Last Updated on August 17, 2023 by Luke Feldbrugge
When you are a real estate agent working with Gen X clients to buy or sell a home, you have to take a slightly different approach. They communicate differently, mostly because they are motivated by non-traditional methods and messages. And they have an attitude with a capital A.
If you want some stats to justify working with Gen X, based on the most recent study by the National Association of Realtors, the median age of all recent home buyers is 53 years – up from 45 in 2021. That means the age of the largest share of buyers went from a Millennial age, to the middle of Generation X. That’s a big jump.
In terms of potential sellers, The NAR report showed the median age jumped from 53 years to 59 years old, meaning younger Boomers are the most likely generation to dominate the sellers’ market. With Gen X, this might be the right time to concentrate on their real estate potential.
Understanding how to work with Gen X clients, first means knowing how to communicate with them to build an effective real estate market strategy for this specific demographic. Knowing what drives them, what turns them off, and what they want from you as their agent is key to working with this generation.
Even if you don’t want to build a whole strategy around Gen X, knowing their core characteristics will help you better understand what you may be handling when working with Gen X clients.
7 Characteristics to Know When Working with Gen X
Generation X is sandwiched between two very large generations – the Baby Boomer generation (76 million) and the Millennial generation (80 million). Gen X, for their part, have only 53 million members in the United States. They were born between 1965 and 1980, making them between 43 years old and 58 years old in 2023.
This is a great place to warn that the description of a whole demographic is necessarily packed with generalizations. No one person in Generation X is going to have all of these character traits, but the generation as a whole will. These generalizations aren’t useful for pigeonholing people, but they can be helpful when trying to work with them. For example, if a Generation X client doesn’t want too much help from you, the descriptions might help you understand why.
Growing up in the shadow of older generations like the Baby Boomers affected Generation Xers profoundly. They are considered an ignored generation. The nation didn’t pay much attention to them because they were statistically much smaller. In addition, they grew up in households where divorce was very common, so many were primarily raised by only one parent. Finally, they came of age at a time when women were going to work in large numbers, so even if they had two parents, Generation X didn’t get a lot of attention in a two-income household.
That turned them into Latchkey Kids, a generation who came home after school and took care of themselves without much adult supervision. As a result, they became quite self-sufficient.
In terms of working with Gen X clients and communicating with them as a home buyer, they don’t expect too much attention. That’s odd to say in a real estate industry context, because paying lots of attention to clients is sort of baked into the job. That’s why the kind of attention you give them is important. Unlike Boomers, sending Generation X a text message is fine, maybe even preferable. Email is also an important communication channel. Telephone calls and face-to-face? Not so much.
Having essentially raised themselves, these Latchkey kids put a very high value on their survival instincts. They know how to fend for themselves and what needs to be done to get through life. They tend to be very street smart. Without a lot of adult supervision, they learned the joys and rewards of risk taking. Most of the extreme sports were invented, or at least widely adopted, by Generation X.
As risk takers in the housing market, you may encounter members of Gen X biting off more than they can chew. Knowledgeable agents may need to help them be more cautious during negotiations, bidding and mortgage financing. In their minds, in order to win, you need to take risks. Your job may involve more risk mitigation than with the previous generations and younger generations.
In terms of negotiations when working with Gen X clients, they will be very good at compromise. Survival always demands compromises. They may, however, be aggressive negotiators.
Generation X was the first generation that believed that their future would be worse than their parents and that social security wouldn’t be there for them. The economy they grew up in was rather dismal, and they saw their parents experience widespread layoffs and downsizing in the 70s and 80s. They have a pessimistic outlook on life and their generation’s prospects. They also have a dark sense of humor. When they were young adults, they were famous for rolling their eyes a lot.
While they are generally pessimistic about the future, they are personally optimistic. That may seem counterintuitive, but they believe they have the smarts, the survival skills and the attitude that will allow them to get ahead even if everyone else is failing.
So how do you sell property and housing to cynical clients? First, it’s in your best interest to tone down the happy talk. Be very realistic about the market out there and tell them what to expect. Most importantly, if they seem a bit depressed and skeptical about their housing prospects, don’t take it too seriously.
The combination of being a small demographic and growing up as Latchkey kids made this generation very comfortable with being alone. They did not hang out in big groups as they were growing up, and they tended toward sports where individuals would excel. They aren’t good team players, and they are quite comfortable working alone in cubicles on their own projects (though they will complain about it). They tend to like movies about loners, and their sense of community is more detached than other generations.
Since they aren’t that comfortable in groups, you may want to have an individual approach when working with Gen X clients, rather than assigning them to a team of agents.
Generation X has a rather broken relationship with rules. They don’t like them and they don’t mind breaking them. If Boomers wanted to change the rules, then Gen Xers wanted to avoid them altogether. They use terms like “workarounds” and phrases such as “let’s ask for forgiveness instead of permission.” To their minds, rules were put there to get in their way and prevent them from what they wanted to do. When you grow up making your own rules without much parental supervision, rules made by others just don’t carry much weight.
When talking about real estate properties and homes, stress the unconventional home purchases and places that are counterintuitive. Suburban areas may not go over with them. Generation X likes to buck the trends and won’t want to follow the crowd. Granted, there are a lot of rules to follow to close on a house, so you will need to keep them on task when they are going through the paperwork.
6) Self Directed
This generation has always been independent and self directed. They are do-it-yourselfers because they have had to be. Now it’s their preference.
In terms of searching for a new home, or selling their previous home, they will probably do a lot of the research up front before they contact a real estate agent. Even during the search, they will want to be very involved with the work of finding and buying the new house. They won’t want, or need, a lot of hand holding.
It may go without saying that this is a very pragmatic generation. Their survival mentality has given them an ability to intensely focus on the necessities. They don’t care about vision or mission, they want to know the basics – where will I live, how much does it cost, and can I afford it. Talking about their “dream home” may fall flat with members of Generation X.
Of all the characteristics of Gen X, this might be the most helpful one in terms of looking for their next home or selling their current home. Of course, being pragmatic is a must for negotiations, but it’s also extremely helpful at all stages of decision making.
Nuanced Approach to Working with Gen X Clients
Working with Gen X clients requires a nuanced approach. Understanding their distinct characteristics, from being independent survivors to pragmatic individuals, is essential for building strong connections. Tailoring your communication style, acknowledging their self-sufficiency, and embracing their skepticism will likely lead to successful client relations.
Whether you’re assisting them in finding their ideal home or guiding them through the selling process, aligning your strategies with their unique traits will pave the way for successful transactions with Generation X clients.
Join Homes for Heroes – Be the Agent Heroes Want
Homes for Heroes can help you specialize in your market and grow your real estate business by helping your local heroes buy, sell or refinance a home. You can offer them something special, something beyond the transaction, by saving them significant money as a way to thank them for their service.
Complete your registration and schedule a time to learn more about the benefits of being a Homes for Heroes local market specialist, and become the agent or lender your community heroes want to work with for their home and mortgage needs.
Author Note: Bob Filipczak is the co-author of Generations At Work (first and second edition). He speaks on generational marketing and communications to organizations. His previous clients include the University of California Davis, the Association of Patent Lawyer Firms and the Space Telescope Science Institute.