By Michelle Flaherty Philbrook
A while back, I got a call on a condo listing of mine. The potential buyers were a retirement-age couple looking for a new place just large enough for their kids to stop by for a visit, but just small enough that their fledglings couldn’t fully return to the nest.
I showed the condo, and when it wasn’t a fit, I brought them on as buyer clients. After we became more comfortable with each other, this couple confided in me that they initially thought I looked “way too young to be [their] agent,” but that in the context of having met other agents both recently and over the years, they felt I was uniquely equipped help them meet their goals. I think the reasons we were so compatible can be applied rather universally, so if you don’t mind entertaining the occasional demographic stereotype, read on for how Gen Y traits can uniquely serve some common Baby Boomer needs.
Baby Boomer with a Sense of Urgency? Meet Gen Y with Fast Texting Fingers. As a general rule, most people don’t become more patient with age — a fact of life that works in favor of agents raised in the age of text messaging and real-time e-mail. When these buyers inquired via e-mail on my condo, I called them right away. And when the property didn’t work for them, I got their search set up the same day. They told me later that none of the other brokers came close to that level of responsiveness.
Baby Boomer with Intelligent Questions Based on Experience? Meet Gen Y with Fab Research Skills. The way that I was able to quickly aggregate property information from multiple (and at times obscure) sources beyond the MLS really impressed my boomer clients. The 2010 Census confirmed that the percentage of post-secondary graduates among the U.S. population is at an all-time high, so it follows that most YPNers can likely offer extensive research skills. And in an industry like ours with ever-changing guidelines, best practices, and technology, it is more valuable to be a quick study than a deep topic expert.
Baby Boomer with Very Specific Needs? Meet Gen Y Power Networking: These clients were searching for a property with very specific attributes, in a trendy Portland, Maine neighborhood where property values have paid little mind to market forces since ’05, and instead have continued up, up, up. Options were scarce, and my buyers were on a deadline. The solution: I tapped into my network to find an unlisted option. Strong relationships with other agents and related professionals can give you an edge in these situations — and those first few Young Professional years, when evening calendars are filled with happy hours and socials, and days are spent soaking up knowledge from peers, is the prime time to nurture such ties.
My experience with these clients underscored one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned as a young professional: that my value extends beyond the first-time home buyer age group with whom I naturally connect. Sure, it’s easier to build rapport with your peers. But agents who can leverage their Gen Y skill sets for the benefit of a different age group are well-poised to build loyal fan followings of experienced consumers who will happily exchange the comfort of someone “their speed” for a broker who’s a step ahead.
Michelle Flaherty Philbrook is an associate broker with Prudential Northeast Properties, serving Greater Portland, Maine. Visit her Web site at www.michelleflaherty.com.