Globally, millennials are calling the property-buying shots and they’re not shy to ask for what they want
WORDS: SUPPLIED – PHOTOS: SOURCED
Millennials (between 24 and 39 years old) are now officially the largest property-buying demographic and their needs are very different from that of their predecessors, including what they expect from real estate agents.
FNB reports that data from the Deeds Office shows younger buyers (below the age of 35) now account for 43% of residential sales – up from 38% in 2019. Lightstone Property data also indicates that most first-time buyers enter the residential property market in the R700,000 price bracket. Millennials now account for almost 30% of South Africa’s total population according to Statistics SA and they’re the largest generation to enter the country’s workforce (51%).
According to Yael Geffen, CEO, Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty, Google and YouTube may be the go-to for all millennials’ property needs and wants, including researching real estate, but just like their parents – the baby boomers aged between 57 and 75 years – they prefer dealing with an agent when it comes to taking things further.
They are, however, a little pickier when it comes to committing to an estate agent. According to a report by Zillow Group, an American online real estate marketplace company, millennials interview on average 2,7 estate agents and look them up on social media as part of the selection process. They also like to be part of the home-buying process and expect to be updated every step of the way. By contrast, baby boomers interview on average 1,6 agents and trust the property professionals to get on with the job.
All about branding
Geffen says it therefore makes sense that millennials would relate to agents of their own generation because they ‘speak the same language’ and understand their property needs. Millennial agents recognise the value of establishing their own personal brands, while aligning with established and successful large real estate brands. They also know how to work and grow their brand on social media. “Agents from this generation group continually engage with clients and potential clients much more – they don’t just use social media to advertise properties for sale, they cultivate a strong following by making and posting their own videos, which share as much about them as people and professionals as they do about real estate.”
Geffen says reality TV shows like Million Dollar Listing have been fuelling the transformation and glamorisation of a seemingly staid industry, which has seen little change in the last five decades. “Until very recently, baby boomers were the largest property-buying group and, although they’re far more dynamic than generations before them, their realtor and property investment expectations and needs have remained fairly conventional,” says Geffen. “Never before have agents been so ‘up close and personal’, which appeals strongly to the younger buyers. This is why all our new agents attend our Experience Academy to learn how to perform on camera, how to translate and project, and how to successfully grow their personal brand,” she says.
Authenticity is a critical key to success for agents serving millennials. “It has to be genuine and can only be achieved if you are truly passionate about what you do because insincerity will be sniffed out very quickly,” Geffen says. “Self-awareness and transparency take considerable self-reflection and the conviction and courage to always strive to do the right thing. This isn’t always easy, but it’s well worth the effort as you’ll not only reap professional rewards, but personal ones too.”
Inspired by reality TV
Grahame Diedericks, manager principal of the Midrand office and international liaison for the group, says that, although shows like Million Dollar Listing and Selling Sunset are somewhat dramatised, they do give insight into the everyday workings of the real estate profession. “This has inspired a new crop of young and dynamic intern agents wanting to get into the industry with the promise of all the glitz and glamour to be enjoyed if one works hard and smart,” he says.
Diedericks believes social media is the most significant differentiating factor between the old guard and the new generation of estate agents. He says for agents, the best path to success in the industry today is to begin with the solid foundation of the ‘old school teachings’ and then build on that with a flair for the new.
According to Geffen, a balanced approach to social media is key to ensuring success for agents. “We’re all aware that the way we conduct business and consumer behaviour have changed dramatically over the last few years. If we are to survive and thrive in the future, every business needs to adapt quickly to meet the needs of this new generation of tech-savvy and sophisticated customers,” she says. “Agents who can achieve a balance between personal and professional exposure on public platforms and are seen as real and authentic, are the agents who will attract today’s and future buyers,” Geffen says.