It's ok to admit that the last few years have freaked some of us out. Overall, we're all spending less money and in some cases, buying less stuff. Economist and journalist Michael Mandel, writing at the Atlantic, suggests that in the case of Millennials, it's because of a change in mentality: People are increasingly thinking of themselves as "microbusinesses" and are more concerned with risk and uncertainty than in the past. And how do you sell a spooked twenty- or thirtysomething a house?
So to lure the younger generation back into the market, homebuilders need to broaden their definition of what they sell. Instead of just selling a physical product (the new home), homebuilders have to address the intangible core needs of security, collaboration, and competitiveness. One possibility: A sales contract that gives the buyer the right to sell back the house to the home builder at the original price for the first five years, minus an implicit cost of renting (obviously this simple version suffers from some moral hazard problems, but they can be fixed).
It's debatable whether Millennials are actually buying less stuff overall or maybe just buying different stuff, but the notion of a heightened focus on security and value rings true to me. Mandel suggests that developers lure Millennials by building a sense of security into big-ticket purchases like homes, and automakers by dramatically improving fuel efficiency of cars so that they're cheaper in the long haul.