Once you navigate through all of the challenges faced by millennials coming of age, you have to change your perspective to understand how to communicate with them. Given the general financial challenges they faced and their acceptance of technology, their view of ownership is much different from that of previous generations. For instance, ownership of anything seems to many millennials like a waste of scarce valuable resources. If you can get the benefit of a bike (Lime) or a car (Uber) without plunking down a large chunk of change, then who cares who owns it?
This is a huge pivot from generations that valued ownership of everything. Technology has provided a means to test the value of ownership. This is one area where you can take action. Prove out the own-versus-rent argument from the old days. The scariest potential downfall to the millennial buyer is asset devaluation. This is where building equity into the sales price really matters.
Now, the vote is still out on how all this will play out for millennials. As anyone with gray hair knows, leasing a car when you’re going to rack up high mileage is a rip off when it comes time to turn it in. As a consumer, you gave up the right to the residual value and you paid 100% for the use of the car plus interest.
Technology drives communication
Perhaps the most important step you can take to proactively reach millennial homebuyers is to develop a strategy for how you use technology. Builders can have the coolest location with the perfect product and a highly skilled sales team, but without a proactive and professional online presence, they have a good chance of never seeing the millennial homebuyer they are targeting.
If the millennial buyer has to work hard to find builders and their products beyond a few mouse clicks, builders most likely will not see that buyer. This is the big pivot for builders: All of us know that what really matters is the location, the quality of the house, the design, the equity growth and the buyer experience. However, for millennials, technology is tied to experience. The millennial buyer judges you very harshly right from the start. Many of them feel that if you do not have your online presence in order, you cannot possibly have your building process in order.
What can builders do?
In the face of nationwide affordability issues—Ivy Zelman’s Z Report noted that “the median price of an existing home across the country, which we consider an approximate gauge of the entry-level price point, was $216,800”—what can builders do to reach this financially strapped and emotionally unique cohort?
Builders need to provide great product at affordable prices to even be a thought in the mind of many millennials. Builders also need to offer buyer education and marketing that explains the homebuying process in a way that makes it achievable, not beyond the reach of most hard-working millennials.
So some nuggets of good news. You can be selective about where you invest, you can improve your communications and use of technology, and you can adjust how you speak and relate to the millennial buyer. Once you have the right perspective, you can really get to know anyone.
Noelle Tarabulski is president of Builder Consulting Group, based in Lakewood. She can be reached at 303-525-4944 or by email at [email protected].