Media Contact: Eric Berman - 781-839-5507 - eberman@marealtor.com

The Client of the Future

by Leslie Fowle | Jul 01, 2017


In 1997, there was a lot of hand wringing about what the onset of the “Web” would do to the Realtor® profession. Headlines in contemporaneous Realtor® magazines—“Will You Be Replaced by a Cyber Realtor?”—belied that nervousness. Some Realtors® wondered aloud whether their diminished status as the sole gatekeepers of market information would make them obsolete as consumers flocked to the internet.

Still, cooler heads prevailed. In another 1997 article in the Illinois Realtor® Magazine, then economic spokesperson for NAR, John Tuccillo, gave some timeless advice about preparing for the future: “…conventional strategic thinking is exactly the wrong approach to the new emerging marketplace: because the pace of change is escalating, today’s plans are quickly outdated. Rather, the emerging environment requires the assembly of data (i.e.the creation of information) and its analysis within a process of strategic thinking (i.e. the creation of knowledge) to achieve a flexible, responsive organization.” In other words, no one can predict the future, but we can use the data we have at our disposal to make smart decisions for our business.

For example, what “threatens” the modern real estate agent? Some might suggest virtual reality, artificial intelligence or the dreaded “Instant offers”. However, the fears some Realtors® have about these technologies aren’t all that different from those we’ve seen before. 

“I was president of my board the year we switched [the MLS] from books to strictly online. Some of the older Realtors® called me saying their world had come to an end,” said Jim Lee, Realtor® at RE/MAX Shoreline in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. “I orchestrated a couple of local high school teachers to give computer 101 lessons to those that wanted them. It was great seeing the light bulbs come on as the old folks ‘got it’ and moved online with the rest of the world.”

The truth is Realtors® can weather these storms—even use them to their advantage—by using the data and understanding where future trends might lead. In order to stay relevant, you must consider the client of the future and their personality, wants and needs.

MEET GENERATION Z

There’s been a lot of talk about millennials lately; they’re not buying homes, they live on their phones but will never answer a call, and they’re killing every traditional industry, from taxi cabs to department stores. But the truth is many millennials are now reaching homebuying age (they may just be doing it later) and seem just as interested in achieving the American dream as previous generations. 

“I personally don’t believe the hype that millennials aren’t interested in buying homes,” said Nicole Rideout, 2017 Chairperson of the MAR Young Professionals Network and Director of Business Development at Gibson Sotheby's International Realty. “I think it’s true that millennials are buying houses later due to student loan debt and other challenges. People are starting their lives later. However, the value of homeownership has been passed on from previous generations to their children.” That said, if you really want to be ahead of the curve, You might set your sights on Generation Z.

At more than a quarter of the population, Generation Z is the current largest group of Americans. They were born in 1995 or later, but the oldest Gen Z’ers are already 22 years old this year. The first thing to understand about Generation Z when it comes to how they want to be marketed to: they are nothing like millennials. Growing up during the recession and post-9/11 has made them resilient, mature and resourceful. According to market research from culture forcaster Sparks & Honey, Gen Z’ers are adept researchers and self-educators, with many consuming online courses and open-source textbooks via tablets. In order to reach this generation, Realtors® would be wise to position themselves as experts, creating interesting content and disseminating information.

What about all that effort you put toward social media in order to get in front of millennials? Research says that about 25% of 13 to 17-year-olds left Facebook in 2014. Generation Z communicates in emojis and images, so if you’re putting your eggs in a social media basket there’s never been a better time to sign up for Instagram. To even further differentiate themselves from their millennials predecessors, Rideout theorizes that the wary Generation Z will distrust digital marketing in favor of more personal connections.

“The stereotype of my generation is partially true—that we’re lacking communication skills. My prediction is that the pendulum is going to swing back. Genuine relationships will come back,” said Rideout. “Real relationships and real connections are never going to go away, especially in this industry. Anyone can say they’re ‘global’, but do they know anyone in their Facebook friends list? The key will be being genuine and maintaining relationships.”