We’ve all read about the new Millennial wave that’s going to take over home-buying in residential real estate. The not-so-new story is that Millennials are the next home buyers and we’ve all got to keep up with the technology in order to close those imminent sales. Well, it’s clear that technology is the key to understanding the residential consumer. But how is Gen Y going to use technology to affect the industry’s brokerage side? What’s the impact on commercial real estate?
Today, the millennial generation is in their 20 to 30 somethings. They are fiercely loyal to their cell phones, social media, and technology in general. Ease and efficiency is their top priority to pursuing their ambitious career goals. Their self-motivated, over-achieving mindsets are bringing them into the real estate industry as the next generation of agents. This shift in real estate employment demographics is going to bring a very real change to the industry’s workflow.
Particularly, we’ll see a big impact on the commercial real estate side, which has been a little behind in the times. Yes, commercial real estate has adapted from paper to online listings and a lot of those listing sites even offer apps for your mobile phone. But we still see a fair amount of listings displaying a single exterior image of the property and couple of stats about pricing, size, etc. One thing is for certain: Millennials are going to demand more information. “We want more. We want easy access. And we want it now.” We need more photos, both exterior and interior, to get a better idea of a property. More than just photos, video tours are going to be the new standard. Why waste both the seller’s and the buyer’s time? Simply having more visual cues can answer a majority of our make-or-break questions. Today’s bare-bones listings are wasting both parties’ time as we are forced to tour properties when a simple video would immediately tell us if we’re even interested.
Here’s where the Millennial demand for better, easier technology is going to hit strong. New technology is going to take over. Check out companies like Bubl or Matterport to see just how easy capturing a video of the interior of your property can be. You don’t need to be a professional to have professional quality videos with technology like Bubl, which allows you to put the camera on the floor and sit back as it captures your entire space for you. Or Matterport will build a 3D interactive model that allows consumers to virtually walk through the entire property. Soon, drone technology will give us a cost-efficient method of capturing multi-angle exterior video. As technology like this becomes more widespread, so will the prominence of video tours on commercial real estate listing sites. And you can be sure Millennials will be pushing this adoption.
Along the lines of time-saving, easily accessible information, Millennials will also be pushing easier ways for seemingly small tasks. For example, a text-to-confirm standard for initial property vetting—meaning Millennial agents will confirm smaller listing questions by simply shooting a text to the listing broker. A majority of property tours will move to online and mobile app on-demand scheduling with companies like Showing Suite. Social media will continue to gain popularity as an outlet to share articles and publish property listings or property requests. Online lead generation will exponentially outpace referral-based client acquisitions. iBeacon technology will gain prominence, enabling easier location-based marketing.
Information exchange is another big push from Millennials that has already started. Access to and organization of information must be as simplified yet robust as possible for agents. Companies like CoStar and CompStak already collect and standardize information on comparables via user-friendly interfaces. Companies like CoreLogic integrate the data of millions of properties over decades to try to determine trends. Other companies will need to provide data analytics software to effortlessly determine which property is the right investment, as well as track what brokerage strategies are effective.
Finally, on the consumer side, there are a lot of Millennials that have started to build up some equity and need to know with whom to invest their new, hard earned money. Real estate brokers have long relied on referrals as their client base. And yes, referrals will certainly always be a major part of the business. But Millennials who are first generation investors that don’t know who to trust will immediately turn to the internet as their first source. A platform for online comparison of brokers would be their best friend. I imagine this platform would be like the Yelp for brokers—including reviews, specialties, locations served, price ranges, contact information, etc. Again, this technology would have to be well organized, easy to use, and informative. It would be something similar to Realtor.com’s Find a Realtor search, but for commercial agents and with more complete profiles. Ultimately, agents will learn that investing time in their online profiles on such a search engine would yield valuable client acquisitions.
What does all of the technology have in common? More information: easier, better, faster. Millennials are the last generation to remember a life before the internet. And trust us; we’re not going back to the dark ages. We remember those days as a childish endeavor—one to grow out of and flourish in the ever-expanding potential of a connected world wide web. We’re bringing that potential and user-friendly mindset to everything we touch. Next up: our jobs in commercial real estate. We are ready to make it easier and more efficient to buy and sell those properties. Are you with us?
Nicole Weinberger is an associate with Commercial Brokers International.