Promoting "Green" In Real Estate


Hands-on efforts to raise a neighborhood’s value

Property owners take more active roles

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

With metro Atlanta home values plunging by about one-third in five years, some owners are finding ways to add value to their neighborhoods.

In the Ashview Heights neighborhood of Atlanta, residents have worked to improve the appearance of properties to attract prospective home buyers. Gideon Ben Israel cuts down overgrown bushes earlier this month.

Johnny Crawford jcrawford@ajc.com In the Ashview Heights neighborhood of Atlanta, residents have worked to improve the appearance of properties to attract prospective home buyers. Gideon Ben Israel cuts down overgrown bushes earlier this month.

 
Ashview Heights residents trim vegetation in empty lots during a neighborhood cleanup on Camilla Street earlier this month.

Johnny Crawford jcrawford@ajc.com Ashview Heights residents trim vegetation in empty lots during a neighborhood cleanup on Camilla Street earlier this month.

 

Larry Carter took the prerogative to turn around the downtown Atlanta community he bought into by getting neighbors to help clean up dilapidated properties and help real estate agents with open houses so values would not keep dropping.

Warren Jolly, a developer as the CEO of the Providence Group, had a similar idea for his newer Sterling of Dunwoody condo neighborhood, where prices begin in the mid-$100,000 range.

When the real estate crash brought construction to a halt, he was left with a bare concrete pad among the four other buildings containing more than 150 units. He began to think and negotiate creatively with his financiers about finding a use for that land, and this month workers jackhammered the $500,000 pad into pieces, hauled it away and are turning the former eyesore into a neighborhood park with trees, a grilling area and an herb garden.

“It’s good to see something come to completion,” Jolly said, adding that it stabilizes the value in the community.

Don Wrenn, an owner in Sterling of Dunwoody, said seeing an empty pad would make potential buyers think the neighborhood was stalled. Turning it into a park sends a message that the neighborhood is finished, he said.

“And we as the homeowners are just absolutely thrilled,” he said.

Dan Forsman, the CEO of Prudential Georgia Realty, said homeowner associations are maintaining foreclosed houses.

In other places, neighbors are mowing grass of foreclosed homes next door.

“Quite frankly, they are doing it often out of necessity,” he said. “They have an investment in their community. They have some pride and want to see their community soar.”

A key to the idea is to get owners rather than renters into neighboring houses or condos, Forsman said.

“Owners will do that. Renters will not,” he said.

Jolly put it this way: “The only way to get value in a project today is to be able to sell in it.”

And homes sell easier in neighborhoods where it seems good things are happening, he said.

Carter believes the same thing for his Ashview Heights neighborhood along the city’s Beltline. Against relatives’ advice, he bought a fixer-upper on Fair Street near Morehouse College two years ago.

“It was a transient neighborhood. Not that many homeowners were living there,” he said. “I was looking for a house I could pay cash for.”

He bought one for about $10,000 and put another $10,000 and a lot of sweat into the renovation.

Some of the neighboring 1925-era homes were boarded up, attracting trash and growing weeds. Others had been caught up in mortgage fraud schemes, with prices bid up, then the houses abandoned when the market crashed.

About 200 houses are in the neighborhood; Carter said many are bank-owned, while others are by absentee landlords.

This summer, Carter re-energized the neighborhood association, got several real estate agents involved and started holding monthly neighborhood cleanups, including mowing lawns, hauling trash and painting house fronts to make them look better.

The morning cleanups are followed by afternoon open houses that neighbors publicize by handing out fliers, talking to friends and discussing on social media. They even have a Wells Fargo agent to qualify interested buyers, who can tour Carter’s five-bedroom house and others’ renovated homes to see the possibilities before looking at the houses available for sale. Many of the fixer-uppers remain in the $10,000 to $25,000 range, Carter said.

Shayla Hamilton, a Smyrna real estate agent working with the neighborhood, said the two open houses have attracted lookers from nearby colleges and urban pioneers. Two houses in the neighborhood are under contract, thanks to the open houses.

Carter said, “This is the only way we will see the growth in families and stabilizing our community.”

For Jolly, it was more of a bottom line than an emotional decision.

“We were looking for closure,” he said. “This is the best way to sell the units, and it’s the best for everybody. In today’s market and time, this is the best answer.”

