Millennials Want to Buy, Just Not From You — Yet

Here are a few ways to cut through the myriad of misconceptions and turn serial renters into first-time home buyers.

We’ve all heard the story: Millennials aren’t buying homes.

Lazy and entitled, members of the “Me Me Me Generation” aren’t buying much of anything, save for maybe obscure IPAs and avocado toast. If they do ever ascend from their parents’ basements and into the workplace, it’s an avion of abundant affirmation on which they float tardily into the office and a pillow of persistent praise upon which they nod off at their desk. As kids, millennials didn’t go too many days between reminders that they can and will be whatever they want when they grow up, so why don’t they appear very interested in doing that?

It’s “shoot for the Moon — even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars,” but in reverse, right?

Hasn’t it been their parents’ insistence that these kids are owed the Moon that’s made them unsatisfied with the thought of landing in the stars, thus keeping them from ever taking the shot? It’s this entitlement keeping millennials from careers and committed relationships, right? It’s a willful abstinence from adulthood. Right?

Maybe not. Let’s discuss how to crack the code on the largest generation in US history by first trying to understand just who they are.

The I’m-the-Greatest Generation? Maybe, but that’s beside the point.

Millennials are more than just selfie sticks and somehow-stylish Civil War beards. They’re more than craft coffee and casual coitus. They are those things, sure, but they’re also more.

Having hit 30 or getting close, this is the generation who, after incurring record levels of student loan debt and watching their parents suffer in the economic crisis of ‘08-‘09, were plopped into an objectively tough job market, only to experience ever-sharper inflation pains amid increasingly ugly income disparity, which is at its most disparate since 1928.

This is the generation who, reluctantly or pragmatically, established the Gig Economy, which has created a legion of freelancers and domestic fair-traders while celebrating working oneself to death.

Most importantly, this is the generation who currently hold claim to the constantly coveted 18-to-34 buying demographic, and agents and brokers with a mind for their own incomes had better learn how to talk to them.

LEARN HOW TO TALK TO MILLENNIALS

Get on their level.

To enter their forum, you must first learn the language. Helpful hint for a head start: curb the disdain. They’re people just like you. The best way to address generational issues is to show there aren’t any.

Cut the crap.

Real estate agents like to joke that people hate real estate agents second only to used car salesmen. That could be true, but it’s probably the tired shtick they hate more. The gimmicks. The low-down, dirty tricks. You know the ones.

Really, aside from garbage, LA’s hottest anything isn’t so bad.

Harness tech to position yourself as an ally in the industry.

Millennials have a unique relationship with tech. They’re the last generation who will remember life before cyber ubiquity and a good amount of them even got a look under the hood when the internet was comparatively simple. This experience has made them discerning — deft at dodging would-be deceit and informed in their pursuit of quality goods and services.

Look at the decline of Applebee’s and Buffalo Wild Wings, for example. Millennials are undoing these chains’ dubious dominance of the dinner space simply because most know better than to sit down to a second-rate supper.

This shouldn’t sound like the retail-is-dead doom and gloom du jour — purveyors of quality goods and services should read this as hopeful, especially since good marketing tech helps cream rise to the top.

“An obvious place to start branding yourself as an ally to millennials is social media.”
- Captain Obvious, probably

It goes without saying that you need to be on social media. Here are a few tips for being seen as friend and not spammer:

  • Post as a human who is interested in the education and wellbeing of your followers. Not everything has to be an ad with a call to action at the end.
  • Share relevant articles that answer common questions and help to quell potential customers’ fears with documented research and demonstrable facts.
  • Maintain humility and humor
    -
    Share endearing tidbits from your friends and family
    - Share relatable foibles “Uh oh! Spilled coffee in my lap! Whoops, dog ate my contracts!”
    -Hell, maybe memes? Couldn’t hurt! Everybody loves ‘em!
Okay, maybe not memes.
“Don’t be a Luddite about Zillow.”
- A Luddite, probably, after realizing the textile machinery he destroyed would’ve made his job easier, and then finding himself in the mood to offer unsolicited advice

Of course, it’s not just social media. There are plenty of other online tools relevant to young adults. Sites like Zillow can seem poised to erase the real estate agent from the face of the earth, but they don’t have to be the enemy. Harness them.

You know those Zestimates you like to gripe about? They’re not 100% accurate so it’s annoying that people look to them before coming to you, right? Wrong. Use that. Bridge the gap by helping potential first-time buyers understand the difference between realty algorithm and realty reality.

Even sites like RealEstate.com, a Zillow offshoot directly targeting millennials by offering a step-by-step guide to the home-buying process, will likely overwhelm first-timers. Personal help remains essential.

It should also be noted that a more efficient way to harness the newest technology does exist. Imagine having a personalized platform that functions like a custom search tool no one else has, paired with a built-from-scratch backend for your agents, designed to increase both retention and sales. Think: the marketing power of giants like Zillow, but on a boutique level.

More on that another time.

NOW TALK TO MILLENNIALS

Do members of the so-called “Me Me Me Generation” know buying a home would actually be beneficial for them? Well, despite what you may have heard, around 91% of renters between the ages of 25 and 34 eventually want to own a home, according to a recent Fannie Mae survey. Now that you know how to talk to them, convince them now’s the time by making sure they’re hip to a few key points:

1. Down payments are lower than they probably fear.

  • Being able to afford 20% down is great, but it’s not the norm.

2. Mobility and flexibility don’t have to be sacrificed.

  • Buying is a realistic option, even if young adults don’t plan on staying long.
  • Improved personal credit and home equity can actually help springboard a “vacation mover” lifestyle.

3. The housing market is still on the rise.

  • A 2008-style crash is highly unlikely.
  • The percentage of increases may go down, but there’s not a foreseeable threat of a crash.
Snapping a selfie or searching listings?

Really, millennials may not be as tough a nut to crack as think piece after think piece would have you believe. They may require an adjustment or two to your current strategy, but what lasting institution hasn’t had to adapt to the changing of times?

The key is finding the Jimmy Fallon to your Jay Leno — and not the shark to your Fonzie.


Need help breaking into new markets? Highform employs the latest technology to help agents and brokerages reach potential buyers of all ages. Let’s chat.