Moving The Generation Gap

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November 3, 2016 by Jeff Blaine Lowen

Boomers are downsizing,  Gen’Xers just like change, GY’ers or the infamous, ‘Millenials’ have great expectations and the ‘Boomlets’ are learning so quickly, by the time they can buy their own home, real estate will be sold from a vending machine!

Although we’d all like to say a move is a move is a move, it’s a very different experience each time. Sure, there are certain similarities on the to-do list, but the experience, how entrenched we’ve been in the community, and it’s different with each generation, too. The needs, the wants, the expectations. Some people, including me, have scoffed at the labels of our generations, and often wonder now that we’re amidst Generation Z or the born-after-2001 Boomlets, what’s next? Yet, it’s just a label, isn’t it? leadership-generations

When it comes to creating a space that an individual, couple or family can feel comfortable before, during and after a move, as a real estate professional, you should be aware of the generational values that a particular age group has been influenced by. This way the experience can be tailored to better accommodate everyone. In order to help, to assist and to bring value, you must first understand your clients. Imagine the young, first time home buyer couple with the senior, assisted living agent. Not to say they wouldn’t do a good job, but at first glance, you might assume the generation gap isn’t a helpful one.

Currently, there are six living generations in America, and treating everyone the same is only effective for so long. Yes, we’ve been inundated with discrimination and equal housing and treating everyone the same, being fair, don’t offend, yada, yada… Don’t get all bowed up, this has nothing to do with all that! All I’m saying is that when you’re working with a Baby Boomer (Born between 1946 and 1964), expecting they’ll be aboard with e-signing multiple contracts, virtual showings, and the impact of digital marketing pressure is a little different than someone born between 1981 and 2000, or the Generation Y period, who were born with an iPad right out of the womb! Wouldn’t you agree?

Who needs the hand holding and who can be expected to run with the ball? Who makes the decisions and how quickly? How will the impact of moving affect… Um, let’s see… Everything and everyone! The level of care you provide is amazing, I’m sure, yet not sufficient for some and insulting for others. The trick is to find the balance through knowing your clients.

The challenge with the real estate experience is that traditional brokerages don’t really have a vested interest in the process by which their agents do business. Yeah, that’s a bold statement, but if it weren’t true, buy a home in Boston today, then tomorrow do the same in San Diego. Even with the same company, the experience will be very different – and has a chance of being extremely different. Let’s face it, as independent contractors, part of the allure is the ability to call the shots yourself, right?

To be a better-educated agent, you don’t necessarily need to BE in the same generation, nor even live in the same neighborhood or city. What you need aside from market competency is a complete understanding of who you are working with, where they are coming from and a clear perspective of what their expectations are. Oh yeah, and a clear and easy to understand cleverly crafted plan for getting it done.

As real estate pros, we tend to be involved with so many transactions that we become ‘task-numb’ to the items on our transaction checklist and forget to articulate the item or process to our clients in a way they can digest it. Setting the expectations of how you handle it and how it benefits your client. Do I have to give examples of agents upset because their clients felt they didn’t do any work for the ungodly fee they charged? Or clients unhappy with too many surprises, or expectations not met… No, I don’t think so.

“If your client is unhappy with you, or you’re unhappy with them; then you missed something and you’re not doing the job you were hired for.” 

Yes, this means if you were hired to sell their home and your listing expired. Or, you went out of town and your favorite clients bought a home with another agent because you felt they liked you so much you didn’t ink a brokerage agreement… YOU are the professional. Act like it.

Let’s stay on point here.

The fact is, that not only every person is a unique individual, but the generations from whence they came have certain, semi-predictable characteristics that can help facilitate the process by which a life changing move can occur. Seamlessly, easily and confidently. Here’s a list of them and their respective bullet points that may help in dealing with complex and not so complex transactions ahead. The hope is that instead of showcasing your ego-maniacal-look-how-great-I-am attitude (Forgive me, I know no one in the real estate industry has that), you’ll be better equipped to, in the immortal words of Steven Covey, “Seek first to understand, THEN be understood.”

The GI Generation.

