A More In-Depth Look at Generation Y

February 2, 2008
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 A More In Depth Look at Generation Y


This week, I wrote about Generation Y and created quite a bit of uproar in the comments section (which you will have to read in order to make sense of today’s article). Benn and I wrote the below article as a comment, but it organically snowballed into the article that you see before you. Comments are now closed at the previous post, so please let us hear your voice in the comments here.

A thesis IS a generalization

Bob, you’re right- I know it feels like we’re making broad generalizations (and we are), but hear us out. I wrote a 100 page senior thesis in college (yes, it was after the millenium) and had to defend it before a panel. The subject was African fiction and before that course, I had no insight into African fiction, language, or culture. After slaving for a year over this paper, my thesis was that despite glorified accounts of Shaka’s reign of the Zulu nation, he was actually a blood-thirsty killer, not a heroic leader who banded small nations against the large. This stance was not popular and contradicted the rosy depictions of the leader many of my classmates chose to take. I was the only student to have ever received an A in his class he had been teaching since like 1800. How did I achieve this? I thought differently, I examined all sides, and I made the generalization that Shaka was bad. Sure, he accomplished great things during his short reign as a “diplomat” but many people died gruesome deaths at his hands, so I generalized that he was not a good person. The point is that any thesis has to be based on a generalization, a broad hypothesis and yes, supported by factual evidence.



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Generation Y still deserves great service

What is exciting to me about your comment is that you proved my thesis that GenY is ushering in an era of egocentrism- your client needed coddling, needed to be made to feel special, and needed you to connect the dots for him. That doesn’t mean he isn’t a valuable human being, that he isn’t actually smart/educated, or that he doesn’t deserve excellent customer service despite any baggage he brought to the table.

Hundreds of case studies prove my point

So where is my proof? I’m so glad you asked, Bob! icon smile A More In Depth Look at Generation Y First, as I’ve said before, I’m a member of Generation Y. That means that not only am I basing my thesis on every day of my own life as a case study (as Benn said, I’m guilty of much of what I’ve posited above), I have many many friends my age that I associate with- people I went to high school and college with. Let’s just call my group of friends hundreds of independent case studies, shall we? Observing and interacting with hundreds of people my age including myself leads me to the conclusions I’ve outlined in my article.

Median ages differ between cities

Secondly, I think that in our business, we interact with a different demographic than you do. Although San Diego is a super hip place to live, the median age is 38 which is Generation X, not Generation Y. Austin’s median age is only 30. Added to the population are the University of Texas’ undocumented (meaning their permanent residency is not typically in Travis County) residents at roughly 50,000 students, St. Edward’s University (5,000 students), Hutson-Tillotson (600 students), Condordia University (2,000 students) and Southwestern University (1,300 students), totaling nearly 59,000 people who are living here, and often use real estate professionals for their housing. Because of this influx population, it’s my opinion that the actual median age of residents in Austin that real estate professionals interact with is lower than 30 making it more likely than not that when practicing ANY business in Austin, you’ll be dealing with Generation Y clients.

In previous comments, Benn was not attacking you, rather retooling the conversation to avoid the re-arguments about how stupid realtors are or about commission rebates. This was always intended to be an article about how real estate professionals (and all marketers for that matter) compete by getting to know more about the demographic they’re interacting with and will continue to interact with in the future.

Generation Y has been studied extensively

I wish I could make a zip file of every Agent Genius article written and just *poof* have it in your brain in a matter of seconds so you could see that we’ve been studying this new Generation since the dawn of our professional careers, one of which (Benn’s) is over 15 years in public relations. A good example of our studies is an article Benn wrote last June that addresses understanding GenY so marketers don’t miss out on the opportunity to work with that demographic:

“The perception is that they have no knowledge, no money and no focus- the way maybe you were when you were 20-something. The reality is, this modernized post teen makes more money than our parents did at a much younger age, and they’re investing. They’re asking great questions about the market and they just want validation of their knowledge.”

