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Reaching Out to Millennial Buyers

by Wendy Forsythe

article_wendyReaching this target demographic is a challenge that many real estate agents must tackle today. Although the millennial cohort (those between 18 and 34 years old) has been slow to enter the homeownership realm — not surprising considering the state of the market as they came into adulthood — there are signs that millennials are still working toward homeownership.

In fact, according to the Zillow Housing Confidence Index released this past September, millennials are the most optimistic about becoming homeowners. A whopping 82 percent of millennial renters indicated that they were confident or somewhat confident that they will be able to afford a home someday, while only 64 percent of Generation X renters expressed this confidence. In addition, 65 percent of millennials agreed with the notion that owning a home is necessary to living the "good life" and the American dream.

The question remains, however, how can real estate agents help millennial renters become homeowners?

The process begins with communication, and getting through to millennials may be a bit different than previous generations. For instance, the first paragraph of this article is about 140 characters, and that may be all the space a real estate agent has to capture the attention of millennial buyers. Millennials distill a lot of information from the internet, including social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Twitter limits you to 140 characters, and expressing the complexities of the real estate market in such a small space is no easy feat. But proper use of Twitter, Facebook and other mobile technologies will enable you to capture the attention (and trust) of elusive millennial homebuyers.

In some ways, converting millennial leads into clients follows the same pattern as other leads, and many real estate agents are already familiar with the steps necessary to convert online leads successfully. Taking those same steps while adjusting them for a millennial audience is key to working with this demographic. Real estate agents should:

  • Follow up immediately with leads who request showings. Consider calling or texting the client instead of email. 
  • Use electronic alerts to get visitors to come back to your site. Incorporate Twitter or Facebook posts into your marketing strategy to drive traffic.
  • Create drip campaigns to cultivate leads that aren't ready to act yet. Provide information that millennials are looking for, such as the latest on entry-level housing or first-time homebuyer products.

In fact, using Twitter and other social media sites is like the ultimate drip campaign in many ways. You establish yourself and your company as a source of valuable information, particularly information that isn’t easily available through simple internet research. A real estate agent's value doesn't just come from being able to link to the latest rates or the newest listing, but rather from her ability to interpret information and translate it for her clients. Your knowledge of the local market is invaluable; now you simply have to communicate that knowledge to clients in a way that they understand and in a way with which they are comfortable.

According to NAR's recent research, more than half of millennial and Gen X homebuyers used some kind of mobile technology during their home search. Creating your own mobile app is certainly a possibility if you have the means, but isn’t it much easier to reach out via an app many already have installed, such as Twitter or Facebook?

As you work to ramp up your online presence, real estate agents should recognize that targeting the millennial market is both an excellent long-term strategy and an immediate necessity. According to data from NAR, millennials make up 31 percent of all homebuyers, the largest share of any generation.

Although many millennials simply aren’t in a position to buy right now, due to a variety of factors including high rents and student-loan burdens, this doesn't mean that you should ignore this market. By positioning yourself to reach millennials now, you can establish yourself as a trusted resource for years to come — and, of course, you can capitalize on the millennials who are looking to buy now. In fact, NAR reports that this generation comprises an overwhelming majority of first-time homebuyers at 76 percent.

Although learning to communicate in 140 characters or less may seem daunting, it will be an important skill to have as more millennials move into position to buy their first home. Of course, technology will continue to change and evolve, but the lesson of meeting your buyers where they live (in an online sort of way) will prove to be a fruitful one as the largest generation since the baby boomers starts to become the largest segment of homeowners.

thumbnail_wendyWendy Forsythe is Executive Vice President and Head of Global Operations for Carrington Real Estate Services. 

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