The fate of suburbia

By Connor P. Wallmark • Jul 8th, 2011 • Category: Feature Articles, Journal Articles, July 2011 Journal

Part II of this article series comments on the deterioration of suburbia in its current form and discusses the factors shaping suburbia’s future.

For a discussion of the coming depopulation of suburbia as the highly educated Generation Y and retiring Baby Boomers return to California’s urban cores, see Part I of this article series.

Poverty and crime

The Millennium Boom hit suburbia especially hard, as residents in suburban areas are disproportionally vulnerable to shifts in the broader economy as they lack adequate employment centers. Consider California’s largest centralized influx of population during the past decade, Southern California’s Inland Empire where a majority of jobs were related to the construction industry. As a result of the Great Recession, the Inland Empire currently has an unemployment rate of 14.8% and is currently still experiencing a net loss of jobs.

Without employment after the Boom, defaults soared and ghost towns were left. As of April 2011, the concentration of defaults were consistently higher in lower-cost suburban areas, with a ratio of 11 notices of default (NODs) filed for every 8 NODs for the rest of California. The increased vacancies in suburban neighborhoods has resulted in blight and increased crime. Much like the inner cities of the ‘60s and ’70s – known for high crime, gangs and poverty – suburbia will become the newest retreat (or jail) for California’s economically more desperate.

Suburbs now have the largest poor population in the nation.

Suburbs now have the largest poor population in the nation, as reported by the Brookings Institute. Between the years of 1999 and 2008, the legion of suburban poor grew as much as 25%, five times the rate of the poor in urban areas. This trend mirrors the fall of Moreno Valley and the Lancaster area after the collapse of the economy in the 1990s when jobs failed to support the Boomers who had recently moved in. Just as short sales and distressed property sales became the norm in 1992-1997, the same trend continues today in newer subdivisions.

Crime in blighted suburban areas will similarly swell in future years as a massive swath of latch key children, raised by babysitters and the television, will come of age. The absence of parents while growing up, who were by necessity away from home in the centers of employment earning a living, will make itself known on a broader societal level as these children grow out of childhood. This in turn will further drive out the educated elite who will escape to the gentrified city. In their place, their sprawling suburban houses will be rented out to less savory, lower-income tenants or sold to owners (if the price is right), who will likely perpetuate the cycle.

Obsolescence and diminished social services

Schools and public services in suburbia will worsen. While the suburbs may have been cheaper in the short-term for suburban purchasers, numerous long-term hidden costs will present themselves. The suburban tax base – fed from new development and the rising property values which existed during the boom – will erode based on resale prices. The price cities pay for services do not erode.

Costs inherited by the suburban taxpayers will include:

  • the cost of building and maintaining new freeways and mass transit options for those stranded in the suburban desert who must commute to earn a living;
  • the long-term expense of cleaning up the environmental side-effects of suburbia’s encroachment into natural habitats and the steps taken to mitigate devastating wildfires in areas that were considered remote just years ago; and
  • the cost of providing new amenities and social services to suburbia’s growing population of geriatric and lower-income individuals.

Similarly, physical deterioration will be increasingly problematic. The Golden Arches of the McMansions will lose their luster as the rapidly mass-produced properties constructed by national builders in distant locations will begin to show their age and poor construction materials.

Fuel prices and electric cars

Long commutes from suburbia to employment centers contribute to pollution and global warming, add precious hours to an already long workday, and perpetuate American reliance on imported oil. Simply, it is an unsustainable cultural habit compelled by urban sprawl and suburbia’s dependence on automobiles to function without a more centralized employment hub. [For more commentary on urban sprawl, see Part I of this article series.]

The average commute of an employed Inland Empire dweller has gotten longer in the aftermath of the Great Recession, according to 2009 Census data, as a third of the residents commute outside of the region for employment, such as to Los Angeles, and only 5% use public transportation.

People tend to put up with longer commutes during periods of economic turmoil, as they are unable to sell their homes and relocate, and are willing to drive further afield for any type of employment and the income needed to keep the family going. However, once jobs return, these death-march commutes will no longer be tolerated.

Once jobs return, these death-march commutes will no longer be tolerated.

Fuel prices are higher than a commuter can justify – a reality that will only worsen with time. This condition will also encourage Californian suburbanites to relocate and live closer to their places of employment situated closer to the coast and large cities.

