By John Graff
Millennials, that large generation that was born between the early 1980s and the mid- to late 1990s, lag behind other age groups in homeownership. A recent report from the Urban Institute shows that 8 percent fewer millennials own homes when compared to baby boomers at the same age, and 8.4 percent fewer compared with Gen Xers at the same age.
The reasons are many...millennials are getting married and having children later in life. They're saddled with larger college debt than previous generations and rents in coastal cities, where many top jobs are located and rents are increasing faster than wages, making it difficult for first-time homebuyers to save for a down payment.
While millennials currently represent nearly one-third of the home-buying market, finding ways to reach this group is essential to success in the real estate business. How do you do that? Below are a few tips:
- Master social media. Millennials grew up with computer and mobile phone technology and many use social media as a primary (or at least secondary) method of communication. According to a recent Pew Research study, 82 percent of millennials use Facebook and 55 percent use Instagram to communicate with their friends and family. Sixty percent of Snapchat's user base is made up of millennials. This group is much less likely to respond to traditional communication methods like direct mail and phone messages. Become familiar with popular social media channels and how to entice those who frequent them. A few ideas include posting about (with permission, of course) recent millennial homebuyers and offering virtual tours and pictorials with links from social platforms.
- Be responsive. Millennials are known as the "instant gratification" generation for a reason. They want what they want now, not later in the week or next month. This means being extra diligent about returning calls, texts and instant messages—and getting your millennial clients the information they want as soon as possible, even if you have to hire an assistant to get this done in a timely manner. Companies like Amazon and Uber have led this generation to expect instant responses. Instead of grumbling about your clients being demanding, use this need for a fast response as a competitive advantage—something to set you apart from your less adaptive competitors.
- Make sure your website is top-notch. When did you last update your website? If you don't know the answer, you're likely losing millennial business to a competitor whose website is more current and interactive. According to a recent study by the National Association of REALTORS®, Real Estate in a Digital Age, 99 percent of millennials searching for homes start by looking at properties online. That means if your website doesn't entice them, you've lost a client before you've even had a chance to say hello.
- Think outside the box. Millennials love gadgets and new technology. When it comes to marketing real estate, thinking outside the box and appealing to millennials could mean offering virtual reality tours of properties, creating an app with augmented reality for potential buyers touring a property (a la the popular Pokemon game) or producing short Snapchat videos that can be viewed and shared via clients' smartphones.
- Sell the neighborhood, as well as the house. Unlike previous generations, millennials are interested in the entire neighborhood experience, not just an individual property. They want to know about public transportation, restaurants, shopping, parks and music venues, as well as schools and other traditional elements. Be sure you come to an appointment armed with information about the area surrounding the property you're showing.
- Embrace mobile technology. It's a rare millennial who's found without his or her cellphone. For real estate professionals, embracing mobile technology doesn't just mean texting clients and responding to texts (although that is part of it), but also making it easy for them to "shop" with you remotely. One way to do this is to use an app to give potential homebuyers the ability to instantly see which properties are currently on the market.
Getting your part of the large millennial market doesn't have to be an impossible feat. Look at the things that appeal to this generation, such as social media, mobile technology and instant responses, and use them in your marketing. You'll be rewarded for your efforts with a higher monthly income and a more loyal client base.
John Graff is the CEO/broker of Ashby & Graff Real Estate in Los Angeles, Calif., where he brings over 15 years of combined real estate and public policy experience. He sits on several committees, including the Beverly Hills/Greater Los Angeles Association of REALTORS® Grievance Committee. Prior to his involvement in real estate, he spent a decade working in politics and government, from local schools to the U.S. Presidency.