Communicating With Millennials: Catching Their Attention Pays Off in the Long Run

Commentary by Allen Alishahi

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The challenges that come with working with first-time homebuyers range from spending a greater amount of time educating them on the home-buying process to consoling them when they realize they aren't going to be able to afford any of the homes they want to buy. Each step of the way requires some special handling, but today's younger buyers are presenting newer challenges given all the ways technology has impacted their lives.
One trend my colleagues and I are seeing more of is what has been termed "cancel culture." From what I understand, this is a trait common to a generation that is used to having an abundance of options to choose from—whether it is someone they might like on a dating app or clothes they want to buy. The ability to simply click or swipe away the options has led to an ingrained habit of instantly making a decision based on something small and (possibly) inconsequential, such as what hobbies the potential dating partner has listed on their profile, or if the page doesn't load quickly enough when someone wants to see the sweater in a different color. (There are bigger examples of "cancel culture" as it applies to dismissing people based on something they have said that often ends up being taken out of context, but that is a topic for discussion elsewhere.) 

This is especially frustrating for those of us working with first-time buyers, since most of the homes they will be in a financial position to buy will require some work and an explanation about whether it is something they can take on. But a young buyer who is in the habit of deciding "no" after quickly clicking through photos without putting much deliberation into the decision is going to be a tough customer. It becomes even more frustrating since they are reluctant to talk by phone and prefer to communicate via email or text, making it difficult for an agent to know if the client has looked at the information fully.
The only way to circumvent this is to catch their attention immediately with the subject line or the first few words of your text message. If I forward a listing to a client, the automated email will put the address of the listing in the subject line. I have more success forwarding the email to my own address before sending it to the client, then adding a new subject line that says something like "10 Minutes to the Subway" or "Backyard Has Room for a Swing Set."
If there is a photo that I think will catch their attention, I make sure to specify which photo they should look at. The subject line then becomes: "Pic No. 19: Backyard Has Room for a Swing Set." I can sometimes get a little sneaky by choosing the photo that appears latest in the gallery so they will at least click all the way through to that one. So, if there are several features that fit their wish list, I'll reserve the photo furthest along for the subject line and then include a few bullet points of the other features I know will catch their attention at the very beginning of the email.
There is going to be some extra work on your part, but it won't take more than a few minutes to create an email that will catch their attention. It ends up being worth it because it always pays off in the long run.
Allen Alishahi is president of ShelterZoom. For more information, please visit