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Ask a Millennial: Are Millennials So Different from Us?

by Leslie Fowle | Aug 31, 2018
Almost every time I bring up the millennial generation and homeownership, someone inevitably makes a wisecrack along the lines of, “time to move out of the parents’ basement!” (Cue applause.) I’m starting to think that the general impression about millennials has not caught up to the reality; that is, despite being saddled with student loan debt, among other constraints, the millennial generation made up the largest share of homebuyers in 2017 at 36 percent according to the NAR Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends Report, 2018. Even among people who haven’t purchased homes, it is people 37 and younger who are more likely to believe a home purchase is a good financial investment than other generations.

It makes sense logically—and chronologically. In fact, older millennials are approaching 40 years old, and, of course, many are settling down, starting families, and considering home ownership and other large investments. Basic milestones of the “American Dream” haven’t changed too much generationally, and just because people have smartphones and student debt now doesn’t mean many of us wouldn’t like to own property. When considering the fabled “generational gap” between millennials and prior cohorts, I like to think the major differences exist in “how” millennials do things, not in “what” they do or want.       

Consider this—Google recently studied consumer response to mobile search and found that a phone call was the most common follow-up to a local search. And who is doing the calling? Several studies have shown that it is millennials that are the most likely to call a business—from car rentals to cable companies—before making a purchase. Plus, they are the most likely to call a number from a digital advertisement. (Seems like in an industry where “all real estate is local” I wouldn’t take your phone number off your ads quite yet.) This type of research suggests that while the sales process may originate online, millennials still value that personal interaction that helps them decide to finalize a purchase. Why wouldn’t the same emphasis on offline relationships be just as important, if not more so, in the home buying process?       

Personal, offline relationships matter when you consider that millennials trust real estate professionals to help them navigate real estate transactions just as much as prior generations. In fact, according to the recent NAR Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends Report, people aged 37 and younger are more likely than other generations to find a real estate agent via a personal referral. Their reliance solely on the internet to find an agent is low and comparable to older generations.       

So the next time a young person tells you they live with their parents, maybe ask them what their goals and challenges have been. You may find that they want to buy a home and are saving for the down payment they wouldn’t be able to afford if they were renting, for example. Maybe you’ll find that they aren’t so different from you, just because they know how to use Snapchat. Save your bewilderment for Gen Z—I don’t know what’s going on with them.