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Building Rental Relationships Online with Millennials

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By Erin Ruane, Executive Director, Homes.com Rentals

home_rentalIn real estate, the tides are perpetually shifting and we are constantly adjusting our marketing strategies to suit consumer and economic trends. At this time, we should accept that Millennials (Gen Y) are now key to the housing market in the years ahead. That means that home rentals will become just as important as home sales.

There are around 77 million 18- to 36-year-olds in our country, representing nearly 24 percent of the population. And while many are still climbing the income ladder, this group’s size and age range highlights its long-term purchasing power.

Millennials desire flexibility; they tend to move around more often and follow their own path, which is why a greater percentage of them would rather rent than own a home.

A recent study by CoreLogic economist Sam Khater reveals that the single-family rental market accounts for 21 million rental units, or 52 percent of the entire residential rental market. Forbes recently ran a story showing that the number of single-family rentals nationally has increased by almost one-third since the housing market last peaked: that’s nearly 4 million more single-family homes rented in 2012 than in 2005.

That’s why it’s so important for a real estate pro to connect and relate to these Gen Y’ers on social media sites. Good opportunities for single-family rentals are available in nearly every market across the country, and you can be the one finding these opportunities for the Millennials.

For this generation, social media has become indispensable. The average Gen Y’er is on 3.5 different social media sites and since they are rarely without a tablet or mobile device in hand (studies show 93 percent own smartphones), they are checking in constantly.

According to data from Crowdtrap and Ipsos MediaCT, and arranged by Statista, millennials spend an average of 3.2 hours a day on their social media sites. That means there are plenty of opportunities for a real estate pro to grab their attention.

Using Social Marketing to Convert Rental Listings
In a recent rental insight survey conducted by Homes.com and ForRent.com, nearly 2,200 renters were polled about the most popular social media outlets, and Facebook came in on top with 80 percent of respondents choosing it as their favorite. Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram captured the attention of 44 percent of consumers, while 31 percent prefer Google+.

A savvy real estate pro needs to invest time into all of these sites and provide content that Millennials will want to see. A big part of this needs to be done with images. Millennials like and share photos and videos religiously, so having interesting visuals will keep people coming back to your site. Even if they are not real estate-focused, the idea is to get people comfortable coming to your pages.

This means changing content daily. You may post a great photo or video that attracts someone’s attention, but if it’s still there a few days later, the person is going to be less likely to come back to your page. A real estate pro should offer something like a “photo of the day” or “quote of the day” to get people in the habit of checking your status. This will result in more likes and shares and more connections.

Of course, your real purpose is to get them interested in rental houses and to think of you when it’s time for them to shop for a home to rent. When a great home comes up, take photos of interesting or unique aspects of it to post on Instagram or Pinterest rather than a stodgy front of house shot. This will pique their interest and make them more likely to click on it.

Important to Know
Here are some tips to follow when trying to connect with Millennials.

1: Hold contests: Millennials love getting things for free, so offer some sort of prize (a Starbucks gift card is always great!) for doing something, such as uploading their best memory or photo of a town.

2: Support causes: The Gen Y group is also very socially conscious, so posting about pet adoptions, sustainable activities or a Race for the Cure will get people listening.

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