Is suburbia gone for good?

Does this mean that the McMansion stuffed culs-de-sacs will be bulldozed to the ground to make way for multi-family units? Can the private ownership interests tied up in a suburban neighborhood be unwound and the buildings unbuilt?

Despite the coming sea-change toward urban living, suburbia will not go the way of the dodo. Similar to a vestigial organ, it will lose its original function but not disappear entirely. Suburbia will be an appealing choice for those who value space and cost over the social and cultural allures of the city. Suburban areas in close proximity to employment opportunities in nearby cities, especially if they are connected via mass transit, will likely continue to garner the interest of future homebuyers.

The suburbs will also likely continue to house a large portion of California’s growing immigrant population. Hispanics currently make up more than 40% of the California population. From 2000-2007, the number of immigrants in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, mostly Hispanics hailing from Mexico, Central America and South America, leaped by more than half. However, this is changing too as Mexico’s greatly improving economy of 2011 is keeping more Mexicans at home, employed for the first time in their native country.

The suburbs will also likely continue to house a large portion of California’s growing immigrant population.

California will always need low-pay workers, native-born and otherwise, and these low pay workers will always need a place to live. The unskilled immigrant population with lower pay levels and their unskilled native-born counterparts will become the backbone of suburbia in the next couple of decades.

Due to their level of education and training, they cannot demand the high pay associated with professional urban jobs, but low-pay employment will still be available to them. These lower-income earners will need shelter in the new real estate paradigm, and suburbia will continue to offer a majority of California’s low- to mid-tier housing for them to occupy, with the exception of the very few low-income housing units provided in new developments for the inner cities.

Additionally, many of these lesser-educated individuals will not feel the same need to be in close proximity to areas of cultural significance – sites such as theaters, museums and the like – as they have not been inculcated from a very early age through education to appreciate such amenities. [For more information about immigrants and California real estate, see the January 2011 first tuesday article, Immigration’s impact on the housing market.]

To mirror the movements of the labor force, basic industry will also locate to low pay areas to cut their costs as they have done in the upper deserts of Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties. Thus, suburbia and the outlying areas will experience an influx of light industry with labor intensive activities to fill up on cheap labor. The best paying jobs in these central California districts will be government employment, health care services and education.

Additionally, not all of Gen Y will flee to the “hip” allure of the cities. Though a majority of Gen Y may presently profess a desire to move to the cities when they are young and untethered by the three Ms (marriage, mortgage, maternity), it is unknown whether they will continue to hold this same aspiration ten to fifteen years hence when they are in a financial position to purchase.

Will the hip-illusion still entrance the members of Gen Y when they have the middle-age paunch, halitosis and a receding hairline?

Much like a thoughtless money-illusion, will the hip-illusion still entrance the members of Gen Y when they have the middle-age paunch, halitosis and a receding hairline? Or, like their parents, will Gen Y retreat back to the bastions of suburbia (now with family in tow) when homeownership becomes a financial possibility?

Though suburban landscapes will always be part of the California geography, their days of dominance are behind us. Thus, agents and brokers need to anticipate this massive demographic shift into urban areas, specifically multiple-housing projects with security and relatively high prestige. Take steps to prepare yourself now: starting 2016-2018, Gen Y and the Boomers will start to leave the long commutes, chaparral, sage and property maintenance of suburbia behind as they go to live where they work.

It’s all happening in the city, eventually

By Tara Tran • Jun 23rd, 2011 • Category: real estate newsflash

California’s big cities are projected to lead the way in the state’s job recovery and the Bay Area is forecasted to be the starting point for the state’s employment resurgence. The Silicon Valley boom is no small part of that push.

However, a bifurcated recovery is expected throughout California. In contrast to the state’s inland and central valleys where the local economy depends more on residential construction and commuting, the Bay Area and other like-minded California coastal hubs are likely to experience more job growth on account of their diversified and technology-driven industries.

