Millennials Speak Out: Housing Experiences
Three Millennials employees talk about how they went about buying a home.
According to Zillow Group’s Consumer Housing Trends Report, some 42 percent of those looking to buy a home are first-time homebuyers. Some 42 percent of those buyers are Millennials. With the Millennial generation being a dominant piece of the housing market puzzle, what makes them different from their older generation counterparts? Three Millennials talk about their home-buying experiences.
Paul Salley, 32
A few years ago, I started the overwhelming task of finding my young family’s first home. I was as green as they came when I started the home-buying process. However, I did know who to turn to for advice and help to navigate these uncharted waters—a real estate agent.
My wife and I had our first child (one of three boys) and wanted to establish roots and live the American Dream. I researched various terms I had only heard about in passing conversations, such as mortgage, interest rate and mortgage insurance. Feeling overwhelmed, frustrated and confused about the entire process, I knew it was time to turn to an expert. This expert was someone I went to church with who was a real estate agent. He had assisted my sister-in-law’s family in buying and selling a home.
Our agent, Dan Park with Madison & Company Properties, explained the process from start to finish. He then helped us look for a home within our budget that offered the amenities we wanted. The way he approached finding our home was very thoughtful and methodical.
In the end, my wife and I settled on a new construction home. The appeal of being the first to live in a brand-new home, along with the corresponding warranties, provided us with peace of mind. Dan was instrumental in aggressively negotiating with our homebuilder to a price point that was within our budget.
When the day came to meet with our homebuilder to sign paperwork, we were told (as an unexpected surprise) that the price we agreed upon was contingent on putting more money down. Being first-time homebuyers and recent college grads with an infant, we didn’t have anything else to put down. Dan once again came to our rescue, and, in the end, the homebuilder waived their desired addition to our modest down payment.
It’s almost been five years since we built our home. I can say with confidence that without our Realtor®, we would still be in our cramped apartment. I am grateful for the advice, experience, expertise and friendship that our real estate agent brought to the process of buying a home. What seemed like a potentially horrible experience turned out to be one of the best experiences of our lives.
Our family has now almost doubled, and we’re starting the process of finding our next dream home. We will once again work with our Realtor®, Dan Park to help us find a new home and help us sell our current home.
Nikki Lindholm, 28
After what seemed like a lifetime of renting cramped, poorly lit, 700 to 900 square foot apartments, my husband and I began searching for our first home. To be honest, we weren’t sure if we were ready for a home. All we were sure about is that we needed more space. Prior to getting pre-
approved, we talked about strategy. If we couldn’t find a home that met all of our needs, we would continue to rent.
I think that is the same for a lot of Millennial home buyers. Many of us aren’t overly attached to the idea of owning a home for the sake of homeownership. We want a home that caters to our wants and needs. After all, renting can make life easier. You don’t need to worry about the costly issues that can come with owning a house.
When we began comparing what our mortgage would be against the cost of renting a larger townhome with a yard and garage, there wasn’t much of a difference. The one major gripe we had about renting was how much money we were spending on a property we didn’t own. Not wanting to ‘throw our money down the drain’ (as my parents have said over the years) started to make more sense.
Luckily, before I began working for REAL Trends, I worked for a large, independently owned brokerage in Iowa/Illinois called Ruhl & Ruhl Realtors. Although I was too young and broke from college debt to buy a home then, I learned how important it was to contact a real estate professional. Having worked with sales associates and managing brokers for just over three years, I would hear many horror stories of buyers who tried a ‘for sale by owner’ home or sellers who were trying to sell their home because paying an agent was “way too much money.”
I like to think that, if I didn’t come from a real estate background, I would still use a Realtor® during the home buying or selling process, but I’m not too sure. I believe that the Millennial generation has a higher mistrust against anyone trying to sell them on services. We are told and taught from an early age that you can learn anything you want on the internet. “Just watch it on YouTube,” is a popular slogan. And, we tend to be overly concerned with online reviews. The real estate industry has more recently come around to increasing their online presence but not at the pace that younger buyers are accustomed to, allowing national portals like Zillow to swoop in and fill that immediate void. To this day, brokers everywhere are trying to compete and make up for this advancement delay.
Before we decided on our real estate professional—the amazing Christine Gulley of Colorado Home Realty—we were exclusively searching for homes on Redfin.com and Realtor.com. The reason we used a portal over a local agency’s website is that we had just moved to the Denver metro area and had no idea what brokerages were around. Also, we liked searching on an interactive map. It helped us learn which neighborhoods were close to the areas we were looking in and helped us learn the area more easily. We continued to use these websites even after working with Christine because of the extra photo features they had. Our agent took care of everything and registered us to use a local portal that allowed us to approve or decline houses and write our comments to her about each house, which was great.
