SAN FRANCISCO — To reach millennials, those 20- and 30-somethings who represent a flood of both potential real estate pros and millions of homebuyers, brokerages need to be thinking about how to best serve them.

That was one of the themes that emerged from the “Broker War Room,” where about 100 broker-owners attending the Real Estate Connect conference heard presentations about cultivating firm culture, recruiting and retaining agents, and running a good business from 10 of their prominent colleagues.

Robyn Erlenbush, broker-owner of ERA Landmark Real Estate, said that her 85-agent, Bozeman, Montana-based firm’s philanthropic bent has been key in recruiting younger agents.

Compared to baby boomers, millennials have broader interests outside of work, and want to make a difference in the world, Erlenbush said. She gives her younger recruits the opportunity by connecting them to leadership positions in the brokerage community early on.

“It’s astounding how well (younger agents) step up when asked,” Erlenbush said.

The benefits of bringing  younger agents into the fold flow in two directions, said Jeff Martell, broker-owner of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate 43° North in Boise, Idaho.

When new agents come on board, Martell likes to pair them with older agents. He said a 23-year-old agent will teach a 60-year-old agent something new about technology, but the older agent will actually be schooling the newbie, helping them learn the real estate ropes.

Millennials represent about 90 percent of Texas-based Bamboo Realty’s business, said broker-owner Sarah Jones, and as such it has learned some proven ways to reach them as clients, including:

  • Providing five-star service and making sure that’s reflected in online reviews on your sites like Yelp, LinkedIn, Facebook and others. Younger clients expect great service and will rely on the Web to disccover which firms are providing it, Jones said.
  • Providing info about the homebuying process from contract to close. Bamboo Realty uses Closing Time, a software platform that guides the homebuyer through the process step by step.
  • Giving context and a framework around the real estate transaction. With the plethora of information about homes on the Web, and given millennials’ penchant for doing their homework, it’s important that a brokerage provide deeper, local insight into the market and process.
  • Understanding the lifestyle features of neighborhoods in their operating area. Younger homebuyers are interested in what coffee shops, restaurants and grocery stores are nearby a listing, Jones said. Jones says her husband, an agent with Bamboo Realty, will follow businesses in his farm area on Facebook and Twitter to keep abreast of happenings he can relay to clients.

The key difference between millennial and older clients? Jones says that younger clients rely on their peers for homebuying advice far more often than older clients, whether that be an in-person consultation or via the Web.

Alyssa Hellman, a sales manager with Long & Foster Real Estate in Arlington, Virginia, said she plans to take the advice about designing a plan to reach millennial clients to heart. She said the needs and wants of millennials require a different approach and new tools to reach them.

Survey agents to increase retention

Joseph Crespillo, broker-owner of Sellstate Realty First in Rocklin, California, said the Broker War Room convinced him of the need to implement agent surveys at at his 85-agent firm. His firm had done client surveys in its 20-year history, but never an agent survey.


The “Broker War Room” room was packed with 100-plus broker-owners talking shop. Photo by one of the presenters Tiffany Kjellander.

Crespillo said the presentation given by Josh Tanner, president and chief operating officer of Mobile, Alabama-based Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Generations, convinced him that an agent survey would be useful for his brokerage.

Tanner outlined his 75-agent firm’s five-question agent survey for the audience. The survey questions include:

  • In five words or less, tell why you enjoy working with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Generations. Eighty-six percent of the responses had to do with mention of the people at the firm, Tanner said.
  • What do you tell your client that the brokerage brings to the table in the transaction?
  • Name the top tools, systems, support staff that you value the most from the brokerage.

In the firm’s six-year history, Tanner says the firm has lost only four agents to other companies.

Dropping what’s not valued

Jones said Bamboo Realty changed one of its award plans after the previous “Broker War Room” event at Real Estate Connect New York in January, where Joseph Rand, managing partner at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Rand Realty, preached that brokerages should stop paying for services and incentives for agents that the agents don’t value.

The firm used to award the top-producing agent of the month 2 percent of the brokerage’s commission splits for that time period. The same three or four agents always won it, Jones said.

So the firm decided to give those top-producing agents a raise instead, Jones said, eliminating a source of tension in the office.

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