If a real estate agent couldn’t drive a car, we would say that he can’t be a real estate agent. Driving a car is considered that critical to what we do. But what of our comfort level with other types of technology besides driving? We take our transportation for granted because it’s adapted right along with society for so many years.
Yet many agents cling to the belief that emerging technology just isn’t worth the trouble… and that consumers really don’t care if you work on an iPad or a legal pad.
Well, if you’re the buyer or seller searching for a printer-scanner at 10 o’clock at night, you definitely care. In fact, you’re probably annoyed that your agent didn’t offer a more effective means for transmitting real estate documents. And if you’re a tech-expectant millennial, the entire process up to that point might leave you wondering if you’ve been transported back to the Dark Ages. (“Does my real estate agent even know how to send me a photo on his phone?” “Why is he asking for a fax number?”)
Technology and how we weave it into the very human work of real estate is the only “next big thing” we should care about in this industry.
While new and better real estate tools and systems abound, most agents simply aren’t using them. But ignoring the expectations of the millennial consumer is a mistake. These consumers in their late 20s and early 30s are the next wave in real estate, and it’s a big one. In addition to being the second-largest demographic in North America, these are qualified, focused buyers and sellers who know exactly what they want from life AND from their real estate. They also know what they want from their REALTOR®, and they’re not afraid to ask very tough questions, before they commit to an agency relationship.
Millennials on the whole are very pro-agent, and first-hand experience tells me they intuitively know how important it is to choose a REALTOR® carefully. They want professional guidance and support for the biggest transaction of their life.
Despite that millennials are the ultimate real estate client, they are gravely underserved.
Millennials are the first truly “tech-expectant” generation to enter the economy. In real estate, it looks like this:
- They don’t ask if you text. They just text you.
- They don’t ask for photocopies of contracts. They expect a PDF.
- They are not wowed by an iPad at a listing appointment. (What’s a legal pad anyway?)
- They will surf (and scrutinize) listings online for months prior to contacting an agent.
- They’re relieved when you ask for an electronic signature. (How do fax machines actually work?)
Everyone criticizes the millennials for being the ‘me’ generation and being so entitled [...] I don’t think they’re so entitled. I think they’re just incredibly pragmatic. So for them if a voice mail isn’t practical — which most of the time it isn’t — and there’s a more practical way of delivering the same information, they’re gonna go for that.
~ Jane Buckingham in Please Do Not Leave a Message: Why Millennials Hate Voice Mail, npr.org
Millennials aren’t unrealistic or demanding, but they expect real-time information from their agent. They’ll pick up the phone or go belly-to-belly when it makes sense to, but playing phone tag when a text would work just as well is going to insult them.
Above all else, millennials want a great experience, with their REALTOR® and ultimately with the home they purchase and plan to sell later on. Yet many agents are simply too bogged down by paperwork and administration to relate to their clients in a meaningful way.
As Marshall McLuhan famously said, the medium is the message. In many ways, organized real estate is sending millennials the wrong message, and the cost is huge. Real estate agents are already on the consumer watch list as not to be trusted. If we can’t get the communication right, what else aren’t we getting? It’s time for change. Our clients deserve it.