Regardless of where the housing market is at any given time, there will always be a segment made up of first-time homebuyers. As the economy regains its footing and the market approaches the heights it reached before the 2007 economic crash, members of the Millennial Generation — people born after 1980 — are finally making significant inroads in their quest to become homebuyers.
The NAR 2017 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report shows that buyers within that age demographic have made up the largest segment of homebuyers over each of the last four years. They make up 34 percent of homebuyers, and 66 percent of those individuals are first-time homebuyers.
Nick Van Gorp, an agent with Related Realty, specializes in working with clients from the Millennial generation. He estimates that 75 percent to 80 percent of his clients belong to that age group. As a member of the generation himself, he understands the wariness that some Millennials bring to shopping for homes. “I graduated from high school when the U.S. economy almost crashed and burned,” Van Gorp says. “We saw the income of some of our parents’ homes plummet and the value of our homes plummet as well. Many people are hesitant to purchase a home because so much of the media makes real estate out to be a bad investment.”
A former management consultant, Van Gorp became a broker about two-and-a-half years ago after noticing that many renters in their late 20s were beginning to purchase their first homes. He now holds regular informational seminars that are designed to educate these buyers on the homebuying process, to answer their questions, and to give them useful data on details such as the types of homes being sold and which neighborhoods are hot at any given moment.
The seminars take place monthly – most often on weekends – and are typically attended by 25 to 30 potential homebuyers. Audiences generally consist of employees or members of businesses and organizations that hire Van Gorp to speak. He often chooses a foundation topic based on the partner organization’s interests and conducts online research on his attendees so that he can tailor presentations to their needs.
Along with word-of-mouth marketing, Van Gorp employs the power of social media to draw an audience. He runs Facebook ad campaigns to target Millennials, using eye-catching images and creative copy to attract attention.
“You can’t just say ‘first-time homebuyer seminar’ anymore,” he says. “Everybody does that. You need to catch their interest in some way by clearly stating the key takeaways. At times, I’ll write something outrageous, like ‘Do you think investing in real estate could be your first step in being a millionaire?’ to get them interested.”
Many of his audiences want to hear about real estate as an investment tool that can function as a hedge against stock market volatility and political uncertainty.
“I think first-time homebuyers will always be a market that I’m focused on,” he says. “If someone is buying their first home, it’s often all they can think about. I have people that text me at 10 p.m. asking about properties on Zillow. Then their friends start to want to buy and they notice. There are more referrals for the real estate agent with first-time homebuyers than any other homebuyers. You have to keep that as a pipeline.”