Technology

Understanding millennial homebuyers through Snapchat

App is giving the real estate industry a glimpse into the future

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There are dozens of articles and posts around the Web teaching real estate agents about how to properly use social media. Apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Tumblr are all discussed as valuable marketing channels for real estate agents. Why are they so valuable? Real estate prospects and clients use apps and social media obsessively. But there is an app that has 100 million monthly users and is valued at a whopping $19 billion that no one is talking about in real estate.

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Snapchat is a photo and video-messaging app that allows users to send and post videos and pictures that disappear after somewhere between one and 10 seconds. Snapchat allows users to preview their photos and videos, add special filters and draw on the images before they send them. Users can send the images or videos to one person, multiple people at once, or they can post it to their “story.” A user’s “story” will keep their snaps in one place and be visible to all of their connected friends for 24 hours. Snapchat essentially allows people to broadcast what is currently going on in their life in real time and gets rid of the hassle and data usage that comes with texting or emailing your friends videos and pictures.

OK, I know what you’re thinking: I’m an agent; I want my potential clients to contact me; I want them to feel what it’s like to walk through the front door and smell the fresh grass in their new backyard. I don’t want to send my client a picture that deletes itself in 10 seconds. For that reason among others, maybe using Snapchat as a real estate marketing tool isn’t feasible right now. But the biggest challenge that real estate is facing in the coming months and years is epitomized in Snapchat.

Effectively selling to millennials will decide the future of the real estate market in the United States. Snaps are instant, they’re current — and then they are gone. Snapchat provides a clean, easy interface that is intuitive. Millennials are all about Uber-fication, and there is a service for everything these days. Millennials use their smartphone to catch a ride, to get the groceries delivered, to send money to friends and even to find a place to live. Gone are the days of using the Yellow Pages to find a good or service; millennials want it all at their fingertips — as fast as they can get it.

How do I know? I am a millennial (I’m 23 years old), and so are my friends. We use our smartphones constantly. Homeownership, in general, seems like an unattractive prospect when we consider what we have access to right now. When I have a problem with the condo that my roommates and I are renting, we call our landlord, and it’s taken care of. When we want to go out on the weekend, we use one app to get a ride, show up to a dinner reservation we made from an app, and then we find the coolest bar in town using another app.

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It’s a “fast and easy” economy, and Snapchat is all about efficiency and speed. Real estate seems like an industry full of red tape, and we have watched our parents sign up for 30-year mortgages. Nothing about a 30-year mortgage is attractive to a millennial. If we were to own a home in the future, we’d find it through an app, and we’d want a paperless, easy transaction that we can complete sooner rather than later.

So, where does Snapchat fit in? Of Snapchat’s 100 million active, monthly users, 71 percent of them are under the age of 25. Understanding why millennials love Snapchat will help real estate agents understand what motivates their future clients. In this new “fast and easy” economy, figuring out how to effectively sell to millennials will be critical. Here are some suggestions as a millennial (who uses Snapchat) on how to relate to my generation:

  • Have a robust social media presence. It sounds like a no-brainer, but so many agents still struggle with this concept. Because millions upon millions of millennials are using social media every day, you can’t afford to not have your brand represented online. A website is a great start, but getting a social media profile that you actively use on all of the big networks that potential homeowners are active on (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) is the first step in relating to a younger generation of upcoming homeowners.
  • Emphasize your expertise. I will be the first to admit, most of the reasons why my friends and I don’t want to own a home right now is because we don’t understand why it is a better proposition than renting. If I were to pick a Realtor in the near future, I would need to know that that person is an expert in the field and will make the process quick and easy for me as a first-time homebuyer. Educating potential homebuyers on how easy it is for them (and why homeownership is more of an investment and less of a purchase) will go a long way with millennials.
  • Think “Uber-fication” and “fast and efficient.” Millennials don’t want to call you for everything. They have a powerful smartphone that puts the world at their fingertips. In 2015, you need to have a branded mobile presence to stay relevant. There are hundreds of people every day that are using the Redfin, realtor.com and Homes.com mobile apps to search for their dream home. The challenge is how to stand apart and how to provide your future clients with everything they need at the tips of their fingers. A mobile-optimized site and some visibility on the major search portals is a great combination to drive curious first-time homebuyers to your website.

The homebuying process might never be as easy as ordering an Uber ride, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work toward that goal by giving potential homebuyers everything they need on their smartphone. You don’t have to embrace mobile technology, but if you don’t, know that the next agent will. Don’t fall off the cutting edge in the years to come because you aren’t adapting to the mobile-first real estate tech landscape.

The bottom line is that there is no clear-cut process on how to sell to millennials — because most of us aren’t in the market to be homeowners yet. But apps like Snapchat give us a glimpse into what motivates the homebuyers of tomorrow. This is my perspective, as a millennial, on how the real estate industry needs to adapt to ensure a bright future and a thriving industry.

What are you doing to engage future homebuyers? Share your stories in the comments!

Kevin Hopp is the vice president of customer success at Dizzle.

Email Kevin Hopp.