"For Sale By Millennial"

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The ludicrous interest rates of the 1980s...then the real estate crash of the late 2000s...and now, the newest conundrum for Realtors--Millennials.

Bloggers can’t sneeze without publishing a new article on the subject. Each 5-Step Guide or Winning With Millennials Tutorial champions a few consistent staples that are sure crowd-pleasers (or stressors) that Realtors are talking about. This usually includes paragraphs on technology, entitlement, and communication. There is often some bit in there about Millennials loving to text as well...even late at night--GASP*! But this is not an article on 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 9PM 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 home-buyers, and they will continue to be the dominant buyers for years to come. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that the age of first-time home-buyers in 2013 was 31 (NAR Quickfield 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 they owned their home for 10 years (NAR Quick Field Guide). But in the next 10-15 years these statistics will evolve as Millennials age and move into their 2nd or 3rd homes. Then, we’ll see a new generation of DIY-ers 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 that follow. And here’s where it gets interesting...let’s look at where we are going...

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 10-15 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 Realtors 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 Realtor’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 Realtor 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 Realtor, 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 Realtors 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 Realtors bring to the table? Three things come to mind:

  1. Develop your niche, and stick to it. Seriously. In fact, you may want to think about building a niche within your niche--what I call “niching your niche”. Realtors 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 their 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 hair-cut, or sitting in a training class with other Realtors. 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 Realtors.

  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. This means putting in the smart-work for custom, automated property searches, as well as 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 into the MLS basket. The automated searches we Realtors often use work on a “pull” system where it runs a search on a schedule, but syndicate’s 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 Realtors what they have coming on the horizon. There are an exponentially higher number of listings not on the market yet, that Realtors 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 decide to 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 9PM...don’t do it. I don’t know how to sell Horse Farms or Commercial property: so I don’t do it. I don’t know how to properly serve buyers looking for 55+ communities, lake-front property, or refugee communities, so I don’t do it. But I do know people who specialize in these areas who 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 9PM I’ll be keeping them awake until 10PM 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. Niche your niche, be yourself, and hustle your tail off.