Bob, you noted that you simply responded to your client’s need for validation (again, proving my point) as you agreed with him that other agents are stupid and acknowledged how much you two are alike- you’re already courting the GenY demographic. In order for marketers to more fully understand GenY, there have been extremely detailed studies completed about GenY media consumption and the drastic trends toward Internet use over other media instead of news outlets, and about GenY’s use of social media. At the end of the page linked above, you will find the most concise summary of how to understand GenY that I’ve ever seen.

The Internet is changing everything

Also written this week on Agent Genius was an article about NAR that addressed the use of social media, noting from Wikipedia that “social media uses the “wisdom of crowds” to connect information in a collaborative manner. Social media can take many different forms, including Internet forums, message boards, weblogs, wikis, podcasts, pictures and video. Technologies such as blogs, picture-sharing, vlogs, wall-postings, email, instant messaging, music-sharing, group creation and voice over IP, to name a few…”

All that said, the majority of our business is now GenY creating even *more* case studies under the belt to base the thesis on.

GenY parents can’t see past their own rhetoric

Third, (and I am opining here) when you are a parent of the GenY generation (or old enough to have a GenY kiddo), it is hard to be taken out of the equation. My friends’ parents (you know, the ones who allowed viewing rated R movies at age 12, never gave curfews, gave exorbitant allowances without chores or tasks associated and never punishing slacking/drinking/backtalk) could never understand my article because they are the source of the problem I’m addressing. There, I said it. If someone spent the last 20 years telling someone “you’re special no matter what” and “don’t worry about working hard, you’ll be fine because the world owes you something because you’re from my loins and let’s watch Barney, you’re special,” it is impossible to recognize the symptoms of the disease they’ve caused.

GenY is going to HELL

But wait, is GenY going to hell, Lani? No!!! I’ve already pointed to the generous nature of GenY- literally everyone I know that is my age volunteers their time AND gives to charity without question; it’s normal. GenY, as we speak, is creating “charity” applications for Facebook and telling their friends about their Habitat for Humanity project this weekend- Kiva is a great example at the forefront of this generous GenY movement! Even Benn’s article last June noted that 3 GenY clients led to $1 million in sales in 30 days- there’s no underestimating GenY in our camp.

GenY is extremely intelligent which is why we are researchers. We know that we need to know *something* but the Internet is a blessing and a curse for reasons we’ve overdigested already (reach back to the “connect the dots” point of clients being overwhelmed). GenY is innovative- the bar is now set so high by 19 year olds that at age 26, I feel old and behind, hoping the younger of my generation will let me keep up! No matter the reason, GenY has huge dreams and is extremely ambitious.

The bottom line

Our mission here at Agent Genius is *not* to beat up on and call other Realtors stupid; many haven’t figured out yet why clients are falling off, callers are hanging up on them, breaking contracts, demanding free information, and are second guessing agents at every turn. We’re here trying to offer solutions, and why I think that Realtors could take a page from Redfin.

The takeaway is that GenY has a lot of baggage making us self-important, but watch out world- we’re here to make big changes because we’ve been empowered. In the meantime, this empowered feeling will make the jobs of people offering products and services complicated as we all finish scrambling to figure out Generation X while Generation Y is already influencing Generation Z.


Co-written, researched and opined by: Benn Rosales. If you have not read this and the previous article in their entirety, there is no need for you to comment.

AGBeat Chief Operating Officer: Lani, named 100 Most Influential, as well as 12 Most Influential Women in Blogging, Bashh Founder, Out and about in Austin A Lister, is a business and tech writer and startup consultant hailing from the great state of Texas in the city of Austin. As a digital native, Lani is immersed not only in advanced technologies and new media, but is also a stats nerd often buried in piles of reports. Lani is a proven leader, thoughtful speaker, and vested partner at AGBeat.


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  • http://www.brainious.com Todd Carpenter

    You know, there’s like 100,000 GenY’ers serving our nation in Iraq. I only know three of them, but they fit your mold like a camel fits in an ice cream cone. Sorry, I don’t buy it. I think your perception is influenced just as much by the kind of young adults you’ll might find in a college town, as the fact that they are a certain age.

