I’m writing this post in response to an article I recently read by Ally Carty, a Gen Z mortgage professional in Nashville, TN. Ironically, my baby nephew once lived in Nashville and will be mentioned in this article. Ally kicks off mentioning how she felt like a fish out of water when she entered the world of real estate due to her age and that she was on a mission to bridge the generational gap between the Gen Z homebuyers and the lending / real estate world.
After 30+ years in the fast paced, start-up technology world (I started my career when I was 12) 😎, I decided an airplane did not need to be part of my weekly commute. I absolutely ❤️ my traveling, consulting, analyst, strategist, problem solver, chaos manager, futurist, sales wrangler, etc. life for the tech companies I supported. I visited parts of the world and this country I never dreamed I would visit.
At one point, I was located in the Midwest where every flight was a connection and after my baby nephew arrived, many of my trips included connections that ran through DC 😎 I often wondered what he told his friends about his “favorite aunt” … She travels a lot and brings me toys. He never notices that all those light up superballs, robots, frisbee’s, squishy balls, etc. had names of now long gone software companies.
Fish Out of Water
I too can relate, but in reverse. I spent 30+ years in the start-up world that put those tech devices and app’s in the hands of Millennials / Gen Z’s, as a child. It was a FAST paced life that I loved and wouldn’t trade it for the world. I started my career in a traditional IT shop and was one of 2 who were given the opportunity to develop the first client-server, 3 tiered architecture Executive Information System for the C-Level Execs of an Insurance company. I know that sounds like a foreign language to the Gen Z’ers as it pre-dates wireless, mobile and smart phones … heck it pre-dates the internet! 🤯
A consultant representing the start-up company who provided the tool I was using to build this Executive Dashboard showed up one day to spend time with me to discuss what I had done, how I could make it better and take feedback on my use of the tool. Minutes into the day all I could think about was, “I want YOUR job!”. I immediately went after it and never looked back.
Technology is Second Nature via a Technology Career
Fast forward a few short years 😎 and I decide: (1) an airplane does not have to be part of my commute any longer and (2) stop building businesses for VC’s and do it for yourself! FINALLY, “Pick Up the Bag” and leave the product / solution world for sales. Scary, bad word, I know! This is now the second time I would make a HUGE leap and shift my career. I was 8 years into a stable career and flying high when I pursued a start-up software consulting career and fly across the globe consulting with F500 clients with HUGE IT shops, and yet letting go of what I knew was HARD and SCARY.
This time, the decision was easier because of the previous 25+ years! Afterall, if you can go into (1) one of the largest diesel engine / power companies or (2) one of the largest chasis building trucking companies and get white haired, “trucking gear heads” to stop speculating just how dumb this freckle faced, red head is and eat out of the palm of your hand because you know the app / tech they used, YOU CAN DO ANYTHING!
Digital Presence and Brand Awakening
About half way through my start-up tech career (mostly consulting, market analysis, sales enablement, product marketing and management), I had the wonderful opportunity to work alongside a brilliant, forward thinking PR guy, Frank Strong. It was at a start-up from 2005-2008 and as hard as it is to believe, social media was just beginning to emerge. Most businesses did not see it as a business tool for awareness and brand and most average individuals were afraid and wanted to protect their privacy and lock down their accounts and not share too much. Don’t we wish some of our friends and family would still think this way and share a little less 😇
Frank saw this as the future of PR, Marketing and Branding and this would be the first blog I would participate in before building blogs of my own. I admit it, I’d see Frank in the hall and run in the opposite direction. You see, I was his content machine and he was the PR genius. Prior to blogs, blogging and working with Frank, I worked for the #3 IT Analyst firm and struggled to write a 1200 word research piece each month, much less 2 of them. Basically, a blog like this one! Oh the branding opportunity I missed! No “woulda, coulda, shoulda” in my vocabulary – Move Forward!
I was invited to be part of a panel 2 times with Huff Post Live, the first time was the first week they went live (pre-social media live events) and it was because I was commenting on their content and sharing my content in these comments. The second live event featured Vivek Kundra, the first CIO for the Federal Government, and Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit, that my eyes were opened regarding the power of the network and being open! This was also during the presidential campaign of Barak Obama, and his use of social media in townhalls, etc.
This second Huff Post Live event was when I stopped “learning” through my products and solutions and started to be fully open with my digital presence as this would be my brand going forward. I was still working for tech companies and wrote a blog piece that Frank shared on his PR site describing this experience in 2012, Consider Your Social Media Identity Carefully. This was more than a decade ago, cutting edge now that I look back to be open and leverage the social channels for awareness and brand building.
Business Awareness, Referrals & Millennials / Gen Z’s
While I represent the “older generation” that Ally speaks about in the world of Real Estate, I too feel like a “Fish out of Water” for starting a business and second career later in life and watched as folks panicked when the pandemic started, “Zoom, video conferencing, what’s that … how will I work with clients if we cannot meet?”. Skype has been in existence since 2003 and most of your clients hold conference calls / video calls all day, everyday – Get it Together Folks!