My husband and I joke that we are probably a bad representation of our generation. We didn’t want to live downtown, we wanted more space, and we didn’t need all the amenities an urban area provided. We needed a grocery store, a Target, and to be within 15 miles for our employers. I also think our generation is misunderstood when it comes to our wants and needs. Not all of us require beautiful industrial lofts that overlook downtown or heated floors throughout the home.
The biggest obstacle that brokerages have today is reaching and educating their younger audiences. The majority of future buyers are younger than 40. This shouldn’t be a demographic you ignore or mock for eating avocado toast (which is delicious FYI!) Millennials are getting things done. They are the generation to find and buy their home the fastest, and the generation that gets pre-approved the most frequently. I know I may seem biased considering I am a Millennial, but all we expect is the same knowledgeable information you would provide to our parents or grandparents. We just prefer electronic paperwork and virtual tours. And, we do enjoy getting information via phone calls and face-to-face meetings rather than texts.
My advice for brokers and agents is to be present on the sites and devices that this demographic is on and provide a mix of marketing approaches. If you think Millennials were needy with their instant expectations, you better sit down and prepare yourself for Generation Z, who are just starting to hit the market!
Brittany Shur, 27
Riding the real estate wave—that’s how I explain our moving behavior over the past four years. My husband and I, Millennial home buyers in the Denver market, have experienced the process of buying and selling a home from a unique vantage point.
We bought our first home in 2013, just as real estate in Denver began its quick ascent to its peak in 2015. We checked the boxes of a typical new home buyer—early 20s and ready to turn our escalating rent payments into a sound investment in homeownership. We bought a small, but well-kept 1,000-square-foot townhome just south of Denver near the foothills. We had plans to live there for five or six years before upgrading. However, two years later, we found ourselves sitting on over $50,000 in equity without putting in any effort. Knowing we wanted to start a family soon, we decided to see if selling our home and buying something bigger made financial sense. Candy Self of Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate helped us buy our first home had stayed in contact with us, sending Christmas cards and monthly e-newsletters and stopping by a year after we purchased to see how we had decorated and made the home our own. Her efforts paid off, because we chose to contact her immediately when we were selling. We were part of the 73 percent of people who say they would use the same agent again.
It wasn’t just her communications that kept her top of mind. It was also the attention and care she gave us.
Any first-time home buyer knows that buying a home is daunting. Our agent walked us through the process as if we were her own children and took our needs and desires to heart. We used her again to sell our townhome and purchase a small, single-family home minutes away.
The process of buying our second home was somewhat more cumbersome. We lost 13 homes in the bidding process and became accustomed to offering anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000 over list price. The 2015 Denver real estate market was a jungle! Finally, in 2015, we purchased our second home.
Two years later, just as we had settled into our new place, we found ourselves new parents of a bouncing baby boy and overcome by baby gadgets in every room. Desperately wanting more space and sitting this time on over $100,000 in equity, we decided to make our third and final move (at least for the foreseeable future!). Two months ago, we sold our home and upgraded to a larger home, complete with plenty of space for our little guy to grow.
With all that said, here are the three things that stayed consistent from each of our buying experiences.
First, our agent proved herself by walking us through the process the first time, helping us to navigate an infuriating and ruthless market in 2015 and, most recently, getting us to the closing table when our stubborn buyer threw many obstacles in our way.
Second, each time we purchased a home, I found the home first on a portal and immediately contacted my agent. Working in real estate, I know many of you may find your ears bleeding after reading that, but we can’t deny the important role real estate portals play in the home-buying experience—not only for Millennials but for all consumers. When I asked my agent about her thoughts on my portal usage, I was surprised by her answer. According to her, it didn’t make a bit of difference how I found the home (a portal, a sign in a front yard or her personal website), as long as I contacted her to see the home, make an offer and eventually close.
Finally, each time we bought a home I did my research. Whether that meant researching the neighborhood, crime rate, school ratings or even the projected home values over the next few years, I wanted to know in what I was investing. My husband and I have always viewed our home as our biggest asset and financial responsibility and that meant fully understanding the commitment to homeownership, the neighborhood and the home we had chosen.
I can say without a doubt that our Realtor® truly provided us with honest feedback, knowledge, and experience that helped us progress quickly to the home of our dreams. I cannot fathom maneuvering through this experience without her guidance. The commission we paid was more than worth the ease that she provided throughout all five transactions.