How Agents Can Reach Stalled Homebuyers
According to a recent report from JPMorgan Chase & Co, more than half of prospective first-time buyers surveyed are actively planning to buy their first home at some point in the next year.
While many of these buyers may have been intimidated by the hyper-competitive nature of the market over the last several months, newly increasing inventory may encourage them to reenter the market.
How can you position yourself to speak to these hopeful buyers in a way that feels authentic and realistic? How can you educate without talking down to this highly educated generational cohort? Most of all, how do you turn content into conversions and hopeful homebuyers into lifelong clients?
Content marketing for first-time homebuyers
Many real estate professionals create content that covers lifestyle factors in their local market, with everything from tours of the neighborhood to interviews with local business owners. However, right now, first-time homebuyers are looking for expert information that is specifically geared toward the complexities of the current market.
“With the property market soaring, first-time buyers are feeling a little intimidated by the hyper-competitive environment,” according to Michelle Coffing, director of sales for Great Vancouver Homes, Weichert Realtors Equity NW. In order to capture first-time buyer leads, Coffing said you should create content that helps them to make sense of what is currently happening.
“From a simple checklist to an in-depth guide, you can go in different directions,” she said. “Ultimately, you need to provide them with as much value as possible.”
Cameron Stephens, owner of Stephens Real Estate, concurred, with video content specifically geared towards engagement. Stephens is “relentless” in content creation, producing new videos every day or two in order to add value and demystify the homebuying process.
Stephens creates medium and long-form information-rich educational content with titles like the following:
- The crazy world of appraisals in 2021
- Contingencies: What you need to know
- Are price estimates even accurate anymore?
- The insane market of 2021 explained
- The entire homebuying process explained: In full, start to finish
Besides building his content library, Stephens shares his videos with new buyers or older buyer leads to help keep the lines of communication open and encourage those who are considering renewing their home search.
Felix Homes’ co-founder and CEO Tyler Forte is also focused on up-to-the-minute, hyper-relevant content. He has written blog posts and social media content relating to the First-Time Homebuyer Act of 2021 and the current state of the market, alongside more traditional first-time homebuyer topics, like improving the credit score and the benefits of homeownership.
Overall, this is not the time for generic advice on the homebuying process or re-upping evergreen first-time homebuyer messaging. Staying current and focused on the state of the market right now creates more credibility and impact.
Making market reports more meaningful
One thing to remember if you are focusing on statistics and market reports is that you need to add your expertise to the numbers. While more experienced homeowners might be able to interpret charts or inventory snapshots related to market conditions, first-time homebuyers are looking to you to share your expertise as well.
Explain the numbers and interpret them for your readers or video viewers, describing how the stats show where bidding wars are declining, prices are stabilizing, and availability is improving. Put the numbers into perspective with real-world examples and comparisons that reassure skittish buyers who’ve been burned in the past.
In addition, reach out to your successful first-time buyer clients for testimonials. Hearing from someone they can relate to about their successful home purchase experience builds your credibility and makes the process feel more doable.
Educating and connecting
Millennial and Generation Z buyers are accomplished, educated and research-oriented. By the time they come to you, they’ve generally done their homework on the process. They are seeking your expertise, but they don’t want to be talked down to or sold.
Your task as a real estate professional is to demystify the process. Create content like glossaries, step-by-step process guides and other educational materials, and make them available to your first-time buyer clients. Use a video messaging platform to share information that is specific to their individual purchase process, target market or unique needs.
Want to make the leap from information provider to personal connection? According to Forte, taking an active role in the community is a “meaningful and organic way to nurture new leads.”
“Since the past year has been difficult in many ways, it is especially important to meet people so they can get to know you and trust you,” he said. “It has also been helpful to host our own events to connect with others in a more casual way while providing value.”
What agents are doing now to reach first-time homebuyers
Over and over, we heard from agents that knowledge is power in the current real estate market. Here’s how real estate professionals are sharing their expertise with hopeful buyers in their markets.
Editor’s note: The interviews below were edited for style and grammar.
Khari Washington, broker-owner of 1st United Realty and Mortgage | Riverside, California
First-time buyers frequent sites like Zillow, Redfin and realtor.com. When you get leads from these sources, you get an overweighted number of first-time buyers. After capturing the buyers in our system, we constantly reach out to them through newsletter and drip email, phone and text campaigns.
