Home Field Advantage

As homebuyers’ needs evolve, real estate professionals must stay ahead of the game.
Paul Apostolakis
Paul Apostolakis // Photograph by Austin Phillips

For many years we’ve seen the business world shifting and adapting to the demands of the rising millennial generation. This group, born between 1981 and 1996, wants things like purpose rather than job satisfaction, and coaches rather than bosses. We’re now seeing a similar shift make its way into real estate.

As millennials become the largest share of homebuyers in the country, they’re causing big changes to the home-buying experience. We shouldn’t ignore them.

As the leader of a mortgage lending firm, I see firsthand what today’s buyers are requiring, and it’s much different than it was a decade ago. Homebuyers don’t want to do business with a far-away call center; they want a personal relationship with their advisers. They don’t want an old-school agent who follows the same formula for selling every house; they want a custom plan built to maximize their individual situation.

Some might say this generation is too demanding. I think they’re exactly what we need to drive growth.

Nationwide, and right here in metro Detroit, everyone from real estate agents to title agencies to mortgage lending firms should be evaluating the way they provide service in order to serve today’s homebuyers.

With 10 percent of real estate agents hitting six-figure salaries, and more than 59,000 real estate professionals in Michigan, the odds for success are already steep. The market will demand that everyone in the real estate industry adapts, rather than run the risk of being part of the herd that gets thinned.

The good news is there are clear ways real estate professionals, and everyone in the industry, can evolve and do well.

Homebuyers today want to do business with real people, and they want to know you understand them and their unique situations. According to Forbes, millennials want to feel like they have a personality match with their real estate agent. That means leading with your own humanity and making sure your authentic self comes across clearly in both your brand and the way you interact with your clients.

Some might say this generation is too demanding. I think they’re exactly what we need to drive growth.

Real estate agents and businesses also must interact on the platforms homebuyers are using, and use data to inform their decisions. If a client were to ask you, “What is your digital marketing strategy for my property?” you should be able to answer the question with confidence.

Digital marketing matters for your own growth, too. Engaging social media channels, having a website that offers a smooth user experience, and positive online reviews are important fundamentals. Consider the most successful real estate agents today are using advanced technology to enhance their own brands, market their listings, and educate their clients.

On a related front, embrace your role as an adviser. According to Zillow, homebuyers today are more willing than ever to put in work themselves and lead the home-selling-and-buying process. With that in mind, the role of today’s real estate agents is less about simply finding a home and more about collaborating with homebuyers throughout the process. Buyers want from you what they can’t get alone: protection during the process, maximum financial takeaway, and market knowledge. Becoming more advisory and less transactional is key.

Millennials also expect real estate agents to be at the cutting edge of the industry. We all know someone who dabbles in real estate part time. If they’re a family member or a friend, we may have felt obligated to work with them, and it likely didn’t end well. As homebuyer demands continue to evolve, real estate agents who aren’t actively increasing their knowledge base and leveling up their game will find it more difficult to succeed.

Todays’ buyers are looking for a real estate professional with strong local knowledge, and they’ll interview multiple candidates before choosing one. That means real estate representatives must invest in their strengths and be able to communicate their value clearly to homebuyers. Neglected side gigs just don’t have a future here.

In real estate, there’s no easy road to success. There are no shortcuts that will help us sidestep the growth and change necessary for a lucrative future. In his book “Road to Reinvention,” local tech entrepreneur and best-selling author Josh Linkner writes, “The lesson is clear: quickly adopting future trends rather than clinging to yesterday’s success is the only way to ensure long-term survival.”

What we do is up to us. Let’s make it happen.

Paul Apostolakis is co-founder of Omega Lending Group,
a mortgage lender in Royal Oak.