  • Born 1901-1926.
  • Children of the WWI generation & fighters in WWII & young in the Great Depression…all leading to strong models of teamwork to overcome and progress.
  • Their Depression was The Great One; their war was The Big One; their prosperity was the legendary Happy Days.
  • They saved the world and then built a nation.
  • They are the assertive and energetic do’ers.
  • Excellent team players.
  • Community-minded.
  • Strongly interested in personal morality and near-absolute standards of right and wrong.
  • Strong sense of personal civic duty, which means they vote.
  • Marriage is for life, divorce and having children out of wedlock were not accepted.
  • Strong loyalty to jobs, groups, schools, etc.
  • There was no “retirement” you worked until your died or couldn’t work anymore.
  • The labor-union-spawning generation.
  • “Use it up, fix it up, make it do, or do without.”
  • Avoid debt…save and buy with cash.
  • Age of radio and air flight; they were the generation that remembers life without airplanes, radio, and TV.
  • Most of them grew up without modern conveniences like refrigerators, electricity and air conditioning.
  • Sometimes called The Greatest Generation.


The Mature or Silent Generation.

  • Born 1927- 1945.
  • Went through their formative years during an era of suffocating conformity, but also during the postwar happiness: Peace! Jobs! Suburbs! Television! Rock ‘n Roll! Cars! Playboy Magazine!
  • Korean and Vietnam War generation.
  • The First Hopeful Drumbeats of Civil Rights!
  • Pre-feminism women; women stayed home generally to raise children if they worked it was only certain jobs like teacher, nurse or secretary.
  • Men pledged loyalty to the corporation, once you got a job, you generally kept it for life.
  • The richest, most free-spending retirees in history.
  • Marriage is for life, divorce and having children out of wedlock were not accepted.
  • In grade school, the gravest teacher complaints were about passing notes and chewing gum in class.
  • They are avid readers, especially newspapers.
  • “Retirement” means to sit in a rocking chair and live your final days in peace.
  • The Big-Band/Swing music generation.
  • Strong sense of trans-generational common values and near-absolute truths.
  • Disciplined, self-sacrificing, & cautious.


The Baby Boomer Generation

  • Born between 1946 and 1964.
    • Two subsets:
      • 1. the save-the-world revolutionaries of the ’60s and ’70s; and
      • 2. the party-hardy career climbers (Yuppies) of the ’70s/’80s.
  • The “me” generation.
  • “Rock and roll” music generation.
  • Ushered in the free love and societal “non-violent” protests which triggered violence.
  • Self righteous & self-centered.
  • Buy it now and use credit.
  • Too busy for much neighborly involvement yet strong desires to reset or change the common values for the good of all.
  • Even though their mothers were generally housewives, responsible for all child rearing, women of this generation began working outside the home in record numbers, thereby changing the entire nation as this was the first generation to have their own children raised in a two-income household where mom was not omnipresent.
  • The first TV generation.
  • The first divorce generation, where divorce was beginning to be accepted as a tolerable reality.
  • Began accepting homosexuals.
  • Optimistic, driven, team-oriented.
  • Envision technology and innovation as requiring a learning process.
  • Tend to be more positive about authority, hierarchal structure and tradition.
  • One of the largest generations in history with 77 million people.
  • Their aging will change America to an incomprehensible effect; they are the first generation to use the word “retirement” to mean being able to enjoy life after the children have left home. Instead of sitting in a rocking chair, they go skydiving, exercise and take up hobbies, which increases their longevity.
  • The American Youth Culture that began with them is now ending with them and their activism is beginning to re-emerge.


Generation X. I wish there was a cute name for this one!

