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The Hidden Stress of the Millennial Buyer

By Rita Danielle Steele

It was 11PM the night before a closing, a lovely condo in Providence’s College Hill. SRCI agent Heatheran Kristopher knew the call would be bad when she picked up the phone. “I can’t buy the condo,” the woman said. “My husband swears he will divorce me if I buy it.”

Sellers deal with this more often than you may think – buyers getting cold feet for one reason or another. Real Estate purchases are a minefield of emotions – it is no surprise that most real estate agents joke about their “therapist” alter egos.

But is the pressure and emotional stress of transactions effecting the newest generation of millennial home buyers differently and perhaps more egregiously then older generations?

I recently heard of a transaction where the buyer, a 20-something young professional, quietly, without any warning to the other parties involved, suffered from a nervous breakdown just prior to the closing. This type of situation was new ground for me, and the story got me ruminating on the contrasts between Heatheran’s baby-boomer client and the millennial.

We all know that the younger generation has been raised in a data driven environment. Young homebuyers today tend to make well informed, deliberate choices. They are likely to have been raised with a strong sense of individuality and overall perception of active control over the choices that they make. So when it comes to real estate purchases, we trust our millennials to over investigate. It is this wealth of due diligence that they conduct that they rely on us to muddle through.

Older generations, by contrast, tend to do less preemptive due diligence prior to purchasing. They are more conditioned to depend on us professionals for investigation and guidance. Older generations are also accustomed to externalizing their reactions to conflict during transactions. In a recent study conducted by VitalSmarts, older generations admitted to losing their temper more easily than their younger counterparts, with more than 1 in 4 saying that they became frustrated, upset or angry during a difficult conversation.

Millennials in the study were the least confident in their ability to handle a difficult conversation and the least likely to hold others accountable for things going awry, the study found. Millennials are more likely to internalize stress than to react outwardly. So when something goes wrong in their transactions, after all the research and methodical decision making they have taken the time to do, they are more likely to internalize the stress and ownership of the issues at hand.

Kevin Shepherd, SRCI Group’s resident millennial expands on this rationale: “Millennials take a lot of ownership of the consequences of their choices. They are going to feel distressed when the reality of a situation in a transaction does not meet the expectation they have. But their sensitivity is going to exist below the surface, and their agent may be unaware of when their younger clients are struggling. ”

As real estate professionals, these generational differences may be subtle and require a high degree of attentiveness to identify. But developing sensitivity to younger home buyers and helping them to manage expectations early on will improve your relationship. As in any situation, respecting the way another individual processes and reacts to conflict will build trust, and for agents it will also mean a better bottom line.