    When I broke into sales, the first thing I learned was to judge people one by one. Many people do fit into general physiological profiles. But the identifiers are not specific to age, or race, or sex. With a bit of experience, a good salesperson can identify these profiles, and sometimes leverage it to their advantage. But in my opinion, establishing a preconceived notion of how a client will want to be treated based predominantly on their age, is flat out bad advice.

  • http://www.bbqcapital.com Chris Lengquist

    Okay, here I go. But first, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m 42. Some studies say I’m at the end of the Boomers. Some say I’m at the beginning of the X’ers. I prefer to associate myself with X.

    To me, Boomers were the first American generation to make changes in how societ perceived itself and did business. Some was good, much was self-indulgent. But over time, by in large, those changes were neutralized or lessened because of the ongoing pressure of life. Nobody proclaimed they were going to change things more than the Boomers. And while they have been in charge of society for much of the last quarter century the changes they’ve made, at least politically, haven’t been nearly as earth shaking as they proclaimed they would be.

    Now socially, that’s another story. Acceptance of other cultures is an area that I think the Boomers excelled in. As a society in whole we still fall short of where we could be, however. Boomers brought with them the sexual revolution. I would ask, was this good?

    Why do I say all of that? Because I think Y will follow a similar pattern. These were the kids brought up with 153 channels, the internet and file sharing. When you are 18-22 lifting someone else’s intellectual property doesn’t seem like any big deal. But allow time to wear on this generation, add a few pounds, a spouse and 2 kids and I believe some of that bravado may begin to lessen.

    You can think the world owes you something. And you can think you are going to change it. But life has a way of teaching you differently.

    I love the Y spirit. The energy and enthusiasm. Nothing great ever got accomplished by keeping the status quo. Let’s hope the changes Y makes will be productive. I believe, over time, they will. The Y’s I work with are more knowlegable than I was at that age and do make more money. But they still need guidance and they are smart enough to seek it out.

  • http://www.daltonsazhomes.com Jonathan Dalton

    Feeling empowered and holding actual knowledge often are two very different things. Let’s forget generations for a second and focus on the idea of real estate information on the web. There’s no end to real estate search sites … seems like there’s a new one every three days. None of them, however, contain complete information. Searching five sites with incomplete information does not complete information make.

    > Users should be aware that not all articles are of encyclopedic quality from the start, and may contain false or debatable information.

    My Encyclopedia Britannica never had such a disclaimer.

  • http://www.daltonsazhomes.com Jonathan Dalton

    > You can think the world owes you something. And you can think you are going to change it. But life has a way of teaching you differently.

    I think you can make this argument for every generation going back to the cavemen.

  • http://www.coloradospringsrealestateconnection.com Mariana

    “My generation is better than your generation. Nanner Nanner Boo Boo.”

    That seems to always be the consensus. And that is just fine, but when we are in a working world, like Real Estate, is is completely inappropriate to leak your internal dialougue to your “other” generation clients. IMHO.

    I am a Generation X through and through. I am severly independent, sarcastic, sceptical, aloof and stand-offish. I get great joy in finding humor in really, really, stupid-yet-psuedo-intellectual obscure stuff – and sometimes I find even MORE enjoyment knowing that I am the only one who sees something as funny.

    I was a latchkey kid who played pac-man at my neighbors house. I was raised by a single mother who worked 2 jobs and my friend’s parents were crank-heads. One day I had a perm with bangs, peg-legged jeans and a Trapper Keeper and the next day I had jet-black hair, a flannel shirt, Doc Martins and a cigarette. (I have since lost the black hair and cigarette…)

    My point is that we can only be what we are … and we must understand that everyone else can only be what THEY are. We just need to figure out how to make it work with WHOMEVER we are dealing with.

  • http://www.daltonsazhomes.com Jonathan Dalton

    Couldn’t say it better, Mariana … from what it’s worth from a 38-year-old working mostly in retirement communities these days.

  • http://www.homesalessandiego.com/blog/ Bob in San Diego

    I honestly didn’t expect the type of responses I got from you and Benn. They are based on a few inaccurate assumptions and you put words in my mouth.