  • Born between 1965 and 1980*
  • The “latch-key kids” grew up street-smart but isolated, often with divorced or career-driven parents. Latch-Key came from the house key kids wore around their neck because they would go home from school to an empty house.
  • Entrepreneurial.
  • Very individualistic.
  • Government and big business mean little to them.
  • Want to save the neighborhood, not the world
  • Feel misunderstood by other generations
  • Cynical of many major institutions, which failed their parents, or them, during their formative years and are therefore eager to make marriage work and “be there” for their children
  • Don’t “feel” like a generation, but they are
  • Raised in the transition phase of written based knowledge to digital knowledge archives; most remember being in school without computers and then after the introduction of computers in middle school or high school
  • Desire a chance to learn, explore and make a contribution.
  • Tend to commit to self rather than an organization or specific career. This generation averages 7 career changes in their lifetime, it was not normal to work for a company for life, unlike previous generations.
  • Society and thus individuals are envisioned as disposable.
  • AIDS begins to spread and is the first lethal infectious disease in the history of any culture on earth which was not subjected to any quarantine.
  • Beginning obsession of individual rights prevailing over the common good, especially if it is applicable to any type of minority group.
  • Raised by the career and money conscious Boomers amidst the societal disappointment over governmental authority and the Vietnam war.
  • School problems were about drugs.
  • Late to marry (after cohabitation) and quick to divorce…many single parents.
  • Into labels and brand names.
  • Want what they want and want it now but struggling to buy, and most are deeply in credit card debt.
  • It is has been researched that they may be conversationally shallow because relating consists of shared time watching video movies, instead of previous generations.
  • Short on loyalty & wary of commitment; all values are relative…must tolerate all peoples.
  • Self-absorbed and suspicious of all organization.
  • Survivors as individuals.
  • Cautious, skeptical, unimpressed with authority, self-reliant.


Generation Y… The Millennials.

  • Born between 1981* and 2000*.
  • Aka “The 9/11 Generation” “Echo Boomers” America’s next great generation brings a sharp departure from Generation X.
  • They are nurtured by omnipresent parents, optimistic, and focused.
  • Respect authority.
  • Falling crime rates. Falling teen pregnancy rates. But with school safety problems; they have to live with the thought that they could be shot at school, they learned early that the world is not a safe place.
  • They schedule everything.
  • They feel enormous academic pressure.
  • They feel like a generation and have great expectations for themselves.
  • Prefer digital literacy as they grew up in a digital environment.
  • Have never known the world without computers!
  • They get all their information and most of their socialization from the Internet.
  • Prefer to work in teams.
  • With unlimited access to information tend to be assertive with strong views.
  • Envision the world as a 24/7 place; want fast and immediate processing.
  • They have been told over and over again that they are special, and they expect the world to treat them that way.
  • They do not live to work, they prefer a more relaxed work environment with a lot of hand holding and accolades.


Generation Z… The Boomlets.

  • Born after 2001*
  • In 2006 there were a record number of births in the US and 49% of those born were Hispanic, this will change the American melting pot in terms of behavior and culture. The number of births in 2006 far outnumbered the start of the baby boom generation, and they will easily be a larger generation.
  • Since the early 1700’s the most common last name in the US was ‘Smith’ but not anymore, now it is Rodriguez.
  • There are two age groups right now:
    • (a) Tweens.
      • Age 8-12 years old.
      • There will be an estimated 29 million tweens by 2009.
      • $51 billion is spent by tweens every year with an additional $170 billion spent by their parents and family members directly for them
    • (b)Toddler/Elementary school age.
  • 61 percent of children 8-17 have televisions in their rooms.
  • 35 percent have video games.
  • 14 percent have a DVD player.
  • 4 million will have their own cell phones. They have never known the world without computers and cell phones.
  • Have Eco-fatigue: they are actually tired of hearing about the environment and the many ways we have to save it.
  • With the advent of computers and web based learning, children leave behind toys at younger and younger age. It’s called KGOY-kids growing older younger, and many companies have suffered because of it, most recognizable is Mattel, the maker of Barbie dolls. In the 1990’s the average age of a child in their target market was 10 years old, and in 2000 it dropped to 3 years old. As children reach the age of four and five, old enough to play on the computer, they become less interested in toys and begin to desire electronics such as cell phones and video games.
  • They are Savvy consumers and they know what they want and how to get it and they are over-saturated with brands.


So there you have it. Now you should be able to digest this as a broad and very general classification, yet using these to better your communication skills and your perspective of how another views the world toward a common objective, and in this case helping through a sometimes complex and different experience of moving from one household to another. Yet, this can’t be bad in just about any situation, right?

No matter what, resist the urge to effectively impose your parents’ ideals on people that you never had that when you were younger, or the world is going to hell in a handbag. The fact is, the world is changing. More people, more stuff, more, more, more. It only makes sense to learn to better understand and reciprocate good feeling thoughts. One day, we’ll drop the labels and pride ourselves on being curious about others’ perspectives and viewpoint, rather than find it competitive. But, that’s another day.



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