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Happy Birthday, Generation Y!

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Marianne Guenther Bornhoft

By Marianne Guenther Bornhoft

1982 was a year like no other. It created the Y generation. What’s so special about this group of people? A lot.  Its members aren’t afraid to tell you why.

The name Generation Y first appeared in an August 1993 Ad Age editorial to describe people born 1982-2001 to Baby Boomers and early Generation Xers.  Neil Howe and William Strauss — leading experts in the history of generations and authors of “Generations” — describe this echo boom generation “Millennials.” Whatever you call it, the Gen Y/Millennial group is ready to take over and the rest of us better be ready.

Growing up in a world where technology and ease of use of the Internet is second nature, Gen Yers are a breed of folks who expect a lot more than their predecessors. Millennials want information, not only instantly, but also with the ease that it should be accessible at their convenience with all of the normal benefits of a face-to-face meeting. A survey by CareerBuilder and Harris Interactive shows almost half (49 percent) Gen Yers prefer to communicate through technology (blogs, instant messaging and text messaging, for example) as opposed to having face-to-face or phone conversations, which are the preferred methods of Baby Boomers and Generation X.

A savvy REALTOR® who understands this age bracket can more easily understand and relate to meeting those demands.  For example, a Gen Y client who sends a text to his/her agent after “normal” business hours might be driving home from an event and see a new house for sale. They expect an answer back quickly, just as if he or she would have called the REALTOR® directly. Likewise, a Facebook post about a unique looking staircase in a house for sale might generate enough buzz that a person, not necessarily looking, might click on the link in the post. After looking at the virtual tour of the property, that person may e-mail the listing agent about the house. This new way of advertising, called “murketing,” is an advertising strategy that avoids direct sales of a product and focuses instead on a simple thought or image, communicating how that product makes you feel or how others can relate to it.  Author Rob Walker coined this marketing buzz term, a portmanteau of “murky” and “marketing.” This business tactic targets the three-quarters of Millennials who, according to the Pew Research Center, have created a profile on a social networking site.

Members of this generation want to be able to purchase a home like their parents did, though realize the global financial crisis of the past five years has created unprecedented levels of unemployment among young people.   Millennials are sometimes called the Peter Pan Generation or Boomerang Generation because they often delay normal rites of passage into adulthood. They are living with their parents for longer periods of time or they might move back home before buying their first house. This MTV generation of divorce might, in fact, look to parents’ perceived mistakes and realize that they want to have their career first before settling down.

Keep in mind that Millennials are the first generation to come of age in a post-9/11 world in which the American dream is no longer as secure and comfortable as it once was.  Television now brings us history as it happens; the Internet brings us history instantly from the people who live it.

Millennials are smart, open-minded and independent thinkers. The greater good — putting others first, instead of individual rewards — is a priority to them.  They were largely brought up and educated in an urban world that included everyone and rewarded everything.  This world-view was manifest in the most recent presidential election, which clearly showed a majority now eschews a national policy of personal risk/reward and embraces group risk/reward.  While Millennial parents — the baby boomers — still hold the vast majority of wealth and buying power in this country (by some estimates, more than 80 percent), they are not buying houses.

The Millennial generation has done its homework and probably knows a great detail about a house, even before stepping inside it, with some easy online research. Pay attention to them. Listen to their needs. They are the current buyers for our near future of real estate.

Marianne Guenther Bornhoft is a broker at Windermere Manito in Spokane, Wash. Connect with her at www.SpokaneHouse.com , on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marianneguentherbornhoft or on Twitter @spokanehouse or www.linkedin.com/in/marianneguentherbornhoft.

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Comments 3

  1. Great post Marianne! Work with a lot of agents on websites and it can sometimes be a struggle working with baby boomers who still want to retain information like simple MLS data in exchange for a lead. For that, I have to compliment Redfin for not being so stubborn, and curse agents who pay Zillow for slowly ruining my personal career in real estate. Hope this one helps sink it in a little more.

  2. Great article! I like the attention of communication in regards to the different groups. As a speaker and presenter our focus is on communication and one point we have found and concluded regarding communication in real estate is the most good or positive communication is verbal(setting appointments, obtaining new clients(referral), negotiating offers, etc) and passive or negative is electronic(cancellations, terminating contacts, unsuccessful negotiations). It’s interesting when we presented this to our first groups and the agents were like, “wow, that makes sense.”.
    Technology is the source for consumers to do their homework and that with the uncertainties in the market over the last 5 years, all consumers are reaching out to an agent by way of referral so not only are the millenials going back to the basics, but all clients in the age pool. Agents are still in control if they stay connected to all groups. What I really like about tour article is the mindset of the millenials. They have brought good ole.customer service back to the forefront and if you agents are going to stay in control of their database, but better engage personally and build true relationships with all.

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