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Doing things differently, the new guard of real estate agents are beginning to make their distinctive mark on the industry, says Yael Geffen, CEO of Lew Geffen Sotheby's International Realty. In the global property market, millennials have overtaken baby boomers as the largest property buying demographic and their needs are very different than their predecessors, including what they expect from their real estate agents - and new generation agents know exactly what it is that they want.
Geffen adds that the growing number of reality TV shows, like Million Dollar Listing, have also been fuelling the transformation and glamorisation of an ostensibly staid industry which has previously seen little change in five decades.
Defined as between the ages of 24 and 39 years old, millennials now account for almost 30% of South Africa’s total population according to Statistics SA and also largest generation to enter the country’s workforce (51%).
“Until very recently, baby boomers were the largest property-buying group and, although they are far more dynamic than generations before them, their realtor and property investment expectations and needs have remained fairly conventional.
Millennials take a more active role
“Interestingly, although millennials instinctively turn to Google and YouTube when they don’t know how to do something and will take it upon themselves to learn about the property market before investing, they do still prefer working with an agent.
“But, unlike their parents who interviewed an average of 1.6 agents according to a Zillow Group report, and were happy to let the professionals get on with it, millennials will interview on average 2.7 realtors and are likely to assume an active role in the process, expecting to be updated every step of the way.”
Yael Geffen, CEO of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty
And this, says Geffen, is where the new generation agents have a distinct edge because they understand what millennial buyers are looking for in a property professional.
“They are extremely brand savvy – not only do they recognise the value of establishing their own personal brands, they know that the best way to do so is to align themselves with established and successful large real estate brands.
“They also continually engage with clients and potential clients much more – they don’t just use social media to advertise properties for sale, they cultivate a strong following by making and posting their own videos which share as much about them as people and professionals as it does about real estate.
“Never before have agents been so ‘up close and personal’ and it appeals strongly to the younger buyers, which is why all our new agents attend our Experience Academy to learn how to perform on camera, how to translate and project and how to successfully grow their personal brand.”
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Authenticity is critical
However, Geffen believes that the most important quality is one that cannot be taught – it comes from within and it’s up to the individual to cultivate it.
“Authenticity is a critical key to success but it has to be genuine and can only be achieved if you are truly passionate about what you do because insincerity will be sniffed out very quickly.
“Self-awareness and transparency take considerable self-reflection and the conviction and courage to always strive do the right thing is not always easy but it’s well worth the effort as you’ll not only reap professional rewards, but personal ones too.”
Grahame Diedericks, manager principal of the Midrand office and international liaison for the Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty group.
One such agent is Grahame Diedericks, manager principal of the Midrand office and International Liaison for the group, who says that although shows like Million Dollar Listing and Selling Sunset are somewhat dramatised, they do give a clear insight into the everyday workings of the real estate profession.
“There has long been a common misperception that real estate is a part-time job, whereas in fact agents often work seven-day weeks and are always on call – and those who are most successful embrace the opportunities to be had and they live, eat and breathe this industry.”
“This has inspired a new crop of young and dynamic intern agents wanting to get into the industry with the promise of all the glitz and glamour to be enjoyed if one works hard and smart."
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Social media most significant differentiating factor
Diedericks believes that social media has been the most significant differentiating factor between the old guard and the “new generation” estate agents.
“If utilised correctly, the social media platforms at our disposal can be very powerful tools indeed and, being so much more tech savvy and comfortable, the younger generation is optimising their full potential.”
However, he cautions that exposing your personal brand to the market place comes with its own set of challenges.
“You need to ensure that controversial material is never put to the public platform and you have to behave in a professional and sincere way at all times, not only when working.”
For Diedericks, the best path to success in the industry today is to begin with the solid foundation of the “old school teachings” and then build on that with a flair of the new.
“A real estate agent’s core strategy must always revert back to client service but by adding a dynamic, digital edge and showcasing properties professionally, you ensure your clients' properties are not missing any niche in the marketplace.”
“We are all aware that the way we conduct business and consumer behaviour have changed dramatically over the last few years, and if we are to survive and thrive in the future, every business needs to adapt quickly to meet the needs of this new generation of tech savvy and sophisticated customers,” says Geffen.
“And agents who are able to achieve a good balance between personal and professional exposure on public platforms and are seen as real and authentic are the agents who will attract today’s and future buyers.”
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