Real Estate Millennial Marketing is Overrated

I have a long history in online real estate and marketing.  I don’t think this makes me an expert in real estate so much as I have extensive experience in marketing to different real estate markets and demographics over the past twenty years.

In 1999, when I started doing web development, one of my first clients was a real estate broker.  We parted ways in 2006 after moving my office to another state proved to both myself and my client that face-to-face communication worked better for both of us.  We continue to be friends to this day.

I did work designing and coding user interfaces for a Canadian real estate software company in 2009 and 2010.  He’s currently doing very well with his software in Canada and we remain friends.

I ended my most recent experience in real estate as more of an IT admin to the broker than anything else.  I was initially hired to do web consulting, development, design, internal communication and social media; but when you can’t do your job because all the hardware in every office is fifteen years old, you spend a significant amount of time making things work just so you can do your job.  Naturally, what I was initially hired to do went neglected and my job evolved into just keeping the company running.  I did this for four years.

In that four years, there was much progress in the company.  Good hardware was being purchased instead of the latest crap from Best Buy.  In what seemed like an endless battle, the company moved from the cheapest mail server solutions they could find to Office 365 and using Exchange.  Moving to paperless was complete chaos, but we made it work.  In this time the broker lost touch with their clientele.  The new buzz word was “Millennials”, which somehow resonated in every agent’s ears as synonymous with money.

Let’s make this clear up front.  Millennials are broke.  They’re all starting their careers and the last thing on their mind is settling down to buy a home and start a family.  Millennials now live in a world where there is no more stereotypical family and life is what they choose to make of it, however and whenever they choose to do it.  They’re renters.  Millennials live with their parents.  Millennials aren’t stupid, they’re making smart financial decisions, but the whole standard routine of life doesn’t sit well with any millennial and buying a home, especially now, isn’t even on the agenda.  Any statistic out there to prove otherwise has been heavily manipulated, you know, like web developers informing their clients their site is always growing by bouncing back and forth every month between the number of unique visitors and the number of hits.  To the uneducated person there’s no difference, but the difference is staggering and both statistics can be loaded with as much crap as you choose to fill it with.  Get some real world info and go talk to your fellow agents.  Find out how many Millennials they’ve recently worked with, buying or selling, and you’ll quickly find from any veteran agent that the Millennial marketing hype in real estate is horsesh*t.

The broker I worked for hired a Millennial [from the family] and pretty much granted her free reign to run the company how she saw fit, regardless of her complete lack of experience in the industry (brand spankin’ new rookie agent folks… was going through real estate class while running the company.  Awesome, right?).  Sure, she grew up in a real estate family, but by no means does that qualify her for the work.  She’s a nice person and easy to get along with and most importantly her intentions were good, but I saw fewer and fewer leads coming in despite her steady optimism that they’re coming, granted this was a trending problem before her arrival, but she in no way was making any progress in reversing the problem since her tenure began.  She in fact was making it much worse, all unbeknownst to the other agents, largely in part because statistics were kept behind closed doors, but also because, once again, the statistics of success can be measured in ways you choose to see when wearing blinders.  I heard many agents complaining of not being fed any leads, and fingers would be pointed about working the floor, not working the floor, leadership corruption, online leads only going to favorites, etc.  Of course none of this was true.  The fact of the matter is the broker simply didn’t have leads to hand out.

I am not a real estate agent and have no plans to be one.  My wife, however, is.  The website redesign catered to Millennials was her last straw with the broker we both worked for.  My wife went to another broker without hesitation, after firmly believing her hard work, perseverance and patience with this broker was going to eventually pay off.  Don’t get me wrong, we both still love this broker, and despite the strides made in technology, something was broken from the inside out.  Being married to a web developer (me) and understanding the power of marketing that website to attract and represent clientele rings home with my wife.  The new website was just flat out poorly done in addition to being catered to the wrong audience.  The new broker site now eliminated all the other demographics… you know, the ones with money to actually purchase a home.  Money motivates my wife and eliminating potential clientele isn’t anywhere on her agenda.

So who exactly are these other demographics?  Retirees are scaling down into smaller homes at an exponential rate.  My generation, generation X, have all started families and have blossoming careers…  we’re settling down and finally starting to feel safe enough to buy a home after the market crash either ruined our credit or we spent years protecting it and establishing our lives.  Many of us are starting second lives after having recovered from that mess.  If your marketing to an individual born after 1985 [in real estate], you’re marketing to the wrong group of people.  Period.

The Millennials will have their time in probably about ten years, but that time certainly isn’t now.  Most importantly, if Millennials want help buying a home, they sure as hell don’t want a real estate agent; they’ll use the internet and advice from their parents and friends before seeking out an agent even becomes an afterthought.  Flat out, Millennials don’t want you; agents are the enemy!  They’ll research and do the work themselves before they even think of contributing a percentage for your services… a problem they’ll work through as they grow older and eventually find value in your tenure, advice and having to avoid the endless [digital] paperwork and bantering back and forth.

Want me to back all this up with skewed statistics plastered/linked all over the internet?  Nope.  Don’t have the time to look it up and don’t care to.  Since switching to another broker, my wife’s business has been steadily getting better and she always has leads.  Real estate agents — go talk to one another.  Go ask your buddy if his last client was a Millennial… 999 times out of a 1000 (you catch that?  Bad.  I know.), and if I were a betting man that client was probably not a Millennial.

Rick

Professional firefighter since 2008 and web developer since 1999. Husband, father, musician, writer, Scouter... I'm the swiss-army geek in your back pocket.