospective customers, solar and home improvement contractors today have to be prepared to answer detailed questions from sustainability-minded homeowners that have already educated themselves.
That’s why meeting the needs of a new generation of solar and home improvement customers isn’t just about showing that you understand what they want in terms of values – it’s about showing that you understand what they want in terms of process. And, given their concerns as well as their savvy with regards to all things money-related, that process increasingly needs to include streamlined, software-based financing.
Mosaic provides solar installers and home improvement contractors with exactly that – an industry-leading lending platform that lets you provide homeowners with on-the-spot quotes, different financing options, and projections for their savings over time. And once you’ve closed the deal, Mosaic makes it easy to understand loan terms and keep up with payments via a user-friendly online portal.
It works for customers of any age – but we think it’s especially well suited to the new generation of homeowners.