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2008-01-29 11:36:00

They're Not Kids Anymore

They are called the “Y” generation and they are the largest new generation of homebuyers and owners to enter the marketplace in decades.  Also known as the Millennials or “Echo-Boomers,” they were born between 1977 and 1990.  Their ages are roughly between 17 and 30, and as a group numbering around 78 million they are now starting to influence the real estate marketplace in a significant way.  They are young.  Sixty-eight percent of first-time buyers are under the age of 35.  They are much more racially and ethnically diverse than previous generations. Millennials are savvy with technology.  They have money to spend and for 75% of them, their motive for purchasing is to own a home or start a household.

Saul Klein, president and CEO of Internet Crusade, and one of the developers of the National Assn. of REALTORS  e-Pro certification course, says “If you want to have a future in the real estate business, you must think about the customer of tomorrow.”.

So what do Generation “Y” customers want in a real estate agent?  Some of the answers are obvious, others may surprise you.

Technology – They are not just good at using technology; it is an integral part of their lives and their world.  They do not remember a time without computers, Internet, or email.  For them, ‘Google’ is not a search engine, it is a verb.  Sixty-eight percent use text-messaging and 50 percent say it is their preferred method of communication.  E-mail is old-fashioned.  This generation emails and texts from their phones, downloads all their music, and records the details of their lives and their friend’s lives on My Space and FaceBook.  No surprise here, they do not simply expect their agent to be tech-savvy, they assume it.

Moreover, you will need to be comfortable with their preferred technology as well.  A Smart Phone is a basic tool.  If you communicate with your “Y” customer by email, you had better get back to them within 30 minutes.  They won’t wait for you.  If you are listing a home for a Millennial seller, your marketing plan must contain all the Internet and technology marketing tools they expect, including virtual tours, good quality digital photography, smart websites, email, text-messaging and more.  Find out how they look for a house, and you will see the tools they expect to be provided when you sell theirs.

Age – This may surprise you.  They prefer a veteran agent.  They are still used to looking to parents for advice, especially in major decisions such as purchasing a home.  They actually prefer an agent of their parent’s age.  This provides trust and security.  But regardless of age, they still expect their agent to use the same technology they do.

Respect – Even though they prefer a veteran, they still expect to be treated as adults.  They are adults and do not want another parent.  On the other hand, they were raised in a nurtured and relatively pampered environment by their parents and as a result can carry a sense of entitlement. But, they are not kids, and do not want to be treated as such.  The fastest way to end your customer/client relationship with an Echo-Boomer is to talk down to them or to "parenticize" the relationship.

Research – They will already have done a massive amount of detailed research, before they look for an agent.  Using the Internet to do this is second-nature for them.  They expect easy and fast access to prodigious amounts of data, and they may honestly be better at this than most of us who are older.  In order to service this generation’s real estate needs, the agent must be able to gather a high-quality level of detailed information using the Internet and technology, and then provide to the customer very quickly.  This generation is accustomed to near instant gratification and will not like to wait.

The Internet is now littered with web sites that promise to price homes for consumers. Sites like Zillow.com are springing up like weeds, and offer pricing estimates based upon a variety of data sources, but most often public tax record information.  How accurate and effective these sites are is questionable, but you should know that your seller has probably visited at least one or two of them.   If you want to list a “Y” generation seller’s home, you will need to understand how they work and be able to explain why your pricing estimate is different, and better than the automated one they got off the Internet.

Interpreter – While Generation Y wants data, they also want to work collaboratively with their friends and their real estate agent.  80% of all real estate customers now go on the Internet twice before they ever contact an agent.  The good news is that 90% of them still use a REALTOR® to find their next home.  It is not the obtaining of information they need help with, it is in understanding what it means and what to do with it.  Recently, a 23-year-old new homeowner said that he started his search for a home by going on the Internet, using Yahoo and Google as well a variety of other websites to obtain all kinds of information.  He then said that he needed a real estate agent to interpret it for him.  This generation has tremendous access to information and impressive skill at using those tools.  What they lack is the experience and expertise needed to go through the real estate buying and selling process safely and comfortably.  This is one of the most valuable services the next-generation of real estate professionals will provide.

Organization – They may seem to be unorganized, but once they enter the adult business world, they tend to be very organized but they do it electronically.  They often have a much busier schedule than previous generations did at this stage in life.  They also buy homes at a younger age than their predecessors did.  Don’t think Generation Y will skip a karate class or recreational event to look at a house.  They will assume an agent can match their schedule and their pace, and that their agent will do so electronically, using a computer, the Internet, and Smart-Phone based calendars, memos and email.

Needs and Wants – They still may not be able to afford high-priced homes, but they want some perks.  They believe the affluence they saw on TV while growing up is actually the norm for our society and culture.  Smaller may be better in order to lower costs.  They prefer to be near work and be able to walk to many of the community places they use, such as shopping and restaurants.  Broadband Internet access will also be expected.  Some economic forecasts are saying that this will cause a sort of  “Urban Renaissance” and a return to city-based lifestyles 5-10 years down the road, but here in the Richmond area it is clear that this trend has already begun.  One other item of interest for this generation is low-maintenance.  They are not yet ready to fix up the deck or mow a large back yard.  Lifestyle is as important as the property itself.

Conclusion – In order to effectively service this next generation of real estate buyers and sellers, the real estate professional will need to begin to prepare now.  Take the time to get comfortable with the newest information age technology.  In addition to learning Smart-Phone functionality and websites, add some of this new technology to your own life.  Explore lifestyle sites like My Space, FaceBook and YouTube.  Download a little music yourself.  If you wait, you may never be able to catch up.

(John Hicks, e-PRO, is Director of MLS Training and Outreach, of Central Viginia Regional MLS. He is a Certified e-PRO Trainer.)

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