While they may be slow in arriving, it’s inevitable that those born after 1980 are poised to become tomorrow’s mainstream buyers and sellers. Define them as digital natives, Gen X or Y-ers, or collectively as millennials—no matter how you slice it, they’re bringing new expectations to what constitutes responsive service and insightful advice.
“There are a lot of different types of millennials, with different needs, just like every other age group,” notes Mackenzie Luke, self-described member of this generation and a real estate agent in Athens, Ga.
Where her peers most differ from previous demographic swells is the level to which they have integrated technology and its resources into their lives. “In general, they have a lot of information, and know what’s out there for sale by the time they contact you,” she notes. “What they don’t have, what they can’t find online, is accurate information on the real estate process, and how agency works.”
Those who aspire to represent millennials for their real estate needs have no choice but to meet them on their terms, technologically speaking. Fortunately, most agents and brokers are already there to some degree. As highly mobile professionals, your smartphone is probably as indispensable to how you work and live as it is to millennials. You’re also likely to be marketing your listings and services through a personal website and social media where they can find you.
Without those fundamentals in place, you’ve got little chance of working with this age group. If you’re technology is up to snuff, however, your prospects are good, provided you’re willing to adapt and make some modest cultural adjustments that speak to this generation’s expectations.
Your online presence really matters. Assume millennials will Google your name, and thoroughly vet candidates before contacting any real estate professional, says Candy Miles-Crocker, an associate broker in Washington, D.C.
“Look at your website and make sure it looks contemporary, and make sure your photos are current,” she advises. “There can be a real disconnect when anything you do online looks too dated.”
Big users of social media, millennials expect to find those they want to associate with there, somewhere. “Social media is important as a way to stay in front of them,” agrees Luke. She posts to Facebook and Instagram, and links her blog targeting millennials to her Facebook page.
Whether you use these, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, or others, consistency will work to your advantage. Don’t just sell; keep it light. “Show come cool, crazy houses on Instagram,” suggests Miles-Crocker. “Try to do something fun about a neighborhood or condo.”
Luke sees merit in uploading as many photos as it takes to highlight all of a home’s features. An abundance of pictures will help millennials prejudge a property, but she believes there’s such a thing as too much video. “Two minutes is about as long as most want to view,” she suggests. “Video is usually more of an advantage when trying to attract sellers.”
When these efforts resonate, millennial buyers and sellers will initiate contact. With so many communication options available, how you respond can make or break the relationship. You have to be prepared to be all things to all potential clients.
“Follow their lead, and ask them how they prefer to communicate,” says Miles-Crocker. “If an out-of-town buyer likes Skype, meet them on Skype. When you can’t communicate the way they do, they won’t want to work with you.”
Texting dominates. “Those in my age group are more likely to text than anything else, even to discuss important details,” notes Luke.
However, whenever they contact you, they expect a quick response, within reason. Protective of their own time, millennials will extend the same courtesy to those whose services they engage. “You just have to make sure you are available when you say you’ll be available and they will be comfortable with that,” stresses Miles-Crocker.
Once a relationship is established, a combination of good counsel and convenience will make these satisfied clients a source of future referrals. Always connected, millennials expect regular updates on how their deal is progressing, along with the ability to pull whatever resources they want from the cloud, as needed. For example, Luke share files with clients over Google Drive and DropBox.
These buyers and sellers have native affinity for that paperless world. Electronic forms and contracts, and digital signatures all play to their lifestyle. “They are totally fine signing papers electronically,” says Luke.
“The vast majority of transactions today happen online,” said Andrea Bushnell, EVP of the North Carolina Association of REALTORS® in an article for RISMedia.com. Bushnell is an avid user of products from zipLogix, such as zipForm®. “There’s less room for mistakes, like transposing numbers or misspelling names. Those things are eliminated when you have a product like zipForm® that auto-populates based on the information that’s been input.”
“They don’t understand why you should have to chase them down just to get something signed when they can already do that digitally,” adds Miles-Crocker.
If you’ve embraced technology, it shouldn’t be too difficult to adapt to these buyers and sellers. The question, today, is whether to extol that effort so you are ready to meet millennials, on their terms, as they mature into mainstream buyers and sellers of all kinds of property.
“If you want to resist, just get comfortable with the fact your business will be declining,” warns Miles- Crocker. “Real estate can only grow when you have an influx of new people. If millennials see you’re tech-savvy, they’ll work with you,” whatever your age.
Michael Antoniak is a contributing editor for RISMedia, and a freelance writer based in Tennessee, covering technology in real estate.