Although a job upturn will be slow, economists of the UCLA Anderson Forecast predict employment in California will grow 1.7% in 2011, 2.4% in 2012 and 3.1% in 2013.

first tuesday take: The UCLA Anderson Forecast of employment does not parallel first tuesday’s forecast for the next several years. We believe 2011 will be very weak in job growth through the beginning of 2012. Parts of the nation are getting up to speed, but we are not ready to take off just yet. Much corrective action is needed before we can settle down for any long pleasant recovery. [For a forecast of employment in California and the implications it has for the housing market, see the first tuesday Market Chart, Jobs Move Real Estate.]

The Anderson percentage predictions calculate an addition of 239,328 jobs in 2011. This would bring California’s total employment to 14,317,427 by end of 2011. California presently (as of May 31, 2011) has 14,071,600 paying jobs and we do not see anywhere near an additional 250,000 jobs coming in by the end of 2011 as would be needed to meet the Anderson forecast. But we will see – it would definitely be nice for rental properties.

Anderson forecasts California will have 14,661,045 jobs by end of 2012 and 15,115,538 by end of 2013. One half year more of that kind of job growth and by mid-2014 we will have recovered all the jobs lost since the December 2007 peak of 15,348,200 jobs. first tuesday senses the full recovery in jobs will not come for another two years, in 2016. December 2011 numbers will enlighten all of us as we simply do not now know what consumer confidence numbers will show after a year of this most sluggish recovery.

The Anderson numbers seem high to us, but this volume of job creation in California is not out of the question. February, March and April of 2011 each saw an increase of at least 36,000 jobs. Only at that pace would we would easily attain the Anderson numbers.

California employment trends also forecast changes for demographics since wherever these jobs do appear, people will follow. This job forecast for coastal communities holds weight, especially since California’s job-hungry and mobile-minded Generation Y (Gen-Y) continues to express its preference to live in more intimate, low-maintenance housing closer to their work – essentially a life in the city. It’s only a plus for them as the city is just the place where the more technical jobs they want will be. [For more information on the coming role of Gen-Y in California real estate, see the October 2010 first tuesday article, The demographics forging California’s real estate market: a study of forthcoming trends and opportunities – Part I.]

With employment scarce and the demand for work frantic, expect California’s demographics – led by Gen-Y – to shift significantly from its post-1980 suburban sprawl. Also a word to agents, brokers and investors: anticipate the demand for rentals and multi-family housing condo sales to go up – in the city, that is. [For more information on the growing urbanization trends, see the March 2011 first tuesday article, If you build it downtown, they will come.]

RE: “Bay Area could lead the way for jobs recovery – but it won’t happen right away” from MercuryNews.com

 

Buyer’s Guide: Branding Products and Services
A strong brand can make the difference in determining which real estate pro gets the call from consumers. Here are the key concepts and solutions you’ll need for your branding efforts.

In This Guide

To whom do people turn when they need help buying or selling property? Generally, it’s one of three kinds of real estate professionals: someone they’ve worked with before, a practitioner they’ve been referred to, or the one who has done the best job branding themselves and their business.

Building your brand is a multifaceted undertaking: creating a persona, promoting it at every opportunity, and meeting and surpassing expectations you’ve shaped about why people should entrust their real estate transaction to you. It’s part personal marketing and part positioning — and all about delivering services. After all, every licensed competitor in your area has access to the same inventory. An effective branding campaign differentiates you as the first person who comes to mind when people think real estate.

Specs That Matter for Real Estate

What makes a great brand?

Play consumer for a minute: When the subject is real estate companies, which one comes to mind?

There’s likely a distinctive logo with specific colors, and maybe a tagline defining that company or its approach. Branding starts with visual symbols, but is really about attaching positive perceptions to them. What those symbols represent — and the associated consumer expectations and experiences — make the brand.

For the real estate professional, the branding challenge is to set yourself apart from everyone else offering a comparable mix of services. Your “brand” can be your name, a flashy logo, catchy tagline, or some unique specialty. It’s the marketplace ID for you and what you do.

Think about who you are and services you provide that most others can’t and build around that. It might be defined by a market area, a particular type of property you handle, or your target clients. It can play off your name, your team, or the location of your office. Whatever you choose as your brand, it should be uniquely associated with you.

An effective brand-building campaign runs on and offline, from a prospect’s initial encounter through follow-up long after a successful transaction. Establishing your brand requires a broad-based, far-reaching effort. The key is consistency in message and delivery — the more visible your brand, the greater the chance people will remember you.

