The statistics are striking: according to a March 2015 National Association of Realtors® Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends study, “the largest group of recent buyers was the Millennial generation, those 34 and younger, who composed 32 percent” of people purchasing a home.”
Despite the doom and gloom economic indicators dominating recent news cycles, Millennials — a catch-all term defining the generation born between 1980 and 1997 — are entering the housing market in large, influential numbers. And luckily for those real estate agents who want to capture some of this business, Millennials’ behavioral and spending habits are well-documented; study this group, and you’ll discern patterns and preferences that will help you connect with them on an authentic level (authenticity being a key to “unlock the wallets” of this generation, of course).
So, to sell to Millennials, you must first understand Millennials. What follows is a marketing snapshot of a generation, and our suggestions on how to use this information to reach the Millennial market:
Unlike Gen-Xers, Millennials have always known a world with Internet and, as a result, are particularly tethered to their devices. To a Millennial, access to knowledge is a mere Google search away. They expect information to be delivered immediately, efficiently and comprehensively.
The takeaway: To successfully market to Millennials, you must have a robust mobile web presence. Websites need to be responsive, agile and full of original content that educates a potential client. And their technology needs to work. Most Millennials will immediately move on if a website is down, clunky or — the horror — non-existent, replaced perhaps with an amateurish Facebook page. Professionalism and functionality are key.
The same goes for social media: If your social media presence isn’t completely fleshed out, a Millennial will wonder why and probably move on to an agent with active Instagram and Twitter accounts. Millennials dominate social media, so if you’re not there, you’re missing out on a huge platform for engagement. Philip Lang, cofounder of NYC agency TripleMint, says that many of his Millennial clients come to his brokerage through targeted Facebook advertising, which pinpoints potential customers through specific interests and demographic information.
Millennials also respond particularly well to marketing with content because it doesn’t seem particularly “salesy” to them. Ivan Ciraj, sales representative for Cloud Realty in Ontario, Canada, uses blog posts that are SEO-formatted and keyword-rich to achieve high search rankings and thus attract Millennials to his new construction projects.
Although Millennials are attached to their phones, they don’t (for the most part) actually use them to call people. Millennials prefer text and Snapchat over email, and email over a chat on the phone. Text chains are often used as ongoing, long-running conversations, making them searchable repositories of information that can be referred back to.
The takeaway: Your preferred method of communication and expected response time need to be conveyed up front. Meet Millennials on their own platforms: texts are best. And obviously, the faster you can get information to your Millennial clients, the better. They want to feel looped in, which you can facilitate by being accessible and responsive. Using phone and tablet-friendly apps to sign documents and share information will also score you word-of-mouth points, as your Millennial clients brag about how easy it was to close their deal on the go.
Just because Millennials tend to value experiences over things, it doesn’t mean they don’t still want nice things. Brad Szollose, an expert in helping Fortune 500 companies manage and market to Millennials, says quite the contrary: “Millennials were raised with high-end brands, and McMansions. They may reject the giant homes they grew up in, bought by their Baby Boomer parents, but they expect a home to be pristine inside.” Sheryl Simon, principal at Benoit Mizner Simon & Co. in the suburbs of Boston, concurs; she notes that “Millennials are looking for and noticing brand-name appliances.” Her experience with Millennials (over 50 percent of Simon’s clients are in this age bracket) illustrates that they are “driven by sophisticated and expensive ‘toys’ and many of them work hard and are fortunate to be able to afford and fulfill their wishes. They prefer turn-key rather than a project and are willing to spend more to get more.”
The takeaway: Millennials want to see your properties’ special features. Because this generation is so visual (with much of that driven by technology), promote your homes and their uniqueness with beautiful photography and sophisticated video. Advises Szollose: this generation “doesn’t have time to physically go look at dozens of houses. So they go online, pick what they like and bring that list to you. Real estate agents that don’t have their own YouTube channel are missing out.” The chances are high that your visuals will then be shared throughout your Millennials’ circle of family and friends — crowdsourcing opinions happens a lot — thus exposing even more potential clients to your listings and services.
But as you keep these tips in mind, remember that just as “generations, like people, have personalities,” individuals have personal proclivities that contradict their generational portrait. You might encounter a Millennial who likes to talk on the phone, or who rejects cellphones altogether, although 24 percent of Millennials responding to a Pew Research Institute study mentioned technology as their generation’s “biggest source of distinctiveness.” As you market yourself and your properties to the Millennial market, you’ll figure out what works for your brand and your business. Just don’t leave your cellphone at home.
Anna Powers specializes in writing about homes, lifestyle and photography as a freelance writer.
She also founded Powers + Ristorcelli Content Agency, which provides digital and print content for businesses and agencies.
Anna has served as editor for a variety of websites and, in 2009, her site Misosouper.com was acquired by TheFind.