Baby boomers who are now home sellers often wonder about buyers these days. Why are they so picky? Why do I have to make the repairs? Why can’t they do it? Why do I have to get rid of my stuff? Stage? Why all these last minute showings?
First time home buyers are older and therefore more educated and higher up the food chain than prior generations. They know more and want more. They have lived in rentals longer, with landlords providing services. In the service economy products come with services.
They have lived through The Great Recession while trying to find jobs and pay off debt. This has had a profound impact. The fear of loss is greater than the anticipation of reward. They don’t want to make a mistake. They have worked hard and long and saved for years. The gig economy and artificial intelligence have changed the working landscape, which will continue to evolve exponentially. A career path will likely include multiple employers, new skills, a second or even third career and no defined benefit plan.
Still, sellers lament, with all the tools available online and free delivery, you would think they have time on their hands. They don’t. Many households have dual income earners, by choice or necessity. Free time is scarce, especially in a 24/7 world. Many prospective home buyers delay buying until later years, when they already have children. Technology has improved access to information, but it has also increased complexity. Forget the back of the napkin pros and cons. Let’s run the numbers and build a spreadsheet.
Life and language has changed. Milk meant milk. Now we’re not so sure. Do you need 1%, 2%, lactose free, soy, organic, almond, goat, cashew? Peanut butter sandwiches, an apple a day and the food pyramid were easy enough. Now, parents empty grocery freezer shelves when gluten-free waffles are restocked and pack nut-free, non-dairy organic lunches. Communication has exploded from mail and landlines to text, social media, Facetime, Skype, WhatsApp, GroupMe, Viber, WeChat, FB Messenger, Slack, voice texts, emojis, auto reply, etc. Oh, and email.
Buying is much easier, or is it? Going to the grocery store was a social event. Run into friends, and chat while the clerk rings you up, bags it and the man carries and puts the lot into your car. Now there are huge stores with milk selections at one end and bread selections at the other, and the buyer scans it, bags it, carries it and loads it in the car. On the way home, pump your own gas at the kiosk where you enter debit or credit, enter rewards card, enter payment card, zip code, select gas type and pump yourself.
Growing up in a physical world meant one was comfortable with the tools of the physical world. Growing up in the service economy means one is comfortable with the tools of the cloud. Sometimes a change in technology makes the old physical things useful again. Watches were obsolete accessories for millennials with smartphones, But watches are back. Physically similar, with some new technology added. Buy a watch and you can use the default package right out of the box, or with a little effort add the functionality you want and make it yours. Nice, either way. Hum, say some home sellers. Isn’t that what I’m saying? Make it yours.
With all this knowledge, access to information, world of choice and complexity is it any wonder home buyers do a lot of online research, make snap judgments and eliminate quickly? Used to shopping online after hours, is it any wonder they text: What do you mean I need an appointment to see it? Aren’t they trying to sell it?
Yes, today’s potential buyers will likely undervalue homes in want of updates or cosmetic changes. Siri, what is the cost to install a new kitchen at 123 Green Lane? How do I compare the unknowns on my spreadsheet? Is there an app for that? Uncertainty, carries a heavy risk weighting. Sellers, who are more comfortable with unknowns, may get frustrated. Yes, potential buyers may miss out on great deals. But buyers may also be negotiators with conviction – or a strict budget.
Where are all the buyers? In the cloud. Working, thinking, assessing. Just not so visible. In the end, there’s still the familiar matter of affordability. Eventually, after some research in the cloud, buyers will come look, they will see value, and they will buy. And it may just be the best investment they ever made.