Feature that in signs, on your vehicles, Web site, social networks blogs, business cards, stations — everything you do to promote awareness and attract business. Then, back it up. If you bill yourself as the neighborhood expert, demonstrate that with Web content and blog entries. If your focus is the upscale market, your clothes, car, and equipment should project that. If you’re the relocation expert, make sure you’re the source for information about everything in the area.

The Budget section of this guide outlines some tools and services that can be used to build, establish, and promote your brand. Each provides you with a way to get your brand in front of clients and prospects, and remind them why they should call you.

Ultimately, your brand is only a symbol, though, albeit one that invites action and can generate calls. It’s the follow-through, the relationships you establish, and whether or not you deliver on all your brand promises that will make or break your business.

Brand Building 101

Focus: Step back and assess the services you and your competitors provide. What’s unique about you? Who are your target consumers? What value can you offer others aren’t providing? Is your market a particular type of home or area? Define your services, expertise, and goals, then start building your brand around those.

Create an identity: Effective brand symbols — the logo, tagline, and even color scheme — are easily recognized and recalled. These should establish some positive association with you. Don’t skimp here: If you doubt your artistic and creative abilities, entrust this to a professional service.

Promote you: Approach this as a personal effort to promote you, your services, and your personal contact information. Build your brand around a company that’s not yours, and you’ll have to start all over if you ever move on.

Mount a campaign: Your brand won’t be built overnight, but rather over time, as people learn to connect you and the symbols you’ve chosen to represent yourself with a positive experience. The more visible that symbol, the faster that process.

Take it everywhere: Signs for the yard or office are starting points. Cars and trucks can be transformed into mobile billboards with vehicle wraps. Premiums like refrigerator magnets and key chains imprinted with your logo serve as constant reminders of you and your services. Everything should point back to your Web site as the portal for local information about your business and listings. And when you’re marketing online, be sure that your brand extends beyond your business’ site. Social networking and blogs can be especially effective, as can automated electronic newsletters, which get your branding out there with minimum effort.

Get involved: The value of community involvement cannot be overstated. Sports and event sponsorship, charity donations, and volunteerism provide opportunities to show your logo and represent you as a caring member of the community.

Make short-term goals and long-range gains: In summation, use every tool and opportunity to establish your brand. It’s the cumulative effect of all these efforts that will transfer a logo into the symbol you can proudly stand behind and prosper.

Glossary

Collateral: In marketing, the support materials used to promote a brand, product, or service, such as flyers, brochures, presentations, and Web content.

Niche: That segment of the total market a brand focuses on. For instance, one real estate professional could choose the niche luxury homes in the area, while another concentrates on vacation properties and rentals. Identifying your niche is an important early step in brand development.

Personal brand: The brand associated with an individual rather than a company or team. In real estate, establishing your personal brand can be especially critical. Over the course of their careers many real estate professionals will provide similar services to clients while associated with a succession of brokerages or franchises.

Skins: Protective covers for consumer electronics devices like smartphones and notebooks that can be imprinted with any message or graphic, including a brand logo.

Tagline: A brief, easily recalled sentence or phrase that sums up the brand and what it offers.

Target market: Those buyers or sellers you want to reach through your marketing efforts. They could be living in a specific ZIP code, for example, or match a certain demographic profile.

What Others Are Saying

“The Community Center”

In the half-year since sales associate Amie Stewart of HomeSmart Realty in Phoenix launched the My Life At Lakewood Web site, it’s become a virtual gathering place for people interested in what’s going in the Arizona neighborhood.

“We’ve gotten a reputation as the go-to people about the area, exactly what we were trying to achieve,” Stewart says. She and her partner in The A Team decided the community Web site could be an effective tool for keeping their name before residents in their target market.

“We thought the best way to brand ourselves would be to focus on one area,” she says. “It’s helped with our farming. We’re now working closely with the local homeowner association and we’ve got businesses in the area as sponsors who are also helping promote the site,” she says. “We’re giving something valuable to the community and they seem to appreciate that.”

“Being Your Brand”

As soon as Linda Craft acquired her real estate license more than 20 years ago, she started building her brand. “You’ve got to decide what you want your brand to be, and for me, that was to be seen as a professional, the person people recognize and want representing them. I started with a bright red color to contrast with my naturally blond hair and a black Infiniti Q45 with a vanity plate and the tagline ‘Make Offer.’”

