The ludicrous interest rates of the 1980s, the real estate crash of the late 2000s, and now, the newest conundrum for real estate agents — millennials.
Bloggers can’t sneeze without publishing a new article on the subject. Each five-step guide or “winning with millennials” tutorial champions a few consistent staples that are sure crowd-pleasers, or stressors, that agents are discussing. These articles usually include paragraphs on technology, entitlement and communication. There is often some bit in there about millennials loving to text as well — even late at night.
But this is not an article about how to work with millennials. I cannot teach you how to do that.
In fact, for some, working with this generation just is not going to be a good idea — and that’s fine. Find your niche and own it. If you despise the idea of texting at 9 p.m., then don’t work with millennials. Do something else and totally crush it.
If you engage the world of millennials and real estate, step up and own it. I am trying to do just that. But before we jump ahead, let’s set the stage by looking at where we currently are with millennials.
Today, millennials are the dominant first-time homebuyers, and they will continue to be the dominant buyers for years to come. The National Association of Realtors reports that the age of first-time homebuyers in 2013 was 31 (NAR Quick field Guide). And remember, that’s just the tip of the millennial iceberg. We are just getting started.
The dominant home sellers, however, are not millennials. In 2013, the average age of a seller was 53, and on average, sellers owned their home for 10 years (NAR Quick Field Guide). But in the next 10 to 15 years, these statistics will evolve as millennials age and move into their second or third homes. Then, we’ll see a new generation of do-it-yourselfers selling their homes.
So while most Realtors are trying to figure out how to help millennials buy property, I’m concerned with how they will sell property in the years to come. And here’s where it gets interesting.
Millennials know how to monetize everything. If they own a car, they charge folks for rides: In comes Uber and Lyft. If they own a home, they charge vacationers to stay the night: In comes Airbnb. If they need to clean out their closet, they sell their clothes in Facebook groups. If they are crafty, they start an Etsy store. So what does this result to in 10 to 15 years when millennials are the dominant home sellers?
Most noticeably, we will see a surge in new for-sale-by-owner properties (“FSBOs”) like we have never seen before. But here’s the kicker: They’ll be good at it. New technologies will emerge to accommodate FSBO sales to meet market demand. And, if we thought our job as real estate agents was marginalized as buyer’s agents when real estate websites took over, just wait until your job as a listing agent is completely replaced by new technology — and executed by a generation that is better at our job than we are. The sting will be much worse. They aren’t stupid.
Millennials understand paying one agent’s commission is a heck of a lot cheaper than paying for two. The sales statistics we Realtors so readily quote comparing the inferior final sales prices of FSBOs to listings marketed by a real estate agent will not apply either.
Millennials bet on themselves, not data relevant to a past generation. Ask any millennial if they would personally try selling their home first before hiring a real estate agents, knowing the costs involved, and 9 out of 10 respond “yes.”
“Yes, but they need me to market their home to get them the best possible price and sell it fast!” No. No, they won’t. You’re not getting it. This generation will not need you to market their home with technologies you think sets you apart because this generation built the new technologies.
So what can agents do to compete in this industry, with agile and adaptable millennials? Is there a strategy for battling For-Sale-By-Millennial (FSBM) “listings” and pushing the reset button for the value real estate agents bring to the table? Three things come to mind:
1. Develop your niche, and stick to it. Seriously. In fact, you might want to think about building a niche within your niche — what I call “niching your niche.” Real estate agents will no longer be able to justify the value of their services as a one-size-fits-all real estate professional. Millennials don’t want mainstream chains or generic services. They do not want Starbucks; they want the little craft-coffee shop on the corner that roasts its own beans, promotes local artists and has a clear transparent message.
These shops are not promoting every artist or coffee bean in the world, or even in the city — just the ones in their community. They aren’t selling the city, just the neighborhood. You should do the same. Don’t risk becoming a one-size-fits — none — real estate “professional.” If you want listings by millennials, niche the neighborhood, not the city. Go deep, not broad.
2. Be completely transparent, all the time. I draw no lines between my personal self and my Realtor self. I never turn on being a Realtor by turning something else off. My values, work ethic and interests never change with my crowd. No one likes a flip-flopper. Be the same person whether showing homes, pumping gas, getting a haircut or sitting in a training class with other agents. This generation has a knack for boiling fakeness to the rim of the pot and sifting the impurities for the trash. Honest, transparent people make refined and successful agents.
3. Hustle, and then hustle some more. As more properties become For-Sale-By-Millennial, you will need to sharpen your skills as a buyer’s agent, and I mean for the long haul. Sharpening your skills means putting in the smart work for custom, automated property searches. It also means doing some creative sleuthing to find “coming soon” listings before they hit the market — or even before they become “coming soon” (think neighborhood Facebook pages, etc.).
Don’t put all your eggs in the MLS basket. The automated searches we agents often use work on a “pull” system where it runs a search on a schedule, but syndicates’ websites often have “push” systems where an alert runs in real time.
“Wait, you’re saying I could be alerted about a new listing by a syndicate’s website faster than from the MLS?” Yes. And don’t forget the tried-and-true, old-fashioned-way: asking other agents what they have coming on the horizon. There are an exponentially higher number of listings not on the market yet, which real estate agents have jotted in their calendar, than what is currently available. Can’t find the listing you need? Go find it.
In reality, I can’t teach you how to do any of these things. You’ll either do it with your own style, or you’ll do something else. So if you’re still reading this, here are some final thoughts:
Be yourself, and do what you know.
If you don’t know how to work with millennials: Don’t do it. If it doesn’t come natural, or if you’re not keen on the idea of texting a 9 p.m., don’t do it. I do not know how to sell horse farms or commercial property: So I don’t do it. I don’t know how to serve buyers properly looking for 55 plus communities, lakefront property or refugee communities, so I don’t do it. But I do know people who specialize in these areas that I trust to serve these buyers.
Refer the business to someone who can provide an outstanding level of care to your customers when you cannot. My clients know that if they text me at 9 p.m. I’ll be keeping them awake until 10 p.m. crunching data, running reports, talking through a contract, negotiating inspection repairs, etc. That’s how I operate, which is why I thrive working with millennials — maybe because I am a millennial, or maybe because I love the hustle — I don’t know. Whatever you do, totally crush it. Stop complaining about late-night texting, and start evolving and innovating your business. Find your niche, be yourself and hustle your tail off.
Charlie is a high-octane Realtor, triathlete and coffee enthusiast. A marketer-turned-Realtor, Charlie is known for his edgy — sometimes controversial — content and innovative real estate strategies. He is a former professional ballroom dancer (no, seriously) and is a graduate of the University of Texas system. Charlie is a Realtor with RealtyTrust Residential in Brentwood, Tennessee, and is the guy behind www.CharlieKnowsHomes.com. He and his beautiful wife, Tonya, live in Franklin, Tennessee, and have a handsome 1-year-old son, George.