Are KC millennials weird? Study shows they prefer houses to urban lofts

The Two Light luxury apartments under construction at 1251 Main St. are scheduled to open in 2018. Discussions are under way for another high-rise, Three Light, just to the west.
The Two Light luxury apartments under construction at 1251 Main St. are scheduled to open in 2018. Discussions are under way for another high-rise, Three Light, just to the west.

Kansas City millennials want to own houses with yards.

They do?

A local housing survey just released says so. That’s despite zeitgeist notions that young adults generally love downtown loft-dwelling, or they favor new rental complexes with spas, rooftop pools and easy access to public transit.

Here, at least, secure covered parking is what they crave — much like their Kansas City parents and grandparents, said Brett Posten of real estate marketers Highline Partners.

“Local millennials do follow the pattern of getting married later and starting families later,” said Posten, 45, whose firm conducted the online survey mostly through Facebook and KC Live. “But once they’ve done that, those around Kansas City tend to do what earlier generations have done.”

That is, find a place of their own near good schools. Locate to Fairway, Prairie Village, Brookside, or North Kansas City, the top residential areas identified in the non-scientific poll of 208 metro adults under age 37.

And, yes, buy cars — about 95 percent of area millennials drive to get around.

What most intrigued Kansas City natives Posten and his business partner Kathryn Jones, 30, is that the local survey paints a picture much different than what many consider America’s millennial prototype.

Goldman Sachs Global Investment, among others, have concurred in studies that millennials — now the nation’s largest generation — seem generally indifferent to ownership.

“It’s not just homes: Millennials have been reluctant to buy items such as cars, music and luxury goods,” Goldman Sachs concludes. “They’re turning to a new set of services that provide access to products without the burdens of ownership, giving rise to what’s being called a ‘sharing economy.’”

Not so much in Kansas City, where 48 percent of respondents in the Highline Partners poll said they owned their homes. Three out of four said they aspired to own houses in the next five years. The marketing company acknowledged that persons who responded to the survey were a bit older, more educated and wealthier — averaging $50,000 in annual income — than millennials as a whole.

“There is an affordability angle in Kansas City,” said Jones, who recently married and lives in Fairway. “I think nationwide, we’re starting to exit our urban years. The majority of my friends are looking for walkable suburbs.”

Posten attributes high marks to North Kansas City (pop. 4,300), to “partly a chicken and picklization effect.” The popular Chicken N Pickle eatery on Burlington Street, with its pickleball courts and backyard games, is among many social spots within walking distance of older, low-cost houses.

Millennial dwellers make up the largest demographic of every neighborhood within the town’s limits, said North Kansas City community development director Sara Copeland.

“Our median age has fallen incredibly since 2010,” from 40 to 36 today, Copeland said. “We don’t feel we have to do anything special to attract millennials any more than Gen-Xers or boomers. Just build a well-rounded community.”

The study’s authors serve a dozen real estate and development companies area-wide and some nationally. They said the urban-centric, ownership-averse stereotype of millennials might be drawn from marketing studies that focus on large cities on the U.S. coasts.

“We think developers are making decisions based on reading about millennials in the national press,” Posten said. “The demographic in Kansas City is distinctly different.”

If true, the city won’t be home to many of today’s young adults as they age, according to the poll: About half said they don’t want to be living here when they retire.

Rick Montgomery: 816-234-4410, @rmontgomery_r