You’d be surprised how old the average realtor is. According to a survey by the National Association of Realtors, a whopping 81% are over 45 years old, with a median age of 56, while only 3% are under 30.
But their clientele, at least on the consumption side, are far younger: this year, millennials are expected to overtake baby boomers as the largest cohort buying real estate. Among renters, millennials have been the dominant generation for nearly a decade.
So what do realtors and property managers need to understand about the changing demands of their much-younger customers? Here are seven ways millennials are changing the leasing industry, and the larger real estate industry as a whole.
1. They do extensive research… on their smartphones. Over half of millennials use their smartphones to browse and research home listings, and that number is only growing. Landlords and property managers should use mobile-friendly sites to list their properties for rent, and be aware that Generation Y is also researching online reviews of realtors and apartment complexes on their phones, too.
2. They don’t use smartphones for calling. Many millennials prefer texting or emailing, once initial contact has been made. Realtors, property managers and landlords need to become very comfortable wit h emails and texts, and quickly. The good news is that it creates a paper trail for you, so you have a record of what your potential renters or clients have said and want.
3. They expect responsiveness and good customer service. Millennials move at a faster pace than their parents while doing business, having grown up accustomed to instant answers at their fingertips from Yahoo and Google. Be sure to return phone calls, texts and emails within a few hours of receiving them, and you’ll keep your Generation Y clients happy.
4. They are more data-oriented and organized. It’s no surprise that a generation that has used computers since being toddlerhood is organized and data-oriented. They like to see housing figures, local trends, graphs. They like checklists and charts. Most of all, they like to know what’s coming, what to expect, and don’t like surprises.
5. They don’t balk at sharing personal data. Need bank statements, credit reports or tax returns? Millennials came of age in an era where privacy was an illusion harbored only by the old folks. They already share everything on social media, and know full well that they have no real privacy, so they will likely not react as badly as their parents do when asked for personal information.
6. They have trouble seeing beyond skin-deep in real estate. Chic detailing and modern stainless steel appliances will call to them, but they seldom think to test how thin the walls are, or try the shower pressure, or double check how old the furnace and hot water heater are. As a realtor, it is your job to help protect them on these fronts, and as a landlord, pay extra attention to the gloss and “sexy” factor of your properties.
7. They’re willing to share, sublet or do what it takes to afford a dream location. Millennials like glamorous urban neighborhoods, and are willing to make sacrifices to live there. If that means signing a sublease agreement with a roommate, so be it. If it means renting out the apartment on Airbnb sometimes, they’ll make it work. This can mean risks for landlords though, with more wear and tear on their rental properties than they expected. Be sure to have a clear sublease policy, and screen applicants to make sure their income really is sufficient.
Millennials will increasingly shape the economy in unexpected ways, much as their baby boomer parents did and still continue to do. In some ways, America already has a bi-modal economy, with the strong gravitational pull of baby boomers and millennials eclipsing other generations’ influence.