Bust Barriers to Working With Millennials

Younger brokers and agents spell out exactly what it takes to forge meaningful relationships with Generation Y.

October 4, 2016

Here they come: the generation raised on technology. They’re skilled at texting, taking selfies, and doing online research. And now they outnumber than the once dominant baby boomer generation.

Millennials are those currently in their early 20s to late 30s. Some long-time real estate professionals may find it hard to connect with this emerging generation, which has a reputation of being ”unmotivated and self-centered.” Yet, you may not realize that your values, motivations, and path of self-discovery are likely very similar.

I was fortunate to be part of a panel of millennial-aged real estate pros at the Staten Island Board of REALTORS® 2016 Global Real Estate Summit and Expo in September, charged with helping uncover this paradigm shift in real estate. So let’s “spill the tea” on what was shared to help your brokerage more effectively reach all generations, particularly millennials.

If you are part of the silent generation, baby boomers, or Generation X, you may remember a time when the generations before you did not understand your choice of musical “noise” or the new ideas you employed to excel along your individual journey. There was a time not long ago it was novel to go to college, own a computer, or — in the case of women — seek career a career outside of being a homemaker. Those glass ceilings have been shattered by the strides of each successive generation (thank you).

Today’s youngest generation of adults are shattering the limits on access to information, and the ability to connect and communicate. Yes, these have been disruptors for the classic real estate methods of the 20th century, but that doesn’t mean the profession is becoming extinction. In fact, in some ways this new generation might be more inclined to seek professional help to accomplish their real estate goals than others.

According to the National Association of REALTORS® 2016 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends report, 89 percent of millennials — more than any other generation — decided to use a real estate professional in their home search last year. Of course, you don’t want your brokerage missing out on that business. So, check out these five methods to help you successfully grow this segment of your clientele, as well as recruit more millennials to your office.

1. Define your value beyond being a generic information gatekeeper.

During the discussion, panelist Michael Oppler, vice president of Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty in Northern New Jersey and 2016 chair of NAR’s Strategic Thinking Advisory Committee, reminded everyone that before the internet, real estate transactions required agents and firms to index and catalog properties available for sale and lease on paper. That meant real estate firms were the information gatekeepers for homes for sale.

But now that information is widely available in just a few clicks, we have to communicate the numerous intangibles that are not — skills and knowledge that only you and your agents possess. To connect with more millennial clients, explain the nuances and market knowledge that you bring to the table as someone who can advocate on their behalf.

“Millennials recognize that they need an advocate with experiential knowledge, skills, and resources to guide them through a complex and unique process, something apps and algorithms cannot deliver,” Oppler said.

Panelist Jennifer C. Chan, sales associate at Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty, succinctly said, “[Millennials] want the inside scoop, not the things we can Google.” As a broker, you can give millennials (and really all clients and team members) the advantage by understanding and effectively navigating the nuances of working with various cooperating brokers, builders, developers, appraisers, inspectors, and other parties to the transaction. When you show how you can help others win, you win too.

2. Authentic connections beat age.

Age really is just a number. One’s age does not automatically give insight into the ability to broker a real estate deal or connect with a potential buyer or seller. Chan said, “Relationships are everything with colleagues and clients alike. Millennials aren’t choosing REALTORS® or business partners based on their age but based on their ability to feel a connection.” Let’s remember to connect with people based on aspects of their individuality that resonate with you, be it shared hobbies, school affiliations, fashion sense, or other common interests. With each new potential millennial client or recruit, try to find common ground and ask yourself what connections you can make.

3. Put their worries to rest.

Are millennials in your market trembling “on the fence” or too afraid to take the plunge? This may not be due to a fear of commitment. It’s more likely due to an unfamiliarity with the sales process and uncertainty thanks to the excess of inaccurate information online. Stir in college debt, and it’s no wonder parental basements have been a welcomed respite. To this point, Chan shared, “Millennials like to be portable. It is widely assumed that it’s because they can’t commit to a job or to a place to live, but often times it’s based on necessity. In many cases, millennials are priced out of where they live or there’s a lack of opportunity for growth in their careers.”

Yet brokers and their agents have the information to eliminate these home ownership hurdles. Help millennials understand that there is no shame in documented gifts or parental help. Teach them that 20 percent down is not required for all home loans. Your knowledge and experience can enlighten this generation on ways to make a home purchase affordable. For example, you’ve probably worked with investors. If so, you can help newcomers to real estate. Panelist Jessica Peters, a top-producing team leader with Douglas Elliman in Brooklyn, N.Y., uses her experience working with investors as a way to help millennials understand how property ownership can both give them a home and income. She says helping the millennials figure out the fundamentals of real estate investing can raise brokers’ “stock value” in their eyes, leading to happy clients and heartfelt referrals.

4. Sync your communication style.

Millennials like texts for short communication and emails for the details, but they like face-to-face communication as well. As Dun said: “I prefer text and email for the same reasons: documenting and creating a timeline.” Plus, if you have a packed schedule, texting can be a convenient way to still make contact.

5. Resist treating millennials like children.

You may have children, nieces, nephews, younger siblings, or others in your life who are millennials and may be tempted to relate to younger prospective clients as you would your youthful loved ones. Don’t. Separate your familial relationships from your business associations, even if “Seller Sue” looks just like your grandbaby. Instead, if you’ve ever experienced not being taken seriously, remember that feeling and do not inflict it on others.

“Treat millennials as partners and try to collaborate with them,” said panel moderator Richard Dun, associate broker at the American Homes Group on Staten Island. “Do not speak down to them like they are your children.” Relationships of all types tend to suffer when the parties do not feel like equals. Millennials should show you respect, but you should also be willing to return the favor.

I would love to hear from you. Give me a shout on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Google+, or by visiting LearnWithLee.Realtor. And, be sure to tell the real estate agents you know to get a copy of the 5-star rated workbook, Plan to Win, to transform their real estate sales game plan. Here’s to your success.


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Lee Davenport

Dr. Lee Davenport is an Atlanta-based real estate coach and blogger who has been featured in REALTOR® Magazine and the Huffington Post, to name a few. She trains real estate agents and brokers across the country on how to work smarter with technology. Join Lee's free RE Tech Insider's Club at LearnWithLee.REALTOR for tips and tools to help your business thrive. Follow Lee on FacebookInstagramYouTube, Google+, and search the #LearnWithLee hashtag.

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