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With the sweeping changes in society, technology and economics over the last century, the differences in how each generation thinks, speaks, and makes decisions about luxury real estate opportunities have never been more pronounced.
“I’ve observed many differences in what various generations are looking for when it comes to property,” noted Jason Lee Villarreal, Global Real Estate Advisor at Martha Turner Sotheby’s International Realty. “Every generation is distinct.”
For Becky Gray, Global Real Estate Advisor at Realogics Sotheby’s International Realty, the key to exceeding clients’ expectations is to bring those distinctions in-house. “That’s one reason why I formally established The Gray Team in partnership with the next generation, Alex Gray,” she explains. “Together, we’re navigating the shifting landscape of our global marketplace by expanding our services to suit the ever-changing needs of our clients.”
Emphasizing an inclusive, multigenerational approach, Villarreal and Gray share their advice on engaging with buyers and sellers across all age groups.
How to communicate across generations
Villarreal points out the necessity of staying on top of the latest technologies so he can easily connect with new buyers as they enter the market — while also respecting the traditional modes preferred by his well-established clientele. “For younger buyers, text messaging and video calls will be standard, while in-person meeting and tangible materials will be the go-to for older buyers and sellers.”
But as Gray notes, the generation gap often manifests most acutely when it comes to knowledge. “Because baby boomers or Generation X (Gen X) clients tend to have experience with home purchases or sales, we spend time educating them on how things have changed since the last time they completed a real estate transaction — whereas a millennial or Generation Z (Gen Z) client may require a full breakdown in how the home purchase process works.”
3 factors that vary by generational values
Gray points to three areas where the generation of a client tends to have a significant impact on their priorities:
- Price point: A client’s maturity and experience in the market influences how much they’re willing to spend, though their life stage and goals will also determine whether they’re upsizing or downsizing.
- Location: Whether or not a client is working or retired has an important bearing on where they’re looking to buy. What amenities, activities, and services do they need nearby to best suit their desired lifestyle?
- Property size: People’s preferences naturally depend on their life circumstances. Are they single, newly partnered, planning for a family, or “empty nesters”?
Analyzing the 5 homebuying generations
Today, real estate agents may have clients from one of five generations of homebuying age: the Greatest Generation, the baby boomers, Gen X, the millennials, and Gen Z. Here’s a brief breakdown of some of the key differences observed by Villarreal and Gray.
The Greatest Generation
“For older generations, much of the motivation to purchase or sell surrounds investment opportunities and estate planning,” says Gray. “They’re looking at what financial decisions to make today to help prepare them for the present moment and the future of those they hold dearest.”
The baby boomers
Conversely, baby boomers typically look to downsize and prioritize living in established neighborhoods, according to Villarreal. “They have outgrown the home they raised their family in, and either tend to prefer large homes with ample space for family gatherings, or prioritize living in a smaller space so they can travel and not worry about maintenance.”
Low-maintenance living is also an emerging preference for Gen X buyers. “We’ve seen baby boomers and Gen X clients embrace the concept of smart sizing: securing a lock-and-leave primary residence opportunity locally while acquiring property in other markets,” says Gray.
Villarreal notes that many younger millennials are motivated by the prospect of first-time homeownership in dynamic locations. “Millennials are more drawn to urban areas with amenities like restaurants, bars, and shops,” he says. “As a millennial, I can definitely attest to being drawn to the vibrant energy of urban areas.”
Location also plays a key role for Gen Z buyers but for different reasons. “Once a millennial or Gen Z client becomes a homeowner, they may choose to sell because they’re ready to move into a home that may have been unattainable when they first purchased,” says Gray. “They may have a job relocation that brings them to an entirely new city or state, or because they want a more convenient location — whether it’s school districts, proximity to work, or other opportunities.”
Relationships that last through the ages
“Whether we are assisting first-time buyers through their inaugural real estate journey or providing expertise in distinctive property representation, there’s one thing that always remains true for our team: we ensure that every client is part of our legacy and is granted meticulous care every step of the way,” says Gray.
Villarreal concurs. “Despite belonging to different generations, our common desire for a location with great amenities and the ability to transform a house into a home unites us at the end of the day.”