by Sarah Slotnick
I have a confession – I am a millennial, and no, it’s not a dirty word. I am the Digital Marketing Specialist for the New England Region of Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation and also just closed on my first home. As such, I am here to share my views of the mortgage and real estate world from the millennial perspective.
First, let’s define a millennial. A millennial is anyone between the ages of 18-36 approximately, and less than two-thirds of the population are in peak home buying age. This generation is also the largest in history with approximately $200 billion in annual buying power, a digital affinity, a desire for greater good, and a lack of trust for both brands and individuals. It is important to note, of course, that no two millennials are the same and to pigeonhole them would be a mistake. However, I would be willing to bet you would see at least one generalized characteristic of a millennial in any interaction with one. In short, effectively communicating with and earning the trust of the millennial homebuyer is completely different than with previous generations.
As millennials dive into the housing market, mortgage professionals are racing to understand and effectively communicate with this population. According to Ellie Mae, millennials now make up almost 50 percent of the market making effective interaction with them of utmost importance. With this in mind, individuals as well as companies are working to meet this consumer in a way that matters to them as well as on the platforms where they already are, primarily their cell phones.
Knowing that millennials have been witness to change and volatility in the housing industry and that they utilize digital platforms makes it more important than ever for loan officers to have a digital presence. To feel secure in choosing a loan officer a millennial will conduct extensive research primarily on the internet to see how others view the loan officer, both positively and negatively. Millennials are not expecting perfection but instead are expecting honestly and transparency. This means, they aren’t immediately turned off buy a bad Yelp review but instead look to see how the individual responded and if they took responsibility for the interaction. The idea of “no news is good news” does not work for this generation, instead they want to hear directly that you are doing everything needed to close their deal and that you will provide updates as they become available, even if the update is that there is no update.
As a recent millennial homebuyer, I was often wary of the process even though I was familiar with it. Throughout the three months it took to close my loan, my gut reaction was to question and wonder if I was being given all of the information and if the process was unfolding as it should. Luckily, my loan officer was transparent throughout the process, answered every question in a timely fashion, and anticipated my concerns allowing me to (slightly) relax as I dealt with the financing aspect. Making your millennial consumer trust you will not only put them at ease but will also make your job easier. We’re not afraid of the truth; just tell us in a way that is straightforward and timely.
Millennials are invested in their communities and causes they feel strongly about. Sharing with a client or potential client what you do to give back to your local community will resonate immediately, helping them connect with you. When thinking about my career, I knew I wanted to work for a company that had a strong sense of social responsibility. By joining Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation, I found both a role that encompassed my career aspirations and also a company that valued giving back above all else, governed by the idea that mortgages are what we do but not who we are.
A lot has been written about the characteristics of this generation making it imperative for us to think about how we attract them to our industry as clients and engage with them as coworkers. As clients, we need to ensure we address the dissonance between the mortgage process and what millennials are accustom to and comfortable with. For example, the mortgage process takes time, and you must fully trust the person you are working with as they have access to your most personal information. How do we make millennials comfortable with that? At Fairway the development of our FairwayNOW app has assuaged some of those fears. The immediacy of being able to upload documents, contact your loan officer and real estate agent, and follow your loan process in real-time helps the millennial feel more in control and allows them to be an active participant. With the app, the client now has the ability to do everything from their phones and in a more immediate fashion with a trusted, licensed professional on the other end to address any questions, explain the process, and ensure a smooth transaction.
As a coworker to mostly Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers, a mindset shift was necessary when I joined the company. Recognizing that the average loan officer is in their mid-fifties it was important for me to remember that this business is highly intrapersonal, not all communication could be via email and relationship building was king. As I work with our loan officers daily to help them understand how to communicate with millennials, I must remember that the tools that are second nature to me may not be to them and that the adoption might be slower as fully digital communication is slightly foreign to this industry. Being able to learn from each other has allowed us to cross the divide that can be perceived between millennials and seemingly everyone else!
To facilitate the entrance of quality millennial loan officers into the industry, the Boston branch of Fairway has developed an in-depth Millennial Loan Officer Training program. Members of the program rotate to each internal department allowing them to learn every facet of the industry from origination to processing before experiencing the sales environment. This allows them the opportunity to decide if origination or sales is where they see themselves exceling. This program immediately provides a community to engage with and a support system they can trust and lean on when things get challenging. It also provides mentors so that the communication barrier that can exist among various generations, for both coworkers and clients, can be overcome.
I fear sometimes that the stereotypes of millennials have given us a bad reputation, so let me share the incredible benefits of working among us. Statistics show that my generation is by far the most loyal generation we’ve seen. Once you gain our trust, in whatever capacity, we will continue to work with you and refer to you whenever possible. Millennials tend to excel at technology and make highly-educated decisions based on in-depth research. So, my advice to you is, stop reading about how to communicate with our generation and instead get out and meet us. We would love to work with you!
Sarah Slotnick joined Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation as the Digital Marketing Specialist for New England in 2016 following nearly three years at a public relations firm. Sarah specializes in digital media strategy and branding and works to train loan officers and realtors on how to utilize digital media and connect with the millennial consumer.