by Sam Bartlett
7 minutes read

The millennial generation, with its distinct values and preferences, presents a significant opportunity for the real estate industry which has long been steeped in tradition with the shift from the old guard being a bit slower than many other sectors.

Yael Geffen, CEO of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty, says that globally the new generation is already infusing the real estate industry with fresh perspectives, innovative ideas, and a commitment to sustainability, inclusivity and technology but that we are lagging a little behind in South Africa.

“This is partly due to the fact that there is little earning potential whilst in training which deters many talented young people who are also battling a rising cost of living and sluggish economy and can’t afford to work without earning a living.

“And this is something we need to address because not only do we need to keep attracting the best people to the industry, we need millennial’s unique skills and values and their approach to real estate.

In order to continue shaping a more dynamic and responsive market that caters to the evolving needs of a diverse range of buyers and sellers, Geffen believes that this can be achieved by what the new generation brings to the table:

Tech-Savvy Expertise: Millennials are often referred to as the “digital natives,” having grown up in an era of rapid technological advancement. This tech-savviness gives them a distinct advantage in an industry that is increasingly reliant on digital tools and platforms.

Their deeper understanding of – and ease with – tech often makes them capable of working more efficiently and in some areas, they can almost halve a traditional workday through their expert use of tech. Unlike the old guard, this generation often only needs bite-sized information to get a task done.

From virtual property tours and online listing platforms to data analytics and social media marketing, millennials are leveraging technology to streamline processes, enhance customer experiences, and stay ahead of market trends.

Innovative Marketing: Millennials have a deep understanding of social media and the power it wields so they bring fresh and creative approaches to marketing properties, using platforms like Instagram, TikTok, Linked-In and YouTube to showcase listings in engaging ways.

Their ability to craft visually appealing content resonates with younger buyers and helps properties stand out in a crowded market. They also use data and analytics to engage very effectively on customer communication platforms

Sustainability Consciousness: Sustainability is a core value for many millennials, and they are influencing the real estate industry to prioritize eco-friendly practices.

Whether it’s promoting energy-efficient homes, advocating for sustainable building materials, or championing smart home technology to reduce energy consumption, millennials are driving a shift towards environmentally responsible real estate practices.

Collaborative Mindset: Millennials value collaboration and seek diverse perspectives and this mindset has led to the rise of collaborative workspaces, co-living arrangements, and shared community spaces within real estate developments.

Their focus on community and shared experiences is influencing the design and development of properties that foster connections and social interactions.

Preference for Experiences: Millennials often prioritise experiences over material possessions, and this mindset extends to their real estate choices.

They seek properties that offer lifestyle benefits beyond the physical space, such as proximity to cultural attractions, dining options, and recreational areas and developers and agents are responding by highlighting the experiential aspects of properties, such as walkability and access to vibrant neighbourhoods.

Emphasis on Flexibility: Flexibility is a hallmark of the millennial generation, and this is reflected in their approach to real estate. The rise of remote work and the gig economy has led to a demand for flexible living arrangements, such as co-living spaces and short-term rentals. Millennials are exploring innovative housing models that adapt to their evolving needs and lifestyles.

Inclusive and Diverse Outlook: Millennials value diversity and inclusivity, and they are pushing the real estate industry to be more representative and inclusive in its offerings.

From advocating for affordable housing solutions to promoting diverse architectural styles and designs, millennials are ensuring that the real estate landscape is accessible and welcoming to everyone.

Data-Driven Decision Making: Millennials are known for their data-driven decision-making approach and when it comes to real estate, they are leveraging data analytics to make informed investment choices.

This analytical mindset helps them assess market trends, property values, and investment potential with precision, enhancing their ability to navigate the complex real estate market.

Preference for Urban Revitalisation: Many millennials are drawn to urban environments characterised by walkability, cultural amenities, and public transportation.

Their preference for city living is contributing to urban revitalization efforts, encouraging developers to focus on mixed-use developments that blend residential, commercial, and recreational spaces.

Evolving Homeownership Philosophy: The millennial approach to homeownership differs from previous generations and while owning a home remains a goal, millennials are more open to alternatives such as co-living, renting, and shared ownership models.

Their willingness to challenge traditional norms is reshaping the housing market and encouraging innovation in property ownership.

“The millennial generation is infusing the real estate industry with fresh perspectives, innovative ideas, and a commitment to sustainability, inclusivity, and technology,” says Geffen.

She adds that their influence is not only changing how real estate transactions are conducted but also how properties are designed, marketed, and experienced and in order to stay abreast of a fast-changing world, we need to embrace what millennials bring to the industry.

Geffen says that the following are key strategies that can be employed to resonate with millennials and create a real estate landscape that speaks to their needs:

  • Embrace Technology: Millennials are digital natives who value convenience and efficiency, and the real estate industry should prioritise technology integration, offering virtual property tours, online transaction platforms, and user-friendly apps. By providing seamless digital experiences, the industry can engage millennials and streamline the property search and purchasing process.
  • Highlight Sustainability: Sustainability is a top priority for millennials. Real estate developers and agents can attract this demographic by showcasing energy-efficient homes, eco-friendly building materials, and properties with green features.

Emphasising the environmental benefits of a property resonates with millennials’ commitment to responsible living.

  • Personalised Marketing: Millennials appreciate personalised experiences. Utilise data analytics to understand their preferences and tailor marketing strategies accordingly. Personalized recommendations, based on their interests and lifestyle, can help them connect emotionally with properties.

And as this generation is used to mental multitasking online, marketing aimed at them needs to be succinct and make an immediate impact. And being visually oriented, videos often attract their attention better than other mediums.

  • Community-Centric Approach: Millennials value community and shared experiences. Develop properties that foster connections, such as co-living spaces, communal areas, and access to local amenities. Highlight vibrant neighbourhoods and the sense of belonging that comes with living in a community.
  • Affordability Solutions: The affordability barrier is a concern for millennials. Develop affordable housing options and explore shared ownership models that cater to their budget constraints. Transparency about pricing and financing options is essential to building trust.
  • Digital Marketing Engagement: Social media platforms are millennials’ playgrounds. Invest in captivating visual content, engaging videos, and interactive storytelling to showcase properties. Social media campaigns can create buzz and attract a younger audience.
  • Education and Transparency: Provide educational resources about the real estate process, investment strategies, and market trends. Offer training courses so that they can constantly upskill and reach their goal as quickly as possible. This is the You Tube and Ted Talks generation, so it’s essential to keep them fully engaged and stimulated and to help them reach their potential.

Transparency in dealings and accessible information fosters millennials’ confidence in their decisions.

  • Inclusivity and Diversity: Embrace diversity in marketing materials and property offerings. Highlight inclusive neighbourhoods and celebrate cultural diversity to create a welcoming atmosphere.

“The real estate industry has been a powerhouse for decades and certainly not everything needs changing but, by aligning a bit more with millennial values and preferences, the real estate industry can tap into this influential demographic’s potential.

“Because, at the end of the day, the world is changing and as the millennial generation becomes a driving force in the real estate market, those who cater to their needs will emerge as frontrunners in this dynamic landscape.”


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