April 12, 2018 | Advice for Buyers
Adult children and their parents may all be grown-ups at some point, but the legacy of their parent-child relationship often lingers on forever. For whatever reason, parents of adult children will often see their children as children, whether their children are 6 months or 60, and possibly grandparents themselves. And as parents, I believe it is assumed that children will be the recipients of parental advice, whether it is wanted, requested or accepted. Of course, every generation likes to do things a little differently than their parents. As far as real estate is concerned, the heavyweights of demographics, the Boomers (parents) and the Millennials (their adult children), do have very different ideas on what kind of real estate the adult children should buy.
I had a particularly interesting experience earlier this year that really illustrated just how differently these two demographics could think. I had two listings. One was a larger townhome with three bedrooms that was little over 2000 sq. ft. in Mississauga. The other was a much smaller two bedroom condo on the main floor of a townhouse, around 620 sq ft. They were for sale around the same time. You would think that a property in Mississauga in the neighbourhood of Clarkson and a downtown condo, would have very little in common. And you would be right. But it did show me something.
Many people come through the larger Mississauga townhouse, from downsizers, to investors, to renters in the complex, to younger families looking for more space, but there was one type of visitor that I saw quite often during the time of this listing. I saw a lot of parents of young adults going through. Not for themselves, but on behalf of their children. They wanted very much for their adult children to buy in Mississauga, especially this large townhouse because it was on a GO transit line that would take them to that traffic burdened city of Toronto that they visit once or twice a year.
They want their adult children in this large, Mississauga townhouse for several reason. First, these adult children would be closer to them in Mississauga, which is not such a bad thing. Second, many of their adult kids were paired off, and they thought it would be a great idea to buy something where their children could raise grandchildren. The schools were quite decent in this pocket of Mississauga too. And of course, many Boomer parents could not imagine living in little space offered up by most downtown Toronto listings like the one I had. In my experience, Boomers often do not do well in small spaces. Some can do it, but this choice is less common among them.
I did have some younger couples go through the large Mississauga property, and there was some interest, but I was more surprised that there was such active parents of adult children campaigning for their children to leave the city where they were renting. The funny thing is, none of the adult children of these house hunting parents even came to see the large Mississauga townhouse. They all wanted to live in the city. Clearly the parents who exercised what they thought was a good purchase were not being taken seriously by the buyers (adult children), even if the parents may have had some money to add to their down payment.
At the same time, for a week, there was tidal wave of Millennials coming through the door the downtown two bedroom condo that was less than a third of the size of my Mississauga condo listing. Some brought perplexed, suburban parents along as consultants, who were often good sports and positive, but I could see they were struggling to imagine how to live in 620 sq. ft. What stuck me most was just how much many of these Millennial buyers did not want to leave the city to buy. Yes, there is a Millennial explosion and in cities like Hamilton because they are priced out of Toronto.
But let’s not kid ourselves. There is a large number of Millennials who want to live in the city and are willing to make the necessary sacrifices.
What they tell me: They want to walk to work. Commuting is not something they feel good about. They find it soul-crushing and a complete waste of time. They want to live in the city where there is vibrancy and where they can drive less or not at all. The demand is there.
This is not to say that there are no Boomers out there who don’t love living in the city. Many have downsized and come to the city for the same reasons the Millennials do. Many Millennials have also left the city for more space. This, however, is the not what I have learned to be the typical pattern at this particular moment in time in Toronto.
In the end, I had a downsizing Boomer couple buy the large, Mississauga townhouse and a young couple buy the smaller, downtown condo unit. Not too surprising. I suppose it will be possible that more space will be desired at some point by Millennials as they age, but I do wonder if there really is a fundamental generational shift in real estate desires. Boomers will pick more space and commute to it, by and large, and Millennials will sacrifice space and not commute. Parents will do their best to influence, but the adult kids don’t always follow the lead of their parents, or maybe they never did. In the end, adult kids won’t usually listen to adult parents. They will follow their own rebellious path despite what their parent may think is a better path. It’s a simple message that has been ringing around for decades. When parents wants you to be a dentist or an accountant and ask you want you want to do with your life, you can’t help but tell them: I Wanna Rock!