We try to answer questions and help them get prequalified. When you help them get prequalified, you have a better chance of turning someone into a long-term client.
I make sure emails have information on the market and tips on financing. I think financing is the biggest thing that scares first-time buyers. It is a mystery to them. I also produce TikTok content to answer questions homebuyers may have.
Letting buyers know about first-time buyer programs and talking about things that first-time buyers want to know about makes them feel more comfortable. They are many times scared that a real estate professional will be annoyed at their lack of experience. You have to make them feel comfortable.
One thing is to let first-time buyers know that the market seems to be softening and help them do a payment calculation to show how much house they can afford. With low rates, they are sometimes surprised at how much house they can get.
Kristen Stuecher, Realtor at Stuecher Manning Group, Compass | San Francisco, California
We have been seeing a huge increase in first-time home buyers finding us through our referral programs and through social media. When a customer has an incredible experience, they tell their friends and family.
Our philosophy has been patience and education for the new buyer and the new seller. When the time and property is right, get them the best offer.
The feedback we get is that often, the person or couple went to a different agent or multiple agents who did not make them feel comfortable. As a result, they talk about their experience and come back for all of their real estate needs.
Elizabeth Boese, Realtor at Coldwell Banker | Boulder, Colorado
The No. 1 thing I do to help first-time homebuyers in this market is to show them the numbers, including the difference between buying today at an interest rate below 3 percent versus waiting a year or more when interest rates go back to 4.5 percent or higher.
I show them how long it would take before the higher price of a home would break even (a year and a half to two years typically) and then the long-term benefit (saving $150,000 to $300,000 on interest over the life of the loan).
Michele Harrington, COO of First Team Real Estate | Irvine, California
A great way to reach first-time buyers is with information on down payment assistance programs. For example, California has a GSFA (Golden State Finance Authority) program that will gift buyers up to 5 percent down a home.
Our agents have marketing materials surrounding this program to use because one of the biggest hurdles for first-time buyers is coming up with that down payment.
Nurturing these first-time buyer leads once you’ve captured them is all about consistent follow-up, just like any other lead. Our drip campaign for buyer leads includes a lot of bite-sized tips on the process including getting preapproved, prioritizing your wish list because you may not get it all, common mistakes and more.
Blake Davenport, founder of The Davenport Group, RLAH Real Estate | Northern Virginia
When working with buyers, we never end contact with them if they pause their search or renew a lease. We use it as an opportunity to educate them over the next several months so they are better prepared the next time around.
Our team has created close to 100 buyer-related real estate tip videos that are sent to our clients and prospective ones weekly. Examples of these videos can be found on our YouTube channel. We also touch base with them every month or so to update them on the status of the market.
More importantly, we are cherishing the special moments with them by calling them on their birthday, anniversaries, etc. and sending them a congratulatory DoorDash dessert to their home. It is the little things like this that make you really stand out. Today’s homebuyer values education and the overall experience, so that’s what we focus on.
Eric Nerhood, owner of Premier Property Buyers | Seal Beach, California
First-time buyers right now are very scared. They saw the seller’s market, the crazy bidding wars, the foregoing of inspections and appraisals in order to get a house, all of which would scare even the savviest of buyers.
As a flipper and an agent, I have spoken to first-time buyers during the pandemic and have told them the same thing each time: Hold on, this will pass. I have been in contact with the buyers who spoke to me, seeing if they’re still interested in buying, have they gotten their pre-qualification from the bank, and have they been looking at houses to see where the market is now.
Out of the buyers I have spoken to, only one or two have decided not to buy at this time. The reason being the instability of their jobs during the transition from home-based to office-based work. The buyers have my office and cell numbers so that when they are ready to go out again, they know how to find me.
I also keep the specifications of what they were interested in, and if something pops up that they would like to see, I give them a call to set up a viewing. It isn’t difficult to keep in touch with first-time buyers during the pandemic or any other time. Just contact them periodically, and let them know you’re still out there working in their best interest.
I don’t know how many have thanked me for not forgetting about them. This shows me that, once the pandemic scare has lifted and the seller’s market crashes and prices come down, they will contact me to help them and not look for someone else.
Christy Murdock is a Realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant and the owner of Writing Real Estate. She is also the creator of the online course Crafting the Property Description: The Step-by-Step Formula for Reluctant Real Estate Writers. Follow Writing Real Estate on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.