Millenials, Baby Boomers Changing Suburban Living

NATOMAS -- Take a look at master planned communities that are selling homes in the area, and you will see plenty of homes like these -- dwellings sitting cheek by jowl with small or nonexistent yards in the back and the front. That’s because builders are struggling to make houses affordable while making a profit.

“The land’s very, very expensive, honestly builders have to pop up the density a little bit sometimes to make it work," said Dean Wehrli, senior vice president of John Burns Real Estate Consulting.

Wehrli helps developers and builders create master planned communities which substitute private yard space with public spaces like parks and community centers. And it’s not just about economics. The huge population of baby boomers who are now empty nesters are still affecting the marketplace.

“Some of those older buyers, they don’t want the yard, they want the lower-maintenance kind of home, Wehrli said.

The Hovnanian Homes in the Westshore planned community in Natomas, are roomy on the inside, but they just have a patio -- no yard. With millennials holding off on raising families, a yard isn’t always a priority.

"It’s for that get together with your friends, not the big backyard barbecue with the whole neighborhood," Wehrli said.

If you look at housing in the urban core, homes without yards are the norm. Entertainment isn’t dependent on outdoor space.

“They’re going to meet their friends at the club or the bar or something like that in midtown," Wehrli said.

It’s getting that way in the newer suburbs too. John Burns Real Estate Consulting has coined the word "surban." Your big barbecue or outdoor sports can still take place, but in master planned parks and community centers.

“They can provide that public outdoor space in lieu of that private outdoor space that the high density product can’t always deliver or doesn’t want to deliver," Wehrli said.

And of course this kind of housing is a draw for Bay Area residents who never had a yard and little indoor space.

“They live in a hovel with no yard for ($1.5 million)," he said.

Homes with yards will always be a draw, in the Hovnanian development, homes with yards are part of the mix for families that are growing.

But the definition of a suburban home is likely to change as home and land prices continue to climb in California.

John Burns Real Estate Consulting is a nationwide company that recently put out a list of the 50 hottest master planned communities. The development in Natomas and one in Roseville made the list, so the region is definitely following the national trend.