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Selling real estate to different generations

MAIN IMAGE: Grahame Diedericks, Manager Principal for Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty

No matter the industry, it’s always been important to know your market and understand their needs, goals, and priorities, but these days it’s no longer as simple a matter as it was even just a decade ago.

“The world was first measured first in civilisations such as Greek and Roman, then shorter eras like Tudor and Victorian or, alternatively the Iron age, Industrial, post-Industrial and finally came generations,” says Grahame Diedericks, Manager Principal for Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty in Midrand.

“And, due to the ongoing and increasingly rapid changes we’ve seen in recent decades, generationally, we’re now starting to speak different languages and even think differently – and the differences between generations are becoming more and more appreciable.

“In fact, we’re at a pivotal time in history where we have generations that remember a time with no technology at all, and one that was born into a time when technology is all they’ve known.

“This impacts the real estate market significantly as each generation of consumers has unique characteristics, priorities and attitudes which consequently result in different lifestyle preferences, financial goals and purchasing behaviour.”

Diedericks says that current buyers can be broken up into five generational groups:

Silent generation (born 1928–1945)

This is the smallest market segment and, although seniors are now far more active than ever before, their property needs are largely confined to the retirement sector and assisted living.

They value loyalty and quality and if they’re convinced that you’re an expert, they are likely to easily go along with your recommendations and aren’t likely to demand that you customise your services.

They are more concerned about the agent’s track record than his degrees and generally don’t respond well to slick marketing gimmicks and sales techniques.

Baby boomers (born 1946–1964)

Most baby boomers will have recently found themselves with empty nests or reaching retirement so they’re usually looking to downsize to more reasonably sized homes. Unlike their predecessors, they are embracing this stage of life and they generally prefer one of two options that allow them to retain their independence.

Some like to move to communities of like-minded people such as secure lifestyle estates that cater for their changing needs as they age, whilst others prefer to live in vibrant, walkable neighbourhoods with good amenities and leisure activities. A growing trend for both groups is a move to smaller towns and coastal villages.

The Boomers tend to prefer working with a strong brand or at least one they feel is powerful and well established. And although technologically competent, many may not consider themselves tech-savvy and most prefer to talk things through and to communicate mostly in person or on the phone.

They those weekly status calls and they are impressed by degrees, awards, and rankings.

Generation X (born 1965–1980)

This generation is still in their peak earning years, often with children at home and place priority in a location that is close to work and close to schools for their kids. Think of these kinds of locations as convenient suburbs where you’re not in the hustle and bustle of an urban location, but have similar access to entertainment, food, and activities. Having a prestigious and well rated school system nearby is another top priority for these buyers who have kids currently in the school system.

They are the average home buyers in your market today and they demand details, full disclosures, and proof – and you can count on them to do their homework, so you need to back up your pitch with data and stats.

They may not easily accept your advice or guidance and could be hard to manage in the process but once they feel certain they have made the right choice they generally make up their minds very quickly.

Millennials (born after 1980)

Although millennials may chronologically be considered one generation, already we are seeing the impact of a fast-changing world with younger and older millennials showing two distinct home buying trends.

And it’s the millennials who are leaving the biggest footprint on the industry. Not only are they now the largest buying group, but they’re also waiting longer to buy a home and many of their needs are very different from any of their predecessors and, as a result, they’re changing the way homes are chosen and even the property landscape.

Born in the age of technology, millennials are often regarded as the smartest and most educated generation, and they expect everyone to listen to and value their opinions.

They will do extensive online research and expect clean, simple, and quick transactions. They generally don’t respond well to old fashioned sales techniques and prefer concise texting for day-to-day communication.

When looking for a home, both groups prioritise factors like good internet connectivity and living within an easy commutable distance from work or college but there are several other criteria that differ considerably.

Older millennials (born 1981–1996)

This group currently dominates the real estate buying market and, like their parents, is largely motivated by marriage and children. However, as this generation highly values experiences and the freedom of convenience, they often choose more urban settings or, over time, create vibrant hubs withing suburbs close to cities.

Millennials often cite location as one of the top influencing factors when house buying. They want to be where the action is close to amenities like restaurants, bars, and shops. And, as many now have children, they want to be near schools.

Post-millennials (Generation Z, born after 1996)

Generation Z is starting to become independent from their parents and, just entering the market, they will be renting their first apartments or saving to put down a deposit on their first homes.

They like to stay near to where they grew up, just usually not in the same neighbourhood and, unlike the older group, they are not averse to more peaceful suburban locations. They are also more frugal than their predecessors and tend to prefer modest homes that won’t place a strain on their budgets. It’s important to consider this group as the future of the real estate industry.

Diedericks concludes: “Obviously, not everyone identifies with every generational trait associated with their age group, but understanding the general trends associated with each demographic will enable agents to better  service their clients and help them to find their dream home quickly and efficiently as well as successfully conclude more sales.”

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