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Published on December 29th, 2015 |

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Panel ‘selfie’ concludes Buckhead snapshot look at Millennials perceptions

At the end of a recent panel discussion on “Millennials Perceptions: Fact or Fiction” at the Buckhead Theatre, most of the panelists posed on stage for a group “selfie” photo using one of their iPhones—a testament to one perception, that “selfies” are a millennial generation fact.

Three of the panelists share a laugh during the Bisnow forum on Millennial Perceptions: Fact or Fiction at the Buckhead Theatre. They are, left to right, Cushman& Wakefield's Laura Power, PM Realty Group's Zack Wooten and Transwestern's Reeves Henritze.

Three of the panelists share a laugh during the Bisnow forum on Millennial Perceptions: Fact or Fiction at the Buckhead Theatre. They are, left to right, Cushman& Wakefield’s Laura Power, PM Realty Group’s Zack Wooten and Transwestern’s Reeves Henritze.

Panel moderator, 43-year-old Paces Properties principal George Banks (a Gen Xer, not a Millennial), started the Bisnow program discussion on the Atlanta Millennial Revolution by stating he believes “90 percent of the perceptions are not true”.

For instance, there is the perception that a greater percentage of Millennials enjoy living inside the city limits than previous generations have at their age. Some 14 percent of 25 to 34-year-olds in metro Atlanta certainly do Banks told the audience of about 250 real estate professionals.

Gen Xer George Banks, principal with Paces Properties, was the moderator for the panel discussion.

Gen Xer George Banks, principal with Paces Properties, was the moderator for the panel discussion.

But Banks offered this caveat: that ratio has been the same in the ’90s, in the ’80s, in the ’70s, etc. “Young people have lived intown a long time.” In his mind, Banks concluded, “Millennials will eventually flock back to the suburbs, as every previous generation of youngsters has eventually done.”

In many of his intown apartments, Banks said he sees Millennials “have that scary moment” when they have children. Where will they send those kids to school?

Laura Power, leasing associate with Cushman & Wakefield added, it’s an issue that Millennials will have to face one day. “I think that in 10 years, you will see more of us relocating” back to the suburbs.

But other panelists were insistent that moving outside the Perimeter was out of the question.

For instance, Reeves Henritze, as associate at Transwestern, said she learned her lesson from her parents, who would commute daily 45 minutes each way. “Maybe that’s because I’m a Millennial, but maybe it’s also because I think traffic is a nightmare,” she added.

Henritze attributed the recent big trend toward urban living and lack of car ownership being more to traffic than generational issue. But William

Panelist William Ross, associate at Eastdil Secured & AYREP, makes a point during the discussion.

Panelist William Ross, associate at Eastdil Secured & AYREP, makes a point during the discussion.

Ross, associate with Eastdil Secured & AYREP, felt Millennials will trend more to location, including to transit-oriented and live/work/play environments.

One true stereotype is yes, most Millennials rent versus owning the place where they live. But that may be due to a lack of ability to get home loans because of a boatload of student debt.

Millennials being a transient group is a good point, explained PM Realty Group’s Vice President Zack Wooten. He said Millennials are “coming out of college with more debt than any other generation. Some people have six-figure debts.”

Wooten added, “These people can’t even qualify for a home loan. They struggle to even handle a down payment.”

Cushman & Wakefield's Laura Power expects some Millennials to relocate to the suburbs in the next 10 years.

Cushman & Wakefield’s Laura Power expects some Millennials to relocate to the suburbs in the next 10 years.

Wooten said he grew up in the suburbs and called himself a survivor. “I have a 1,500-square-foot house right now and would choke if I had anything bigger.”

As the discussion turned more to the work and office environment, Wooten suggested there is a mindset among Millennials, “a search for meaning and passion. Looking for a job has more to do with the environment.”

Wooten explained that passion in work is an important driver for Millennials. But don’t mistake that for a lack of desire to rise to the top of an organization. “While we maybe don’t have a corner office now, that doesn’t mean we don’t strive for that,” he said. “It is not that we want to spend our life in a cube.”

Millennials want to feel part of an organization Wooten added. “You can call that coddled or spoiled or needy. Honestly, I think it’s just entrepreneurial drive.”

Transwestern associate Reeves Henritze makes a point about the importance of traffic.

Transwestern associate Reeves Henritze makes a point about the importance of traffic.

Henritze echoed a desire by Millennials to rise in the ranks and “aspire for a corner office.” But the current open office movement in companies—no cubes and few private offices—could have an unintended consequence. “Be careful on how far we go with this trend because it’s going to age office space,” Henritze added.

Banks agreed, adding open floor plans were actually common in the 1950s, and it led directly to the creation of the cubical in the 1960s. “So there’s nothing new under the sun,” he said.

During the panel discussion, the audience learned that at least a few of those Millennial stereotypes are true. For instance, Power confessed to owning a selfie stick. And Henritze said she is “totally addicted” to her smartphone, to the point of even sleeping with it in her bed.

But to the perception that most Millennials don’t own or use cars, Ross stated, “I do not own a bike, and I do not bike all around Atlanta to get [to work].” And, he suggested he is with the norm among Millennials.

One last parting note: Those on the panel of Millennials who took the selfie at the end of the event were Wooten, Ross, Power, Henritze and panel moderator Banks hiding in the back, who as a Gen Xer likely had never heard of a selfie before that moment.

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