By Dale Swanton
Millennials are all grown up! The generation that came of age around the turn of the century are now in their 20s and 30s. While generational groups can be difficult to define with any specificity, the Pew Research Center, one of the country’s leading research institutions, considers millennials to be those born between 1981 and 1996, making them 23 to 38 years old in 2019. This generation recently surpassed Gen Xers to become the largest generation in the U.S. labor force and it’s predicated that by 2020 a full 50 percent of the labor force will be comprised of millennials.
Of particular importance to real estate practitioners is that more and more millennials are buying homes. In fact, according to NAR’s latest Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends report, buyers 37 years old and younger made up 36 percent of all home buyers in 2017, the most of any generational group. Attracting and retaining millennial clients comes with its own set of challenges, particularly for members of other generations who often struggle to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of technology. Here are just a few things you can do to connect with millennials.
While it may seem like a no brainer in this day and age, many older agents don’t fully grasp the extent to which millennials are and want to remain connected. One recent study found that millennials check their smartphones 45 times a day on average. Another, found that 41 percent of millennials would sacrifice personal hygiene for a week over losing their phones. And yet another found that 23 percent would rather lose one of their five senses and a shocking 10 percent would prefer to give up a finger than live without a smartphone! Today’s real estate practitioners needn’t be equally as dedicated to their phones, but they should fully embrace changes in technology. While drone video and 3D walk-throughs have become more commonplace in our industry, other changes in technology such as virtual and augmented reality are being utilized to create unique marketing opportunities. A prime example is virtual staging, where furniture is digitally added to images to give the appearance of a fully furnished home. This can be used to enhance listing photos and even show what potential updates would look like.
Leverage User Generated Content (UGC)
You may not have heard the term UGC but you are undoubtedly familiar with it. UGC is any type of information about a product or service that is created by the user of that service (as opposed to the seller) to help inform or influence other consumers. Perhaps the best example of this is online reviews. Millennials are particularly influenced by UGC. One of the largest studies done on the subject found that 84 percent of millennials report that UGC has at least some influence on what they purchase, even UGC that comes from complete strangers. They also trust UGC 50 percent more than other types of advertising. This is huge for agents and brokers who want to increase their business and getting reviews from all of your past clients should be a top priority. You can even take this a step further by producing a video of your clients singing your praises. Rather than asking for a written review, take out your smart phone after your next closing and take a quick video of your happy clients. There are many free apps out there that will allow you to easily splice these together to create a video montage.
Provide Educational Content (Engagement Marketing)
Referring to NAR’s Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends report again, 75 percent of millennials say the biggest benefit they get from a real estate agent is helping them to understand the buying process. Agents should embrace online and in-person educational sessions such as buyer/seller seminars, blog posts, and informational articles. This so-called engagement marketing is less about advertising and more about building a relationship with the people you are hoping to do business with. By positioning yourself as the expert in your area you are planting the seeds of future business. One effective way to do this is to hold a live Q&A session where buyers and sellers can have their questions answered in real time. Facebook is a great platform for this as it allows you to easily save the video, which can then be shared to multiple platforms.
Millennials are the most marketed to generation in history, which has made them generally skeptical of advertising. This helps to explain why UGC is so popular with that generation. However, this also means that millennials are not easily swayed and are more likely to research several alternatives before making a purchasing decision. In fact, 54 percent of millennials say they will contact or consider multiple agents during their home search, more than any other age group. Video is a great way to showcase your personality to potential clients. Consider creating a one- to two-minute video introducing yourself. Be sure give viewers a good sense of why you are passionate about real estate and what sets you apart from the thousands of other agents out there. This type of video can easily be turned into an advertisement for your services. In addition to posting to your social media sites, consider embedding it into your email signature and even texting a copy to potential clients.
For today’s real estate agents to be successful they must become digital chameleons, constantly adapting to technological changes in the industry. For those resistant to change, it’s worth noting that technology is not going away. Hot on the heels of millennials is Generation Z, whose oldest members are just starting to enter the workforce and purchase homes. Like millennials, this generation readily embraces technology. In fact, Gen Z is the first generation to grow up fully immersed in digital technology. These so-called “digital natives” are most comfortable online. While it remains to be seen how this generation will approach home buying, it’s safe to assume that technology will play an important role, and tomorrow’s successful agents will be those who can readily adapt to changes in our industry.
Dale Swanton is an associate broker and manager with Coldwell Banker in Pittsburgh. He has served on the board of directors at the REALTOR® Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh (RAMP) since 2017, is the 2018 chair of RAMP’s YPN Committee, and has taught continuing education classes for the association. Connect with Dale on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, or on his website.