Meg White is the former managing editor of REALTOR® Magazine.
Back in 2014, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate commissioned a study about the housing preferences of the generation coming up behind the much-studied millennials, and the results were somewhat surprising. Nearly all (97 percent) predicted they will own a home in the future, and 81 percent said they’d work with an agent to purchase that home.
“The answers were pretty interesting,” Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, told an attendees at the 2016 REALTORS® Conference & Expo in Orlando, Fla. this month. “They’re dreaming about home ownership.”
To help real estate pros dig more deeply into the data, Chris put together a panel of five kids. ranging in age from 11 to 17, who were willing to share their perceptions about the real estate industry, agent service, social media, and home trends at the conference. What they revealed may be useful to your future sales pipeline.
It’s not just parents who are worried about screen time. Ethan, 12, bemoaned his cohort’s (and his own) addiction to devices. “We should be called generation distraction,” he said. “Even right now I’m having trouble not looking at my phone!” However, Chris reminded the audience that it’s not just young people who have that problem. “Let me tell you something, Ethan: So am I,” she said.
However Chris—who has more than three decades of experience in the real estate industry—and her panelists are using their phones to access very different apps. Instagram and Snapchat were by far the most popular social media platforms among the panelists, though Twitter and Tumblr both got positive mentions as well.
The one platform none of them can relate to is also the one that’s most popular with REALTORS®, whose median age is 53 according to the latest member profile. “Facebook is for old people,” Chris quipped. “We better learn to use those [other] social sites as well.”
The panelists also had advice for how to advertise on these platforms. Each one expressed a comfort with targeted online advertising that differs notably from the reactions typically found among older generations. The main gripe shared by the young panelists is that most of the ads they see aren’t well-tailored to their interests.
“I will look at it but it kind of depends,” said Brooke, 17, referring to sponsored content on Instagram. “If it doesn’t have much of an appeal with the caption or what it looks like, I’ll scroll past it.”
One audience member asked the panel whether they would be inclined to apply a Snapchat filter created by a brand to their personal Snapchat posts, and the common denominator again was how relevant the ad content is to their lives. “I usually choose the ones that are more funny and relatable,” said Cayman, 17. But he cautioned that even if he uses the filter, it doesn’t mean he’s going to purchase the item being promoted by the it, making a nuanced distinction between how companies use branding and advertising to accomplish different goals. “I don’t usually end up using those products. It’s more to spread [awareness of] that product and what it’s about.”
When asked to describe their future dream homes, several panelists showed that price-consciousness is a top concern. Thomas, 12, began his answer with a query: “My first question is, “What’s my budget?” Tthe audience responded with a round of applause.
Cayman said though he wants to live somewhere where he’ll have easy access to nature, he’s not willing to pay too much of a premium. “I really like nature and I like being outside,” he said. “But I probably wouldn’t want a beach house because I know that’s crazy expensive.”
Brooke listed hardwood floors, granite, updated appliances, and a large, open layout plan among the features of her dream home. “I watch a lot of HGTV, so I know exactly what I want,” she said. She added that having an environmentally-friendly house is important. “I am someone who’s really into conservation," Broke said. "I’m the one in my house who goes and turns all the light switches out.”
For Ethan, the ideal home would be green, but he said he’d be willing to upgrade an existing home to decrease its carbon footprint. “I definitely think it’s a concern,” he said. “But I don’t know if I would consider it a primary concern as soon as I get a house.”
Elizabeth, 11, who was the youngest panel member, identified a give-and take between ample square footage and a desirable neighborhood. “Maybe it’s just my age, but I want a huge house,” she said. Still, she noted it’s also important to her to live “someplace where you’re not forced to stay inside all day, and there’s stuff to do.”
Thomas agreed. “There’s a happy medium between square footage and the area you live in,” he said. “If you buy in the city, it’s going to be more expensive.”
But not all young people envision themselves living in urban environments. Ethan guessed he’d be looking “ideally in a suburban area.” Cayman said he’d like to be “out in the country.”
The panelists were the sons and daughters of conference attendees based in central Florida— three have parents who are sales associates with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Fine Living. So perhaps it’s not shocking that the kids all confirmed their intentions to work with REALTORS® when they’re ready to buy. Still, their clarity of vision concerning how agents might factor into their real estate journey impressed the audience.
Cayman said he’d ask a real estate agent to preview homes and help him analyze his commute for potential neighborhood choices. Elizabeth said she hoped an agent could help her stay on track. But the panel also appeared to value an agent who could help smooth the sometimes-stressful experience of a real estate transaction.
“The most important part of what we need a real estate agent for is the psychological process,” said Ethan. “We already have access to just plain information. At the end of the day, I still think buying a home is a really people-based business.”