article from  REALTOR REVIEW MAGAZINE  (March 2008)



Marketing to buyers of all ages and lifestyles
By Debby Canto Davis

Motivation. It’s not just what actors use to get ready for a role. It’s also what REALTORS® need to understand in order to successfully deal with clients. What motivates your clients’ decisions and what’s important in their lives. Then, how do you market to those desires?

To some, the answers may not be as simple as “they want to buy a new house” and “I’ll show them all available properties in this specific price range.” To understand your clients’ motivation, you sometimes need to know what’s important in their lives.

“A skilled sales person knows it’s important to recognize that each age group has different attitudes, behaviors, expectations and motivational hot buttons,” says Mary Ellen Heathcote of Coldwell Banker Howard Perry & Walston. “We need to increase our awareness of these differences so we can avoid miscommunication and misunderstandings in our sales presentations and follow up.”

That’s where life-stage selling may come into play. It’s a relatively new concept developed by Valerie Geller, a nationally known author and consultant on LifeStage Demographics™. The premise is by understanding the fluidity of life-stages, you increase your success by customizing your services to buyers or sellers entering a new stage of their lives. Life-stage selling puts a new twist on understanding generational values and preferences and the study of demographics.

“Our society and culture is changing and consumers are changing right along with it,” says Geller, who is currently writing a book expanding on life-stage categories and how all industries can use these new demographics to increase sales. (See Life-Stage Categories below.)

“Since it’s important to continue to grow, develop and powerfully connect to consumers, it’s time to rethink how we look at traditional demographic breakdowns,” she adds.

Geller notes that today it’s not unusual to find moms in their 20s, 30s and 40s bonding at a Mommy and Me class, nor is it rare to find stay-at-home dads caring for the children and household and making routine purchasing decisions.

And what about the lifestyle of a 50-year-old single man who spends money on good clothing, a flashy car, dining out, and the best seats at ball games? That lifestyle today  may be identical to a 25-year-old single man who spends his time and money in the same ways.

“It’s time to re-think traditional demographics and look instead at the life-stages of consumers. The ‘real’ chronological age of someone doesn’t really matter as much as his or her ‘lifestyle,’” says Geller, president of Geller Media International.

People’s lifestyles are a familiar topic with Josie Reeves, sales and marketing manager for Kane Residential. One of the neighborhoods she markets for Kane is the Lassiter condominiums in North Hills.

“The residences themselves are just part of what we’re marketing – we’re selling a new lifestyle,” she says. “We promote the benefits of low-maintenance residences and a ‘walkable’ lifestyle - residents will live among the essentials (grocery, drug store, salons), upscale shopping, restaurants and entertainment venues.”

How to proceed
So, do we toss out what we already know about our various generations? No, local REALTORS® say, but don’t rely solely on that information. (See Generational Knowledge below.)

“Naturally, what you say and how you say it will differ depending on which demographic group you’re trying to reach,” says Sheri Hagerty, real estate marketing consultant with Hughes Public Relations in Raleigh.

Younger folks want to accomplish everything possible online, says Rick Rogers, a broker with Coldwell Banker Advantage. Meanwhile, older folks still rely on the newspaper listings when looking for a home. Younger buyers are more interested in looking at the numbers and don’t need much one-on-one, whereas older buyers want the personal contact with their agents, he adds.

According to Heathcote, the 40-plus buyers are looking for the technology and home office space that will allow them to work from home and spend more time with family. Much of the younger generation wants what is on the cutting edge and will stretch their budgets to get it.

With regard to design, the 60-plus are more on the conservative side and interested in a nice comfortable home, but not loaded with all the trendy appliances and gadgets, notes Heathcote. The 50-plus want it all and feel they have worked hard and are entitled. They are looking for the spa baths and the dream kitchen.

“Ask their preference and be ahead of the game,” she says.

In regards to marketing properties, however, Rogers and his teammate, wife Ginger, believe it’s too expensive to target their properties to specific markets. Instead, they use tried and true avenues such as newspapers to reach broader audiences.

“We start with a property, we advertise it, prequalify people and then sell,” he says. “Everybody is so different when it comes to real estate,” he notes. “There’s so much service, relationships and personality involved. Real estate doesn’t fit into a little pocket.”

Hagerty agrees.
“As a rule, we’re not big on pigeonholing prospects,” she says. “It can often cause you to miss your target. For example, the next big thing in real estate is green building, and its appeal is clearly cutting across generational lines. ‘Saving the Planet’ is no longer just a catchphrase. It’s going to be a way of life in the very near future.”

Taking it all in
Whether a client is a recent college graduate, a new couple, a growing family or a retired couple, Geller says they each are motivated by different things. Understanding these motivations, she says, could make a difference in a sale.

Young professionals looking for their first home might be serious about growing their career and having fun. They may be as interested in the benefits of living within walking distance to jobs, restaurants and cultural attractions as the amenities of the property you show them.

Couples with young children may also want to live close to jobs, restaurants and cultural attractions, but they may not want a house with clean lines, sharp edges and white carpeting.

“The bottom line is that regardless of what generation we are working with, they all have the same expectation of quality customer service and respect,” Heathcote adds. “So take the time to learn how the different types of clients approach the home buying process and be prepared to sell to all of them.”

“It’s important to remember, in real estate, marketing has never made a sale,” Hagerty says. “People sometimes forget its only purpose is to get people in front of the agents. It’s the agent’s job to do the heavy lifting.”

(Davis, a free-lance writer living in Archdale, also serves as editor of REALTOR® Review.)

Geller Media International’s LifeStage™ Categories

Characteristics of people in these stages

Decision Pending

  • Still figuring out what to do, who to be and how to live
  • May have a temporary job or entry level job

Career Commitment

  • Put a lot of time into a job to make it work

Before Buying a House

  • Rent and live alone
  • Lifestyle varies greatly from couples

After Buying a House

  • Watch home fix-it shows
  • Frequently visit hardware stores
  • Stay at home more; go out less frequently

Living Single

  • Spend money on themselves, not on the house
  • Make large decisions on their own

Living as a Couple

  • Lifestyle varies greatly than singles
  • Make all spending decisions together

With Kids

  • Age doesn’t matter
  • Life is more complicated in that the priority and focus is on  the children

Without Kids

  • More freedom to move elsewhere
  • Willing to take more risks financially
  • Age doesn’t matter

Good Health

  • Freedom to enjoy sports, travel and cultural activities
  • Age doesn’t matter

Ill Health

  • Prolonged illness or injury requiring single-level homes
  • Lack of physical freedom and often financial freedom
  • Age doesn’t matter

Special Interests

  • Like to socialize with others who have similar interests
  • Age doesn’t matter

LifeStage Demographics categories copyright 2007, excerpted with permission from “Creating Powerful Radio” by Valerie Geller from Focal Press.

Generational Knowledge

Values & Preferences

Civic Generation – 62 and older

  • Dedication and sacrifice
  • Hard work
  • Conformity
  • Stability and security
  • Respect for authority
  • Delayed gratification

Baby Boomer Generation – 43-61

  • Work
  • Self
  • Involvement
  • Personal gratification
  • Community

Generation X – 31-42

  • Fierce independence
  • Change
  • Techno-literacy
  • Skepticism
  • Work is ‘just a job’
  • Enjoy autonomy

Millennial Generation – 30 and under

  • Confident
  • Techno-fused
  • Moral
  • Civic-minded
  • Egalitarian
  • Collaborative

Source: RECON Intelligence Services


Raleigh Regional Association of REALTORS®
111 Realtors Way
Cary, NC 27513

Phone: 919.654.5400
Fax: 919-654.5401