Today, as broker-owner of Linda Craft and Team, REALTORS®, in Raleigh, N.C., those core elements remain integral to the campaign that has established her as the most readily identifiable real estate professional in the area. Her red logo and name are fixtures on signs and a fleet of vehicles, at community events, and as an official sponsor of the Carolina Hurricanes hockey team.

“The things we do offline bring us recognition,” Craft says. “But it’s what we do online, thorough Internet marketing, where we make money.”

Craft’s Web site, as well as her blogs, videos, and Facebook and Linked-in pages and profiles are all developed and managed by Dakno Real Estate Marketing Services. Wherever she’s found on the Web, there’s a consistent look featuring her picture, logo, and contact information.

“Branding without building strong personal relationships is nothing,” she says. “People may recognize you because of your logo or picture, but they will remember you because of what you did and how you helped them.”

“Domain Name Says It All”

Visitors to LuxuryLakeHome know where The Perry Team, broker-owners of RE/MAX Grand Lake in Grove, Okla., put their emphasis. The site immediately identifies the pair as “Your Grand Lake Professionals” and local real estate experts.

Their branding and Web site is managed through the Number1Expert marketing system from Dominion Enterprises. “We don’t have a specific logo or photo like some teams,” says Victoria Perry, partner with her husband Chuck in the small company. “Everything we do is designed to get people to our Web site where they can start searching for property and learn about our services.” The domain name conveys their specialty and is featured in all their signage and ads.

When she expands her branding efforts in the near future, she’ll draw on the experience of others. “One advantage to being with RE/MAX is you’ve got a network for talking with other real estate professionals about what’s worked for them,” she explains. “They’re very supportive and eager to share what they’ve learned and show how they do it. It’s a fabulous benefit of being associated with a major brand.”

Michael Antoniak is a journalist and technology expert with a focus on real estate applications. He also writes about real estate technology at his blog, RealTechTools, and has published an e-book on Essential Technology for Mobile Professionals. He can be contacted at antoniak@dtccom.net.

Top Places for Oldest, Youngest Residents

Maine is the state boasting the oldest median age of
residents–not Florida, as most people assume, according to new Census data
reported this week. The median age in Maine for 2010 was 42.7. In Florida, the
national median age was 37.2.

However,
Florida does have the largest percentage (17.6 percent) of senior citizens,
residents who are aged 65 or older. West Virginia is second at 16 percent for
highest percentage of senior citizens. The national average is 13 percent.

Here’s a breakdown of where the oldest
and youngest populations live, according to Census data.

Oldest States
The states
with the highest median age of its residents are:

1. Maine: 42.7
2. Vermont:
41.5

3. West Virginia: 41.3
4. New Hampshire: 41.1

Oldest Cities
Based on cities
with over 100,000 residents, here’s a breakdown of cities with the oldest
populations, along with the median age of their residents:

1. Scottsdale, Ariz.: 45.4
2. Clearwater, Fla.: 43.8
3. Cape
Coral, Fla.: 42.4

4. Fort Lauderdale, Fla.:
42.2

5. Hialeah, Fla.:
42.2

Youngest
States

Which states boast the youngest
population?

1. Utah: 29.2
2. Texas: 33.6
3. Alaska:
33.8

District of Columbia:
33.8

4. Idaho: 34.6

Source: “Where People Are Oldest: Maine Tops
Florida,”
 CNNMoney (May 26,
2011)

What Does Gen Y Want?
One thing real estate pros should know about Generation Y is that its members prefer to swap texts to phone calls or even e-mails. Here’s more info on the preferences of this up-and-coming group of consumers.
By Kristine Hansen
//
|  May 2011

Who is Generation Y? Their exact ages aren’t easy to pin down; the start of their birth years ranges from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s, depending on your source. Perhaps the best way to describe them is in historical and cultural terms: Most of them have little to no memory of the Cold War; seminal events such as the Challenger explosion and Chernobyl; or life before computers were commonplace in offices, schools, and homes.

This generation, also referred to as Millennials, now numbers around 80 million U.S. residents. And many of them are just a few years away purchasing their first home. How can you position yourself as the real estate professional they want to work with?

