Mike McElroy has been in the real estate business for seven years. After working for a time at a Chicago radio station, he got his first real estate job in 2009. He says he found a business afraid of change, afraid of technology, afraid of loosening up and having fun every now and then. And he thought he could do better than that. So he started his own brokerage. Mike is the Founder and Managing Broker of Access Chicago Realty. “Our business is almost exclusively millennial,” he says, “we work with them when they rent, buy, and sell.”
A Millennial himself at age 30, Mike is double qualified when it comes to working with Millennials. His approach to the client relationship centers around education, trust, proactive communication, market knowledge, aggressive facilitation of the transaction—and the use of cutting-edge technology.
How does Mike find success with his Millennial real estate clients? We went one-on-one with him to find out. Read the following interview to learn more.
Q: How do your Millennial clients find their way to you?
A: Millennials still value personal relationships, so they’ll usually ask a friend for a recommendation. Buying a home is a pretty all-consuming experience, so our clients talk about it a lot—on social media, over text, at work, etc. When a Millennial is getting set to buy, they’ll usually reach out to that friend who posted a picture of them dangling their keys at the title company, and that friend will set them up with us. Or sometimes buyers will simply put the word out on Facebook: “Getting ready to buy! Who’s got a good real estate agent I can talk to?” It’s a quality humble-brag, and my client will usually tag me in the post since we’re connected on Facebook. Finally, a lot of our clients are simply friends who see us posting on social media about what we’re doing every day.
Q: How are you connecting with your Millennial real estate clients?
A: Most of our communication is over email, but we’ll text a time-sensitive update, or chat over Facebook or Google if we’re just getting started. But there are plenty of situations that warrant a good old-fashioned phone call or in-person meeting. Like negotiating the purchase price. Just because they’re going to DocuSign the contract doesn’t mean we shouldn’t go over the finer points over the phone. And we always meet in our office for a thorough home buying overview before we get started. Everyone thinks Millennials are afraid to talk to someone in person, but we find they crave that orientation.
These days, there’s a whole buffet of communication methods. The key to effective communication is knowing how to use each, and especially when to use each.
Q: What are your Millennial clients looking for in a home or neighborhood?
A: In a home, our buyers, who mostly buy condos, want the same thing everyone else does—a little more than they can afford! But specifically, they want good natural light, an open, spacious-feeling concept, and updated finishes. They must have laundry in-unit, central air, and depending on the neighborhood, parking. While they don’t drive a ton, they usually have at least one car, and still feel a property with parking is a better investment. Outside of the densest parts of Chicago, they’re right.
In a neighborhood, they want proximity to public transit, plus bars, shops, and restaurants. They want to be able to get an Uber in short order if they need it.
Check out our continuing education course Millennials Are Changing Real Estate: Are You Ready? to learn more about how to work with Millennial home buyers and sellers.
Q: What obstacles are Millennials facing in the Chicago real estate market?
A: Inventory. There just aren’t as many people who want to sell homes as there are those who want to buy them. Student loan debt is an issue sometimes, but we also see a lot of wealth changing generations in the form of a down payment.
Q: What are some of the biggest concerns Millennials have when purchasing a home?
A: They simply don’t know how to get started. Millennials were raised with a plan for everything: get good grades, go to a good school, get a good job, get married, buy a home. But with that last one, there’s not a good template for how to go about it. It’s widely reported that Millennials will educate the heck out of themselves online first (I’d say it’s actually about 50/50; probably half of our clients show up having done very little preliminary research). But they still don’t trust the information they get online the way they trust a real person. Plus, Millennials want a local angle, and that’s what we provide.
Q: What are your biggest challenges in working with Millennials?
A: Control is a challenge. Or rather, their feeling that they don’t have it. Millennials want to be in control of their own destiny, but unfortunately, this business doesn’t always cooperate. When there’s a moving truck coming in 24 hours, and an underwriter 1,000 miles away, it’s hard for them to understand or accept that they can’t make the loan happen any faster.
Q: What advice do you have for other real estate agents interested in working with Millennials?
A: Set expectations. Nearly all problems can be avoided by simply setting good expectations upfront. Your clients hired you to help them buy or sell a house, but they also hired you to tell them the way things are. If you freak out about a bad appraisal, they’ll freak out. If you keep your head and help everyone work toward a solution, they’ll work with you, and they’ll enjoy the process more.