The two most important numbers in real estate are 58 and 31.
According to the National Association of Realtors in the US, 58 represents the median age of realtors in the American market, while 31 is the median age of first-time buyers.
The age gap is important because it flags the stark generational differences that exist between how properties are sold and buyer expectations. Sure, these are US figures, but not far off the Australian experience. LJ Hooker claims the average age of its principals is closer to 51, but this still means these agents scrape the baby boomer category, while buyers are increasingly more likely to be Generation Y, aka Millennials.
The findings of the report, Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends, which was presented at the Inman real estate conference in San Francisco in July, identified the importance of agents staying in touch with new digital trends, and the potential of new types of customers to disrupt real estate businesses.
The report found that 56 per cent of Millennials preferred to be kept up to date by their agent via text messages rather than phone calls. This compared to just 44 per cent of buyers aged 49 to 58.
According to The Guardian, Gen Y – born after 1980 – grew up with the internet and is the first working-age generation to be considered “digital natives”.
Gen Ys are more likely to be socially conscious, have high expectations, and are looking for a quality of life that has meaning and is more than just about money and wealth. They know how to find information on the internet, are good at doing their research and will tune out if they are patronised or spoken down to.
But why do agents need to bother with Gen Ys, when the majority of sellers are Gen X or baby boomers like themselves, I hear you ask? (The report found that young and older boomers made up 43 per cent of home sellers and Gen X 29 per cent.) It’s sellers, after all, that are the agents’ bread and butter.
Here’s the thing. Agents cannot successfully attract every potential buyer to a property if they only use marketing techniques designed to make their vendors (and themselves) feel comfortable.
Attracting Gen Y buyers means agents need to position themselves as market experts not just through empty boasts but backed up by data that identifies results and can be correlated through online and social media as well as in real life.
Gen Y buyers are most likely to check out your social media profile on Facebook and LinkedIn – not necessarily to ‘friend’ you, but to find out if you walk your talk and to find out who else you know.
They will judge you by the quality of the digital experience they have with you. Was it easy to navigate? Did it work on their mobile phone? Could they find the information they needed? Or just the information you thought was important to them? (Hint – if you agreed with the last point, you’ve failed.)
The Millennials are the young guys and gals who are turning up to open inspections with high hopes and earnest intentions. They may not be selling much yet, but that’s only a matter of time. And paying attention to their needs now is time well invested.