They Want It All — Now

Austin, Texas-based Laura Duggan — an early adopter of texting — learned the value of communication while selling Jason Dorsey, 32, and his wife a home two years ago. Phone messages Duggan initially left for Dorsey were not immediately returned, losing valuable time in a market where hot deals on smaller-size homes are scooped up within days. Dashing off a text message, however, yielded a lightning-quick reply from Dorsey.

“They want to communicate differently than a lot of my other clients. Gen Y wants texts, not even e-mail,” says Duggan, broker-owner of West Austin Properties, who has 30 years of experience selling homes.

“Gen Y is about instant gratification: If we can’t see it on our phone, it doesn’t really exist,” explains Dorsey, who is a frequent keynote speaker on Generation Y. He’s consulted for companies like Kraft, GE, Frito-Lay, and McDonald’s. While Dorsey and his peers can easily navigate the Internet in search of data, they often don’t know how to make sense of it. Still, “it’s critical that REALTORS® position themselves to educate us and not treat us like children,” says Dorsey. “If we don’t feel like we can ask questions and be a part of the process, we’re not going to be interested.”

The Right Information

Real estate pros can help put information about a listing into context, such as how property taxes differ from a nearby city or interpreting neighborhood crime statistics, he says.

“This is a generation that takes advantage of information. They come in [to a home showing] knowing everything about the property,” says Nashville-based consultant Amy Lynch, who works with companies that want to motivate Generation Y.

Dorsey boils the home search for this group of young buyers down to this: experiences. “In Austin, people want to live near the music, the Frisbee-golf parks, and walking distances to great restaurants that are happening.” If practitioners mention certain amenities that are within walking distance of a listing, such as an independent movie theater or a hiking and biking trail, that’s going to attract the attention of Gen Y buyers.

“A lot of these kids want to be able to go out at night,” says Marcia Anderson, who sells luxury homes in Phoenix and its suburbs through The Williams Real Estate Group. Mixed-use areas filled with restaurants, bars, shops, and housing are popular with members of this generation. “A lot of times it’s the zip code that dictates [interest].”

According to Lynch, many Millennials are willing to pay more for walkability. To get this, they might sacrifice a kitchen packed with luxury appliances or a grand master-bedroom suite. Yet some of their choices are circumstantial.

“They are vastly underemployed and in debt,” Lynch says. “It’s not a generation that’s making a lot of money.” Orlando, Fla.-based real-estate firm RCLCO released a study that showed 13 percent of Generation Y carpools to work, and 7 percent walk to their job. Eighty-eight percent of them want to live in urban areas.

All About Lifestyle

Some real estate pros are putting a new spin on urban neighborhoods — where members of Generation Y typically live, or want to live — by showing homes from a bicycle seat. Four years ago, Matt Kolb launched Pedal to Properties in Boulder, Colo. It all started when a client of Kolb’s — visiting from another city and checking out properties — went back to his hotel room at night. Desiring another viewing of the homes he’d viewed earlier in the day, he rented a bicycle from the hotel and returned to those neighborhoods on two wheels instead of four.

Today, the Boulder office has 30 agents and a fleet of 60 seven-speed cruiser bicycles. It’s also been franchised to Sonoma, Calif., and Northampton, Mass. This casual approach to home shopping wins Gen Y clients over, Kolb says. “It’s four to five hours where you are smiling and laughing. When clients are in the back of my car, it’s different,” he explains. Even the route taken from the office to the home is different — Kolb typically opts for the most scenic way on a bike instead of more direct roads, as he would use in a car.

Jenny Persha, a real estate pro in Madison, Wis., with Keller Williams Realty who specializes in green residential properties, has had luck marketing her home-buying services to Gen Y at street fairs and festivals — particularly if she’s got a listing a few blocks away. “Now, you’re actually having to find where the people are and how you can better serve them,” she says.

Because she’s 34 years old — fresh out of this age group — she has no trouble relating to her clients. “I feel like I’m in tune with them a little more. I can tell what questions they’re going to ask.” Sometimes she even receives leads while out with friends for a happy hour after work.

Different than previous generations, Generation Y buyers tend to view a home purchase as short-lived and not relevant beyond their current life stage. “We’re having kids later and we’re getting married later,” says Dorsey, who bought the smallest house on his block in case he and his wife want to relocate. “Long-term to us means five years. Gen Y is totally accustomed to the idea that they will be moving soon and again. We’re not tied down. That freedom is very important to us right now.”

