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Editor’s note: The Power Broker Roundtable is brought to you by the National Association of REALTORS®. Watch for this column each month.

James (Jim) Imhoff
, Chairman & CEO, First Weber Group, Madison, Wisc.; Liaison for Large Residential Firms Relations, NAR

Matt Deuitch
, Designated Broker, DPR Realty, Scottsdale, Ariz.
Michael Oppler, SVP/Broker Assoc., Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International, Hillsdale, N.J.
Chris Stark, REALTOR®, The Stark Co., Madison, Wisc.

Jim Imhoff:  Millennials—the generation aged 34 and under—have long puzzled marketing pundits, who’ve labeled them as everything from self-entitled to generous and from self-absorbed to civic minded—but while their economic challenges and love of social media have powered industry alternatives like Uber and AirBnB, there is a difference of opinion in the real estate community about how they have impacted our business. Prevailing opinion is that student debt, qualms about real estate values, and a general dislike of being tied down have kept them from buying homes. Yet a recent NAR study, the 2015 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends, tells us that, for the second consecutive year, millennials represented the largest share of all American homebuyers—and that they are projected not just to be a driving force in the housing market over the next five years, but to utilize the services of real estate agents more than did their baby boomer parents. To shed some light on these baffling contradictions, we’ve assembled a panel of young professionals who are making their mark in real estate. Matt, can you get us started?

Matt Deuitch: Well, you’re right that we need to understand millennials before we can sell them homes. This is a generation that came out of college to face a widespread business downturn. They’ve had trouble finding good jobs, some have maxed out credit cards, and some have had to move back home. But that’s turning around pretty quickly as the economy improves—and their interconnection via social media makes them better at networking and sharing information than any generation in the past. In all, they represent a huge market, and the key is reaching out to them on their own terms and in ways they see as meaningful.

Michael Oppler: The millennials I know are motivated, hardworking and focused on their goals. Economics have taken their toll, for sure, and as a result, they are taking a little longer to get settled, get married and start families. As REALTORS®, we need to recognize that and market to them in a way that reaches them on their terms.

Chris Stark: In general, I think that millennials prefer urban living to suburban (this is from Generational Trends). They like turnkey properties more than fixers, and they’re big on work-life balance. They prefer to get information online and they want to make their own choices.

MD: This is the YouTube generation, after all. Facebook and Twitter are in their genes, and they’d sooner text than talk. They have the highest percentage of college degrees of any preceding generation, but they want their information in 30-second soundbites that hit them where they live, so the messages better be on target. Create imagery. Tell them things they don’t know. Sell yourself as hip and well-informed before you think about selling listings.

JI: I think what you’re saying is we need to connect with this group so we can start telling the story…what homeownership means, what it brings to our lives, the value in what may very well be the lowest rates they’ll see in their lifetime.

MO: Exactly. The message itself may not have changed, but finding the right ways to get it across can be tricky, especially when the median age of agents today is approaching 60 and the average age of the people they want to reach is half that.

CS: It isn’t that you have to be a millennial to reach them, but you do have to speak the same language.

MO: Not long ago, I read a job outlook for real estate agents written by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It says success in this business largely depends on whether the public views real estate as worthy of pursuing. That’s the charge we have with millennials…to help them realize the value of homeownership.

CS: The way I see it, our job is to be there to educate these future homebuyers as their lives begin to come together. In a sense, we’re sending the same kinds of messages that REALTORS® have been providing for generations. But we’re doing it slowly and in ways we think will resonate.

MD: The most successful agents are doing it every day, with cool blurbs, relevant content and impactful 30-second videos—the kinds of things people want to retrieve and pass on to their friends. The good news is that homeownership is pretty well entrenched in our society. Millennials get that, and it’s pretty clear they’re at a key stage in their lives. It may take some time, but the odds are good that if you get this generation’s outlook on life, you will also get your share of success.

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