By Patrick Blennerhassett
A recent University of California study revealed people are spending more than 15 hours a day consuming various forms of media. Of that time, close to four hours is spent solely on social media, with Facebook and YouTube being the platforms of choice. However, you can add in a myriad of other sites to that list including Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn, as all are interconnected in a spider web of retweets, posts, likes and links.
A huge driving force of this trend, which sees most of us now spending close to 25% of our waking hours on social media, is Millennials (individuals born in the 1980s and 90s). Many peg this group as Echo Boomers, or Generation Y, following in the footsteps of Generation X (which has now crept into middle age).
Every day Millennials become more of an economic driving force. As Boomers retire, Millennials are transitioning into management positions. As their salaries increase and their parents leave the workforce, they’re taking control of the steering wheel more and more in today’s technologically obsessed culture. They’ve already banished relatively new technology to the recycle bin (think landlines, pagers, fax machines and CD’s) and are becoming more and more of a voice in the boardroom. What they want is quickly becoming the norm, and as their demographic moves into the prime age of wealth and buying power, they will get their wishes.
One aspect they’ve been hesitant to jump into is real estate. High student debt, a tough workforce to start out in, and aging parents who already own property they hope will be passed on to them, means real estate hasn’t been one of their priorities. However that’s changing, and changing fast in typical Millennial lightning speed fashion.
The press is picking up on this trend, and while tough to track statistically speaking, the anecdotal evidence (usually a bellwether of things to come) is everywhere. Millennials are ready to buy property, and what they want is surprising everyone: space is overrated but location is still king (urban centres are a must) and they want new, modern and contemporary. The old adage of the huge house with the white picket fence in the ‘burbs is gone; they want to raise their families in the city, close to cultural amenities, public transportation and a wealth of entertainment options.
“Every morning when I check my newsfeed I’m seeing more and more real estate related material on social media,” says Realtor® Amy Leong, herself a Millennial. “And they’re redefining the marketing and communication aspect of it, they’re asking for different things than the traditional market is asking for.”
Leong is a Realtor® with The Prompton Real Estate Services Ltd., and typifies the shifting demographics currently changing the market place. During her twenties she worked at TELUS as a sales representative, learning the skills that would become the foundation of her new career. She set herself a goal of owning three properties by the age of thirty (which she achieved) while also obtaining a Bachelor of Communications from Simon Fraser University while continuing to work full-time. She’s paid off her student debt, landed with one of Vancouver’s most prestigious real estate companies, and is now leaving her mark on the sector already.
“Just yesterday I got a lead that turned into a sale through our Facebook page,” says Leong. Along with partner Brian Higgins, the two run YVR4Sale.com, focusing on resale primarily in the Yaletown market. “The idea that we’re now seeing tangible leads go from social media to written offers is pretty cool. It shows how the market is responding to new ways of doing business.”
Leong is now using social media to target a specific demographic through her Investor Hub, in which she’s seeking out buyers who want to make sure their property cash flows.
Of course, many other Vancouver real estate companies are utilizing social media. Epix Developments Ltd. recently hired BLVD Marketing Group to make sure they were engaging buyers even after they’d purchased their property through posting build site photos on Facebook. President Derek DiMartile mentioned 626 Alexander Street in Railtown as a pitch perfect example of engaging customers right from the start.
“It’s about creating that personal touch,” he added. “You’ve got to find different ways to interact with people these days, we see so many advertisements people are just glossing over them. So we wanted to target things differently.”
If you head to Concord Pacific’s home page, not only do they have a Facebook and YouTube page, they also have a Weibo page (a popular micro-blogging page in China). The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver has a Facebook page, a Twitter feed and a YouTube channel. Social media is not simply another way to reach out to people; it’s a requirement in today’s technologically driven world.
A recent Postling.com study has 84% of real estate agents using social media, however only 54% of them said they feel comfortable on it. This divide points out that while it’s definitely become part of the game, Realtors® s are still hesitant to make it part of their bailiwick. However many young Realtors® are making it their go-to form of communication now, leading the charge of a new way of doing business.
“I think the thing is I use social media outside of work too, it’s not just about getting clients,” said Leong. “So there’s a comfort level that’s built in with that. There’s a huge difference between knowing what Twitter is and using it for professional purposes, and being someone who actively runs a Twitter account because they enjoy communicating through it. Not only do I use social media for realty, I use it for educating myself about real estate trends. I can’t tell you the last time I didn’t find a recent news article about real estate trends not through a Tweet.”
The statistics speak for themselves. Right now Millennials are starting to emerge with cash, and a desire to obtain property with their invested money. A recent study by En Gauge Media stated that a staggering 96% of people ages 18-35 are using some form of social media or another in their daily lives. The question seems to be not when Realtors® decide to jump on the social media train, but how many get left behind at the station as the main bulk of the market goes fully digital under the emerging Millennial demographic.