Low-Hassle Living

What kinds of homes do Millennials want to move into? A low-maintenance house is a definite plus. “I don’t own a lawn mower,” says Dorsey, “and neither do any of my friends. This offends my father.” Instead, he and his friends rely upon a lawn service, affording them more time to relax, work late at the office, or spend time with friends. They either want to do the task quickly or be able to “outsource” it inexpensively.

Lynch agrees that Generation Y doesn’t want to spend weekends doing lawn work. “They want green spaces outside their house, to maybe put a grill, but not a large lot,” she says. A unit in a condominium with a clubhouse or a shared green space with other homes is a very attractive alternative.

Anderson noted that while swimming pools are an in-demand item for most Arizona consumers, younger buyers simply don’t want them. “They want to be able to take a vacation and not deal with that,” she says.

Whether it’s a compact ranch or a three-story urban walk-up, the layout should be conducive to entertaining and hosting — but not passing hors d’oeuvres or hosting charity benefits. Instead, this group seeks a gathering place to watch NCAA tournaments or play ping pong.

“They tend to want a ‘gathering space’ in the home, more so than fancy bedrooms and bathrooms,” Lynch says. “Y’s grew up doing things in groups all the time. Having a big house where you live with just you and your family does not appeal to them.”

Duggan was baffled when Dorsey brought friends along to view the homes he and his wife were considering buying. “Back in the day, you only brought people who would be impacted by the decision,” Duggan says. “Every generation has an idiosyncrasy. This one wants their peers’ validation that they are making a good decision.”

Get Connected

Due to this increased connection and desire for validation from peers, real estate pros should not hesitate to ask for the names of friends interested in buying a home. Using this approach, Duggan ended up taking on Dorsey’s friend as a client. Just don’t use the word “referral.” “This means something different to us than other generations,” Dorsey explains. “It reminds us of being called to detention during grade school. Instead ask, ‘Do you have any friends I can help?’ One happy Gen Y customer leads to 10 others.”

To further understand this age group, Anderson has employed her 26-year-old daughter to revamp her marketing. “Sometimes I’ll run something by her and she’ll say, ‘Oh mom, that’s so old-fashioned and boring and will never fly,’” says Anderson, who now has a blog, LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, and the ability to publish her listings on YouTube.com.

Persha affirms that’s the right approach. She finds social media like Twitter and Facebook to be the most noninvasive way to market properties. “I’d rather have it show up in their news feed than call them,” she explains.

This is exactly what Generation Y shoppers want. When they receive that message notification on their cell phones, it may be just a matter of time before they contact the real estate pro for a showing. But first, of course, they’ll investigate further, and perhaps even contact their buddies to run the idea by them.

Gen X Buyers to Lead Housing Recovery

Generation X adults ages 31 to 45 are expected to lead the recovery in the housing market, according to real estate experts in a recent webinar produced by the National Association of Home Builders. During the event, speakers highlighted results of a survey of 10,000 buyers in 27 metro areas.

While Generation X isn’t the largest population group making up 32 percent of the population compared to 41 percent of baby boomers it’s the most mobile age group, says Mollie Carmichael, principal of John Burns Real Estate Consulting in Irvine, Calif., the company that conducted the survey.

“They are in full force with their careers, and they need to accommodate growing families,” Carmichael says.

This generation is coming with their own set of house preferences that may differ from other generations. Even though home sizes continue to shrink, first-time buyers and younger families are looking for more room to grow, Carmichael says. Nearly 50 percent said they prefer a home with a large lot and in a suburban development. Only 21 percent said they are looking for a traditional or “walkable neighborhood,” according to the survey.

“They want something compelling, from a design or personalization standpoint,” Carmichael says. 

And many want “green,” energy-efficient features, too. Regardless of age group, 70 percent of buyers said in the survey they are willing to pay $5,000 more for a home with “green” features.

Most buyers also said they’d be willing to pay a premium for such housing characteristics as dark wood cabinets, a separate tub and shower, and a fireplace in the living room.

Source: “Young Home Buyers Will Lead Housing Market Recovery, Says NAHB,” National Association of Home Builders (March 17, 2011)

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