What Generation Z Wants From Their Real Estate agents
Now that the long-awaited millennial generation finally dominates home sales, the leading edge of an even newer generation of first-time buyers is just around the corner. Generation Z (those born between 1997 and 2012)  is not only slightly larger than the millennials, accounting for one of every four Americans, but its members may be even more eager to become homeowners than their older brothers and sisters.
Even more web-skilled and social media-savvy than millennials, Generation Zers will put their skills to work in the search for their first home. Despite forecasts that the migration of real estate to the web would diminish the role of buyers’ agents, Zers, like millennials, recognize the value of working with a real estate professional. A national survey of Generation Z conducted by Homes.com last April found that 85 percent plan to buy a home and nine out of ten expect to hire an agent, about the same percentage as millennials.
When it comes to finding and working with an agent, though, Generation Z has its priorities.
Top priority is an agent who understands them. In our survey of Generation Zers who plan to buy a home the most important quality Generation Zers are seeking in an agent is someone who understands them: who they are, how they want to live, and what they can−and can’t−afford. This finding is a warning light to agents. A recent survey by Bankrate found that nearly two-thirds of recent buyers have regrets about their decisions because they didn’t end up with what they wanted.
Their three top concerns were unexpectedly high maintenance costs, not enough space to meet their needs and locations that weren’t what they wanted. Perhaps many of these disappointments could have been avoided or at least anticipated−if buyers were working with agents who had a better understanding of how the properties they were considering squared with what they thought they were getting.
Generation Zers are looking for market smarts that they can’t find online. The second most important quality they seek in an agent is knowledge of the local market, which may reflect Generation Z’s awareness of the limitations of online research, especially for important decisions like buying a first home. When it comes to buying or selling a home, there’s no online data source available to the public that can match the hyperlocal expertise of an excellent agent.
Experience counts. Generation Zers don’t differ much from other first-time buyers when it comes to the value they place on experience. They are looking for an agent who has a successful track record with first-time buyers, especially in markets with low inventories and higher prices.
Nothing so illustrates the difference between the coming generation of buyers and older generations as the nature of the community where they want to live. When asked to select the kind of neighborhood they would prefer for their first home, more than half of the future homebuyers in our survey (58 percent) said they prefer a community that is ethnically diverse and only 12 percent prefer a neighborhood consisting of people who look like them. Generation Z’s commitment to diversity has important ramifications for national housing policy, cross-cultural enrichment, and the evolution of a post-racial definition of the American Dream.
Generation Z may be the first generation in American history that prefers to buy a home in a neighborhood that is ethnically and racially diverse. Its culture of diversity reflects the generation’s identity. Generation Z is more multicultural in their overall race/ethnic composition than previous generations.
In some ways, our survey raised as many questions than it answered and we now are planning to undertake additional research to learn more Generation Z’s homeownership values and expectations. We believe we can make a real contribution to our understanding of this largest-ever generation of buyers.
David Mele is President of Homes.com