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12 February 2014

Working with Millennial Homebuyers, Part 2

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We’ve learned a lot about Millennials, as Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, shares in Generation Next, her contributed piece in RISMedia’s Real Estate magazine.

In the second half of our focus on Millennial first-time homebuyers, we turn again to our three homebuyers from part one  – to explore how they dealt with one of the biggest pain points of homebuying – mountains of paperwork.

It’s important to keep in mind, when representing Millennial generation homebuyers, not to hesitate in explaining in-depth the process of purchasing a home, from obtaining a loan to finding insurance to the legal rigmarole of closing day.

Don’t get us wrong – this generation is not clueless by any means. As our Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate survey of 18- to 35-year-olds suggests, members of the generation born in the 1980s and 1990s, are less about grandeur, and more about purpose, choosing more modest homes in order to wisely stick within their budgets — a lesson they learned from their elders who helped create the real estate bubble.

Really, it’s more that some Millennials feel that they are taking time and energy to study how they’ll make what could be the biggest investment of their lives, and so, their real estate agents should take the time and resources to give them a step-by-step guide to the nuts and bolts of the transaction.

REALTORS® interested in capitalizing on this up-and-coming market should take note.

“It’s a huge decision to buy a house,” said Tina, a 28-year-old marketing manager who bought a bungalow recently in New Jersey with George, her 27-year-old boyfriend, a medical student. “It was a big decision not to rent. I had to weigh everything. I sat with Excel spreadsheets figuring out the numbers. I did that all summer.”

Tina sometimes found herself in the awkward position of having to tell her REALTOR® she didn’t understand what was going on during her loan application, home inspection, price negotiations and other steps before closing.

“Because this was my first time, there were some times when I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “I was like, ‘Can you tell me what I’m supposed to do? Should I be doing this right now?’”

Tina and George really liked working with their REALTOR®, but he sometimes incorrectly assumed she understood the ins and outs of what to her seemed like an overly complicated process, like how she had to purchase her insurance upfront on her first home purchase. She didn’t understand how she would have known that on her own or why nobody told her before the day of closing.

Advertising executive Craig, a 26-year-old British citizen living in Manhattan’s Gramercy Park neighborhood, shared Tina’s bewilderment.

He’s a single guy who has a good job and sufficient assets to make a down payment on his condo. Yet he was amazed at how he needed a REALTOR®, a lawyer, an accountant, and other professionals to finalize the purchase and sales agreement. On closing day, he remembers signing a sheaf of papers that he didn’t quite understand.

“It’s sort of like having a second job,” he said. “It was a very arduous process. It’s a very complicated process. I think I’m relatively intelligent, and think I can pick things up very quickly. But I was having a very hard time knowing what’s going on.”

Meanwhile, down in North Carolina, Jess and Geoff, both 32, didn’t encounter the same issue. Their REALTOR® took the time to explain the often-convoluted path from offer to closing.

“She was definitely doing her research,” said Jess. “She was able to translate that research into something we’d understand.”

But even so, Jess and her husband spent eight months searching for a house, making seven offers along the way. So, by the time they found their single-family home, Jess, an international nonprofit worker, and Geoff, a nurse’s assistant, had plenty of time to learn about the homebuying process.

They were comfortable by the time they closed, in part because they had become experts themselves, with the help of their REALTOR®, who was, as Jess calls her, “…first-time homebuyer smart. She’s good with first-time homebuyers. She knows the questions we’ll have and what we should be asking, but not in an ‘I know everything’ way. More like a ‘this isn’t uncommon in homebuying’ experience.”

So there you have it: three homebuyers, three markets, three different homebuying experiences. Being tech savvy, willing to guide, and especially willing to educate is key for this developing market, many of whom are just starting to think about buying their first homes.

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