This would be a blessing as we could all squeeze a little bit more time out of our day’s, clients and Real Estate Professionals, by having calls at our desks and not having to drive until necessary. Technology is always there to enhance life, not replace humans.
I understand that the Millennials / Gen Z’s seek referrals from social media and their friends and live life via text and not speaking on the phone. My baby nephew would teach me to “Text” as much as I despise it, but it is efficient communication. I do still believe in the human interaction as a consultant, nothing can replace reading someone’s face or hearing their voice and reading their emotions in a situation.
Favorite Aunt Challenge – Enjoy the Experience & Perform Your Due Diligence
Why I call myself “The Favorite Aunt” in contradiction to Ally and her reference to, we do not care if you are a big, trusted brand – we listen to influencers, social media and our friends. I have met your friends 😇 and in Northern Virginia that might not be the wisest choice when making a half million to million dollar decision for a first home and yet I understand YOU do not want to hear another “Parental Unit” opinion too … thank you baby nephew for that dagger through the heart.
I too work to bridge the generational gap from the other direction, allow you to experience the home, envision your life unfolding in this space and the aesthetics of the home, the community and the general experience. While you “experience the home / community”, I’m behind the scenes checking serial numbers of infrastructure checking age of equipment, looking for signs of moisture, challenges in the home, how was it cared for, the roof, windows, what is the story of this home.
I’m researching comparable homes, values, evaluating the risk of waiving contingencies and will the home appraise when you need to offer a premium price for the home to win without telling you “NO” or bogging you down in “parental unit details” and yet keeping you safe. Every home has a “Story” to tell, I’m looking to see if it is one of Love or Neglect, how well is it aging and what does the repair schedule look like.
These are all the things “your friends and social media contacts” don’t know and/or don’t research. I have to emphasize this is a REAL contract and a significant investment, you MUST be diligent in your research!
I listed a friend’s home for sale not too long ago, an almost $600K townhome. An agent brought their best friend since childhood through the home, they were late and had 15 minutes to tour, they left town and wrote a contract while away, waiving all contingencies and chose the closing date. When it came time for the final walk-through, again they were late for the appointment and limited on time and began looking more closely and nit picking over cosmetic details and in the end threatened and bluffed that they would not close on the home until they received $2,000. Unfortunately, final walk-through is not the time attempt to re-negotiate cosmetic details, they did not receive the $2,000, they bluffed withholding closing documents until an attorney and the police became involved.
I share the story as I’m not sure how good of friends the agent is these days with his childhood friend. It is a nice home but I’m sure they are sour on the experience. The moral of the story is that you need someone looking after your best interests and can separate their friendship and business dealings with you, so you can enjoy the experience during and after move-in – A Favorite Aunt! 😇
Afterall, the metrics that matter most to me are:
- How many contracts will you write to win. < 3 is my goal (if you listen to me 😎), as you will tire after 3.
- Speed to getting you into your “Home” to start new experiences in your new community. Closing in as short as 2 weeks.
- Equity in the home, even though you offer a premium price ❤️ Speed to removing PMI expenses ❤️
- Risk Management and Preparation for future operational expense (Mom and dad you can thank me now!).
My first goal with my baby nephew when he arrived was to be the one person who NEVER said “No”! I would work behind the scenes to make the experience possible and steer it in a clever direction of low risk, low cost and high value! 😉😇 This is how I run my business and engage with the Millennial / Gen Z homebuyers. Calming the Baby Boomer / Gen X’ers (Me 😉) is a post for another day!
I too feel like a fish out of water in a the very old institution of Real Estate as I build my business. It is time for change in this industry and becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable is my trademark “feeling” to know if I’m on the right track. I am an anomaly who understands the power of a digital presence, marketing and brand and will build a business with “Demand Generation” through a digital presence. Given I separated my business life from my personal life in my first career life, this too aids me in my business. I am embracing making friends out of strangers with the ability to unemotionally separate business discussions / decisions from having fun as friends. A fine line to walk.
I cannot begin to describe my irritation when I host an open house and a guest indicates they have an agent, provides their name and I can find them on their company page, etc., however, they never share their contact details. You may be shocked to know this is >90% of real estate professionals. I calm myself by telling myself, “I’m reachable, they are not”. 😇 The second disturbing act is when the guest cannot remember or cannot spell the name of their chosen real estate professional. I always wonder, “if you don’t know their name, how can you trust them with a half million dollar decision and investment?”.
I thoroughly enjoyed Ally’s article and perspective and thought I would share my experience as an anomaly from the other side who had a hand in building the tech driven world and using those product, tech, sales, marketing, consulting, analyst skills, along with home town knowledge as a native Northern Virginian.
To net it out regardless of generation:
- Are you going to give the reigns to market and sell your home to someone who cannot brand and market themselves to be accessible when needed?
- Are you going to give the reigns to help you buy a home, a significant investment, to someone who doesn’t understand and exploit the technology to help you find your home on your timeline and your price point? 😉
As always . . .
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