Understanding Generations X & Y

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According to the National Association of Realtor’s 2009 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, nearly 50% of home buyers are between the ages of 25 and 49. Typically, this age bracket falls into two generational categories with the older group referred to as Generation X and the younger as Generation Y.

How much do you know about these two generations? Are you marketing to them effectively? Do you know how they prefer to shop for a home? Let’s discuss these two generations in more detail.

Before we break down each generation separately, let’s look at the commonalities they share. First, you need to understand that the main goal in reaching both generations is to get prospects you meet online to eventually meet you face-to-face. But, that doesn’t mean picking up the phone and calling them immediately or sending them an email. In fact, both generations do not repsond well to either. Additionally, it’s not a good idea to just ask them their preferred method of contact because that will not work either. So, how are you supposed to contact them? First, you must understand and adapt to their needs.

Both generations have a number of similarities. To start, both groups grew up with recessions, single-parent households, cable TV, the Internet and other personal technology. Consequently, these groups consume media differently than earlier generations. Communicating with them through traditional marketing channels can be difficult, but one of the most common ways to connect with them is more traditional than you may think.

Combining with online marketing, direct mail is actually one of the most powerful ways to market to both Generation X and Y. According to a recent study conducted by InnoMedia, NuStats, and Vertis, 87% of Generation Y and 86% of Generation X bring in the mail the day it’s delivered. Additionally, 73% of Generation Y and 68% of Generation X have used coupons that they have received in the mail and 75% of those Generation X and Y consumers rating the mail they receive as valuable.

Another similarity shared by both generations is how they interact. It’s important to know that if you don’t work with these generations in the way they want, they will go elsewhere. So, you must drop the expert approach. These generations are under the impression that they can do it themselves and they usually have done their research before they even have their first contact with you. In fact, they may even know more about you than you might think. On average, most Generation X and Y homebuyers search online for up to 18 months before they even consider contacting a real estate agent. So, let them do their research. Support them by providing helpful links online, industry stats and other information, but you need to let them research on their own and act as a guide for them in return.

Now, let’s look at each of the generations differently. With first time home buyers of Generation X, it’s important to understand that they don’t just approach the home buying process, they attack it by surrounding themselves with as much information as possible. Since they’ve grown up in a technological world, they are used to adapting to changes in technology and will use these resources to learn as much as they can about the home buying process. You assume that as a real estate agent, you will be guiding these first time home buyers through the process; however, they will come to the first meeting armed with questions they want your opinion on, answers they have already found on the web and a list of properties they already want you to show them. Remember, let them do the research. You simply need to guide them to the correct information.

First time homebuyers of generation Y make their decisions socially. They will consult their friends and family on every decision and usually ask these opinions via mobile phone and by sharing on social media sites. They seek out as many opinions as possible in order to make the right one. Do not fight them. Encourage them to seek other opinions. In reality, you are really just another one of those opinions. While your opinion may be backed up by many years of industry and community experience, it’s important for members of Generation Y to hear that same opinion shared by many others.

So, what can you do to better engage with Generations X and Y. Here a few facts and tips to help:

  • Be active online: As we mentioned before, younger generations will spend up to 18 months researching loans, listings and agents online before they even contact someone in the industry. While they want to maintain anonymity as long as possible, they need to be able to find you online while they are researching. A good practice is to actively advertise yourself and your listings locally online. This way, you’re showing that you’re an active real estate agent in the local area they are searching. If they continue to see you while doing their research, it is more likely that they will feel more comfortable in contacting you when they drop their anonymity and continue with their next step.

  • Give advice, but not too much advice: We explained how Generation Y makes decisions based on social influence so make sure that you have a presence on the sites where they interact. You can even go the extra mile by interacting and providing valuable information on these networks. Just make sure to not over do it. While members of Generation Y seek information and advice from their peers, they do not like to be constantly pestered by someone online. Too much information, especially from someone that they barely know, will result in a negative reaction. So make sure you create social media accounts, participate in online forums and keep your blog up-to-date.

  • Listing details, photos, videos and more: I’m sure you get the idea by now, but Generation X and Y actually shop for homes online in the same way they shop for a new shirt, book or cell phone. Make sure you provide all the details you can about your listings. If a site allows you unlimited photos, make sure to include as many pertinent photos as you can. If a site allows video, post it! The more information you can provide up front, the better prepared you will look in the eyes of the viewer. Don’t forget to also include many different ways that they can contact you.

  • Be prepared for anything: During their research, these generations will also educate themselves on current industry topics, so don’t be surprised if you are asked questions on topics such as “green initiatives.” Additionally, you may also see more non-traditional family types interested in purchasing homes. It’s not too uncommon in Generation Y for groups of friends or multiple families to be interested in purchasing a home.

In conclusion, we know that you are the expert on your craft, but to these generations, they are not looking for an expert. It’s important to listen and understand these generations so that you can guide them successfully through the home buying process. Share your experiences with us below.

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