Harborside Sotheby’s International Realty agent Dana Bull: How younger buyers will fare in 2018

by Stephanie Sims and Natalie Terchek

A number of experts predict housing prices to keep rising next year; how can agents better serve younger and/or first-time buyers who want to get in the market?

Everyone wants a piece of the action, but the reality is many buyers are priced out of their ideal neighborhoods. It’s commonplace for low down payment buyers to be outbid by competition with deeper pockets. I think it’s important to set clear expectations and to help clients keep an open mind.

There are a variety of gem communities outside the city. Part of the fun in home shopping is discovering new areas and the value propositions of each neighborhood.

Another area where agents can play a vital role is helping buyers see the potential in fixer-uppers and properties that have opportunity for sweat equity. Young buyers are being groomed by developers and their marketing teams to seek out flashy new construction. But, there’s a lot more to consider in the Boston market.

How can agents leverage new technology and apps to appeal to millennials?

For listing agents, there is so much untapped potential. I’m starting to see more and more real estate professionals jump on the social media bandwagon. Lately, my Facebook feed has been blowing up with agents using the network to position their listings in front of the millennial demographic. For years now, other industries have been using social platforms to build complex inbound marketing funnels to generate leads. The world of real estate is just now catching on. Sponsored ads, Instagram, live streaming, content marketing and digital advertorial will become an increasingly important aspect of reaching incoming generations.

For buyer agents, there are so many web-based tools to make everything easier — from electronic signature software to using your phone’s hotspot for internet access — there’s no reason why you can’t write up offers from anywhere.  I am partial to Dotloop and Dropbox for staying organized.

Generation Z is starting to enter the housing market — how will they differ from millennials?

Generation Z buyers have grown up in an on-demand culture, so without a doubt they will be bringing that energy into the housing market. They don’t know a life without internet or phones, so generally speaking, these digital natives are very tech-savvy.

There are some differences between Gen Z and their older millennial peers. For one, they like to communicate face to face. Fifty-three percent of Gen Z prefers in-person conversations overs email or instant messaging. This is music to many real estate agents’ ears who like this traditional way of selling.

Another major difference is that these young whippersnappers are all about independence. Student loan debt is a crushing financial burden to so many millennials, so it’s no surprise that a good portion of Gen Zers are bypassing higher ed and heading straight into the workforce. This mindset and strategic financial decision could give some buyers a leg up when saving for down payments.

What physical and aesthetic trends are on tap for younger buyers in 2018?

While older generations are quick to notice details like moldings, ceiling height and sun exposure, my younger buyers focus on the big-ticket aesthetics.

If you spend one afternoon touring properties in Southie, you’re sure to see all the major trends. My typical young buyer’s must-have list includes white cabinets, marble-looking kitchen countertops, hardwood floors (medium dark), and open-concept kitchen and living room. Air-conditioning is a need, not a want, and gas cooking is another check box. And, of course, there’s something about a wine fridge and a barn door that just seals the deal.

What’s interesting is that young buyers are really drawn in by virtual marketing and staging more than other generations. According to Zillow Consumer Trends, 58 percent of millennials find professional photos to be a key part of their decision process, compared to only 37 percent of baby boomers.

I would argue that staging almost always helps to move a property. Millennials agree, with 41 percent stating it’s an important factor in deciding whether to purchase a home.

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