    Bob, you noted that you simply responded to your client’s need for validation (again, proving my point) as you agreed with him that other agents are stupid and acknowledged how much you two are alike

    No I didn’t. I told you his expressed opinion and added parenthetically that I agreed with it. What occurred after that was revisionist history, not topic re-tooling. Benn did take a personal shot and you represented it above in a wholly inaccurate way.

    The point is that any thesis has to be based on a generalization, a broad hypothesis and yes, supported by factual evidence.

    My opinion about many agents in this business is no different than your thesis. It isn’t popular. They got credit for some great sales, and many people have died gruesome financial deaths at their hands. Also supported by a boatload of factual evidence.

    your client needed coddling, needed to be made to feel special, and needed you to connect the dots for him.

    That line reminded me why reading a blog while drinking coffee isn’t always a good thing. Coddling and connecting the dots are part of the job description, regardless of the generation. I’m not the patronizing type, and the only client I’ve had that needed to be made to feel special, I referred to a female buyer agent. I wanted to stay married.

    As noted, I have a problem with generalities that encompass a population almost 80 million strong, so I took on the Redfin aspect of the initial post. I don’t believe Redfin is marketing to ANY generation with any intellectual integrity. They are playing one side against the other. Their appeal to GenY et al is as the anti-agent, which they are not. Because it is all about the money, commissions are at the heart of any discussion that deals with Redfin. You applaud Redfin – I think many GenY tend to quietly mock it, pointing to it as proof that most agents are not worth what they bring to the table. Why buy the milk when the cow will pay you.

    It is the only brokerage I know that couldn’t start from scratch, and, without VC scratch, build something out of nothing like two of the giants that GenY does admire – Facebook and Myspace.

  • http://rerevealed.com Lani Anglin

    Bob, you’re entitled to your opinion and no one’s attacking you here- whatever was said was not meant to be a cheap shot. You provoked a deeper response that was deserving of more than a comment (as a PS: this article was already in the works, we simply retailored it to answer to your comment).

    Feel free to browse the demographic studies we’ve linked to which might give you further insight into what we’re talking about.

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  • http://www.makinglifeworkforyou.com April Groves

    Just wanted to put money on the fact that Mariana and I are probably the same age and more than likely separated at birth.

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  • JJ

    “It is the only brokerage I know that couldn’t start from scratch, and, without VC scratch, build something out of nothing like two of the giants that GenY does admire – Facebook and Myspace.”

    Uhhh, Bob, I don’t know where you’re getting your info, but both of those companies were built with LOTS of VC scratch. Orders of magnitude more than Redfin has attracted.

    By the way, I don’t think that GenY cares whether a company used VC money to scale out.

  • http://www.homesalessandiego.com/blog/ Bob in San Diego

    Facebook was started without VC money at Harvard, restricted to students at Harvard College before it expanded to include MIT and others. It got its VC influx later.

    MySpace started in 1998 and was an internal project of eUniverse. No VC money at start up.

  • http://forums.redfin.com/rf/profile?user.id=38 Janelle

    Glenn wears my jacket better than I do.

  • http://singlepointerealty.com/category/blog Benn Rosales

    Janelle, I have to admit, I would love to have that jacket tonight down on 6th for the Fat Tuesday Celebrations here in Austin- it is pretty fly in a big pimpin sorta way.

    [See the Jacket here]

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  • http://www.gibbons-realty.com/ Kim in Pensacola Florida

    Hi Lani,

    You are right. We have to understand the clients we are selling to. Like it or not Gen Y is what it is and their sales produce commission. So why not just deal with it.

  • http://rerevealed.com Lani Anglin-Rosales

    Kim, according to recent reports, the number of Gen Y buyers will surpass Baby Boomers by 2012 and current Gen Y spending power is estimated around $361 BILLION dollars, so regardless of a positive or negative attitude toward any generation, the numbers *make* them relevant.

    Thanks for stopping by, Kim! You have a great great point! :)