Charles Tarbey, Chairman and Owner CEO of Century 21 Australia, discusses why todays residential real estate buyers are vastly different from those we transacted with decades ago, and why you need to adapt with the times to appeal to the younger generation.
If you have been in the real estate game for as long as I have, you will be under no misapprehension that today’s residential real estate buyers are vastly different from those we transacted with decades ago in terms of buying preferences, income, family structure, technology utilised, and many other factors. And, as with any industry, real estate professionals have adapted with the times, finding new and innovative ways to connect with our audiences.
Yet despite having an understanding that buyer makeup will no doubt change, current and future expected conditions in the Australian residential property market will likely present interesting challenges for real estate practitioners when it comes to reaching the next generation of property buyers.
With affordability concerns reaching new heights, uneasiness about the global economy, persistent commentary about the predicted bursting of the Australian housing bubble, job cuts and other issues, there is a growing group of young prospective buyers who have ingrained doubts about their ability to purchase the properties they desire, particularly in capital cities.
There is a growing group of young prospective buyers who have ingrained doubts about their ability to purchase the properties they desire, particularly in capital cities.
With this in mind, while reaching the next generation of residential property buyers is going to present real estate agents with some challenges, there is also a great deal of opportunity in this market for agents to set themselves apart by operating differently and more intelligently, helping forthcoming buyers to change the way they think about physical property, ownership structures and the like. And, as the next generation of purchasers will soon be making up their minds as to where their relationships with the business community will settle, now is the time for agents to act.
Importantly, these conditions could also offer buyers a chance to explore new real estate ownership possibilities. While some of these may go beyond convention and what buyers are typically used to, ultimately purchasers may actually find themselves presented with a greater number of options that they didn’t even realise were possible.
So – the million-dollar question – how do today’s real estate professionals prepare themselves to communicate with this incoming group of property buyers? While there could be any number of ways to answer this question, in my view it comes down to several fundamental concepts – efficient data capture and its subsequent cleansing and setting onto a success path, effective communication, and building and maintaining relationships. With these in place, real estate organisations and agents will likely be well placed to achieve business growth and personal success, despite the existence of an interesting audience and challenging market conditions.
EFFICIENT CAPTURE, CLEANSING AND USE OF DATA
In my opinion, information is one of the essential cornerstones of real estate success – I have built my entire business on it. People give their personal details to real estate organisations en masse every day in the hope that by doing so they will receive further correspondence regarding properties of interest. However the lack of focus many agents have on ensuring these details are complete, containing for example, a current email address (or surprisingly, even an email address at all), always baffles me.
In terms of generating real estate activity, as an organisation Century 21 has consistently seen a positive relationship between the capture of email addresses and the size of commissions written by agents, regardless of market conditions. This correlation cannot be ignored, and highlights the need for businesses to have effective data systems in place. Not only must agents make a point of capturing information about their clients, such as contact details and buying preferences, they must also cleanse it to ensure that incomplete or inaccurate entries are modified and corrected – allowing for successful use. And, once you have accurate data recorded in your system, there really is no end to the uses for it.
As an organisation or individual practitioner marketing to the future generations of property buyers, it could certainly be of benefit to seriously consider the changing ways that consumers are interacting with your company (whether it be via Twitter or Facebook, as opposed to simply leaving a name and phone number at an open home), and how you can best position yourself to capture this data so that it can be used to your advantage.
Rapidly advancing technologies are creating more platforms than ever before through which professionals can communicate with an audience. The various tools of social media for example are quickly gaining traction, with countless Tweets, Facebook updates, and blog postings appearing in front of consumers on a daily basis. These tools can be of great benefit to the real estate industry if used intelligently – Century 21, for example, automatically tweets all new properties as they are listed, a practice which is proving to be highly successful for our agents in many areas.
Yet, what many don’t seem to realise, is that with greater voice comes increased clutter, making it harder for your market to hear your message clearly. In my view, cutting through said clutter is a result of excellent content – broadcasting a message that is of interest and value to your audience and which captures their attention within the first few words.
As mentioned previously, for agents and organisations considering an approach to the next generation of property buyers, it is firstly worthwhile to pay attention to how this market is interacting with your organisation and the types of information they seek. Are they emailing on the go from smartphones and/or tablets? Are they watching video content posted about current issues? Are they reading your newsletters and seeking further knowledge?
The most effective communication involves practices conducted simultaneously to speaking one-on-one with your audience; it involves understanding (and often pre-empting) the issues of concern to them and providing educational resources that help to alleviate these worries.
There are a series of topics real estate agents can provide information about regarding different approaches to property ownership, which may prove to be of interest.
For an emerging market, the participants are seriously concerned about their ability to purchase a desired property, there are a series of topics real estate agents can provide information about regarding different approaches to property ownership, which may prove to be of interest. These could include the varying property ownership structures and their associated advantages and drawbacks, emerging Australian investment markets, the benefits of certain investment situations, and so on.
Along with responding to issues, many real estate organisations will do well to find innovative ways to cut through the clutter. Gamification is a rapidly growing trend that presents one such alternative; Century 21 for instance recently launched Property Mogul, an online game that offers a fun way for users to learn about the fundamentals of buying, selling, and managing real estate in a fictional world. This unique concept has allowed Century 21 to interactively engage with thousands of consumers interested in real estate – regardless of whether they are currently looking to buy or sell (Property Mogul can be played at www.c21propertymogul.com.au).
By communicating in a useful, educational and even novel way, you may find that new generations of property markets are aware of your brand and respond by approaching you for assistance in the purchase of a property, and then later in a property sale.
BUILDING AND MAINTAINING RELATIONSHIPS
At present, relationships play an integral role within the real estate industry, and I can imagine this will only continue as new audiences emerge. Building and maintaining relationships involves not simply sending a few emails here and there, but rather developing an understanding of your clients (or prospective clients) – their buying preferences, aspirations, property ownership goals, and budgets amongst other factors.
With such knowledge agents will be in a far superior position to respond to their audiences, providing buying opportunities and market intelligence of relevance and value – ultimately assisting their markets to achieve their property goals in the best way possible.
This is no different when it comes to the next generation of property buyers – in talking to such prospective purchasers in your market and understanding their concerns, preferences and budgets, you will be able to assist them and add value to what was anticipated to be a tricky climb onto the property ladder.
In addition, having insights into how this group thinks and responds, for example if they like short and quick responses to email questions, and the useful contacts you can potentially connect them with, such as a helpful mortgage broker, should assist in furthering these relationships.
People generally understand and appreciate when a professional has gone above and beyond, with such an attitude doing much to cement a relationship. And, with a good relationship in place, many agents will find that they are able to enjoy strong levels of customer loyalty, repeat and word-of-mouth business.
The next generation of property buyers will be an interesting market for real estate professionals to reach out to and work with. On the one hand, this group has increasing access to numerous forms of communication and technology – providing agents with a variety of ways to reach them and disseminate interesting information to them. On the other hand, this group is also dealing with mounting concerns about their ability to afford property at all.
The fundamental practices of capturing, cleansing and using data in an efficient manner, communicating valuable information in a useful, purposeful way and focusing on building and maintaining beneficial relationships will go a long way to assist real estate agents in both preparing to and eventually accessing this group of prospective buyers.
If agents can focus on educating and adding value – helping their clients go about achieving their property ownership goals in challenging conditions and sentiment – they should be able to better ensure their own personal success and career longevity.