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Meeting Gen Y's Demand for Online Transparency and Information

March 10 2011

interviewI interviewed a top-producing agent in San Francisco a few days ago. We were talking about the role of technology in the real estate process. It was a fascinating discussion. She is on the top of her game. Many listings, many successful transactions with buyers this year and yet she struggles with how to stay relevant with her younger clients. She told me:


“I am absolutely frightened of new technologies, and yet I KNOW I need to communicate and provide information differently than I used to. I believe it is much more difficult to create a deep personal relationship with younger consumers because they don’t want to sit down and talk about what their real needs are. They want me to provide information on my website so they can do their own research and then tell me what they’ve found. They require that the agent provide as much information as they can to empower the consumer to get comfortable with the information themselves.”

Gen Y’s demand more online insight

Studies support the concerns outlined by the agent above – here are some data points:

Cisco, Inc., performed a study about the retail banking industry where we can draw some parallels to the real estate market. While Gen Y’s are the most tech savvy group, by far, they also readily admit they want information from trusted advisors. They may not necessarily want it in person, however. They prefer “automated” responses to requests for information delivered via the Web, webinars and dynamic information to help them narrow the information they need to match their preferences.

Gen Y’s also make decisions differently than Boomers. While Boomers may have been looking for the most showy house for the money, Gen Y’s are much more interested in the environment in which they live, not necessarily just the house itself. They are more focused and committed to work/life balance, thus local amenities and activities play a more valuable role in their decision-making process.

There are definitely some parallels in the real estate industry. If a real estate consumer is looking to narrow down their home search to areas/neighborhoods that meet all of their lifestyle needs, we can provide automated tools delivered by professionals to help attract them to the real estate services offered by real estate professionals.

Gen Y’s will be THE customer shortly

Why is it important for us to think about what younger consumers are looking for? Because they are going to be the dominant demographic soon! According to “The Future of U.S. Consumer Spending: It’s a Generational Thing,”, in just ten years there will be more Gen Y consumers in the U.S. than Boomers or Gen Xers. For the real estate industry to stay vital and relevant, we need to adjust our behaviors and support consumers with tools they require and combine it with great personal service when they ask for it.

She who delivers the Richest Information WINS

WAV Group published a white paper called the Property Search Delta.

The paper describes how consumers are being lured away from broker websites because third-party property search sites are providing ever-richer and deeper information surrounding listing detail pages. In order for brokers and MLSs to compete with these sites they need to provide valuable, relevant and easy-to-use tools that consumers REALLY want. Lifestyle search is a great way to capture the attention of consumers and keep them in the organized real estate family.

Today, consumers are looking for service providers who can support them and educate them about the most important elements to make an educated decision about their purchase. They will be attracted to agents who are not “selling” to them. Instead they are looking for potential vendors that demonstrate expertise, professionalism and guidance about the real estate process. They are attracted to agents who seek to provide insight and information that will help better prepare a consumer to make an educated real estate decision. Real estate professionals have a ton of interesting insider knowledge they can share – both offline and online.

This paper is focused on talking about a really vital service that you can offer on your websites to increase your chances that consumers will connect with you and engage in the process of buying or selling a home.

Give Consumers What They Want

In my work with WAV Group I conduct research with real estate consumers regularly. I get even more passionate about sharing what consumers want from the real estate industry after these sessions. Over the past several months I have had the pleasure of interviewing real estate consumers from all over North America. I am hearing some consistent themes.


Consumers are looking for more transparency in the real estate sales process.

They want to know about the background of the real estate agent and their past performance with real estate consumers. They want REALTORS® to provide them as much information as they can to help consumers become more educated on their own. By positioning yourself as an expert, consumers are naturally more drawn to you.

Information – Support and Guidance

Consumers today are much more cautious than they may have been even a few years ago. They want to be sure they are making a sound decision when purchasing a home. REALTORS® can help them by providing them with an easy way to understand local market statistics and trends.

In these days of the crazy REO and Short Sale deals, they are also looking for lots of help with the ever-changing rules of buying a home financed by Fannie Mae and others. They also need REALTORS® to support them in understanding the unpredictable process of buying REOs and even more mundane activities like what it means to clear title or how to interpret sales contracts. Consumers believe a REALTOR®’s value comes not from helping them to find a home, but in helping them work through the complicated disclosures, forms, insurance and lending rules needed to purchase a home.

This is the second installment of a four part series called "The Lifestyle Search Opportunity." This white paper was written and researched by WAV Group, Inc.

To learn more about WAV Group, please click here.