Millennials vs. Baby Boomers

One of the most startling things I heard at yesterday’s Edina Realty annual meeting was the degree to which the Realtor ranks nationally are now dominated by (relative) old fogeys:  something like half of all active agents are now over 40 years old (and not a few are over 65!).   

This, at the same time that Buyers are getting younger.

On the Buyer side, that’s due both to all the financing incentives mostly targeting first-time Buyers, plus the fact that first-time Buyers, by definition, don’t need to sell first  (of course, 2009 – 2010 was all about tax incentives for first-time Buyers).

On the agent side, the explanation is that a shrinking commission pie — which is what Realtors been facing the last five(!) years — very much favors the incumbents . . .  and the old-timers are the incumbents!

As one speaker dryly observed yesterday, “you folks are all exactly ten years older than you were a decade ago.”

Technology Gap

Unfortunately, when it comes to such things as technology and communication style, it can often seem like “Baby Boomers are from Venus,  Millennials are from Mars.” 

So, the same (50-something) speaker gave as an example himself, his senior citizen father and 20-something son all looking for a local theatre playing the movie they wanted to see.

The grandfather picked up the newspaper, the son searched on his laptop . . . while the grandson looked up theatres on his smart phone, bought the tickets, and started watching the movie trailer online.

Exacerbating the technology gap:  today’s Buyers are taking longer to buy.

So, you’re not just texting them (or instant-messaging, or whatever) a couple times over a few weeks — you’re potentially texting them dozens of times over several months.  

Old Dogs, New Tricks

Needless to say, this brave, new real estate environment means Realtors — and their brokers — have their work cut out for them.

As the Twin Cities’ leading broker for the last 11 years, Edina Realty has been using a “carrot-and-stick” approach to ensure that its sales force has the requisite technology skills (actually, “scare-and-reassure” might be more accurate).

On the one hand, it has been drumming into agents’ heads at least the last 3 years that the “technology train is leaving the station,” and that they’ll be left behind if they’re not on it.

(To its credit, Edina management has been backing up that message with tons of technology training, while pouring R&D money into its Twin Cities-leading real estate Web site and other technology initiatives.)

On the other hand, management and its proxies (cue yesterday) have been careful not to spook (or depress) all the troops still trying to get up the technology curve.

The double-edged message(s):  ‘you’d better get with it . . . but there’s still time,”  interspersed with reminders that ‘inter-personal skills still trump technology smarts.’

As the same speaker who told the movie-search anecdote said, “I may not want to fly a plane flown by a 70-year old pilot or have my heart operated on by a 70-year old surgeon, but can a 70-year old Realtor sell my house?” 


Only 19 more years to go . . .

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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