Millennials, also called Gen Y, are those born from the early 1980s to the early 2000s. As they come of age, they are now the largest group of home buyers in the U.S. at 32%. They are also the biggest group of first-time home buyers at 68%. And when they are ready to buy a home, their agent is much more likely to be middle-aged. A 2012 NAR survey found that only 3% of agents were under age 30, 81% were older than 45, and about 25% were over age 65.
That means most agents are going to be selling homes to a generation that communicates in a very different way from their own age group, and they’re going to have to adapt to the Millennial mindset to make these sales happen.
Understanding the Millennial mindset
Although there are steps sellers should take to make their homes appealing to this younger generation, change must happen on the part of the real estate agent too. And that starts with knowing whom you’re selling to and their expectations of you.
What’s a Millennial like? Remember that these are people who have never lived in a world without Google. They are much more tech savvy than any other generation. Technology is part of who they are—not a tool for getting things done, but integral to their daily existence. That reliance on technology is the most important thing to understand about them, because it influences every part of the home buying process.
How agents can adapt to meet these Millennial expectations
This younger generation of home buyers is going to do a lot of research before they ever have any contact with an agent, so it’s imperative that agents are building credibility online. This means a website that’s professional and current, but also a social media presence on Facebook and Twitter, and perhaps even a blog to demonstrate expertise and knowledge about a particular neighborhood or type of real estate.
As far as communicating with this younger generation, agents will need to do more than update their websites and blog. They’re going to need to use—and choose—the same tools as this group of buyers. In order to understand which tools Millennials prefer and how they use them, agents should become familiar with the following at the very least:
Smart phones: Agents should understand that Millennials expect to be able to do everything with their phones—except make phone calls, that is. They use their phones to do research on the Internet, for maps and directions, for messaging, for reading reviews, even for watching movies and most definitely for keeping up with their friends. They also use their phones as cameras and expect everyone else to do the same, meaning they will want agents to send a picture of a house a.s.a.p. But as far as making or receiving calls or even checking voicemails, they don’t and won’t.
Texting: The younger generations communicate all day long using texts and messaging apps like Snapchat. Agents are much more likely to get a response if they send a text rather than make a phone call. Texts are usually a better method of communication than email too.
Apps and sites: Because Millennials expect to do everything on their phones, they expect all applications and software to work flawlessly on these smaller devices. Any software or websites crucial to an agent’s business should be optimized for mobile phones. That includes emails: Millennials will check their emails on their phones, but any that are not formatted for the smaller screen and therefore difficult to read are likely to be deleted.
Social media: Facebook and Twitter are perhaps the best social media channels for agents to use in order to relate to Millennials, but if an agent can make use of Tumblr, Instagram or Google+ too, then they should. For most agents, however, Facebook is critical. A real estate agent should have a Facebook page for their business—and use it regularly—and expect to use Facebook messaging to reach out to potential home buyers.
As this younger generation comes of age and starts the process of buying their first home, there is huge potential for the real estate agents and brokerages that are willing to meet the expectations of Millennials in terms of the technology offered and the communication channels used. Because there isn’t anything that says this will be their first and only home purchase.