Real Estate Knowledge for the Ages

I don’t know about you guys, but attempts to slice and dice consumers into demographics that matter often exhausts me. It seems every other day there’s a new book purporting to tell all about how the ____ Generation feels about ____. As someone on the cusp between two of these somewhat imaginary generational memes, life simply doesn’t feel that cut-and-dried.

So, when I got a copy of Brendon DeSimone’s book, Next Generation Real Estate: New Rules for Smarter Home Buying and Faster Selling (Changing Lives Press: April 16, 2014), I wasn’t expecting to be particularly blown away. But the fact is, I had the book’s subject all wrong.  DeSimone isn’t about telling my Gen X side what I want to buy, or unbundling my Millennial tendency toward multitasking. He’s taking the strengths of each generation (yes, even my Baby Boomer parents) and cobbling together a genius real estate language for the ages (OK, it also helps that he knows the world of real estate like the back of his hand).Next Gen RE cover

Anyway, I got a chance to chat with DeSimone about the book last month. Here’s a sampling of our conversation, with more to come soon on REALTOR® Mag Online:

As an active real estate pro, how did you find the time to write this book?

San Francisco is a more highly sophisticated market than others just because the numbers are so big. You’re dealing with single-family homes, condos, and multi-unit buildings. You have a real mishmash of the types of stuff that you deal with, and the agents there do everything. There are no attorneys involved in the typical real estate transactions there. The agent is the center of the transaction.

So, to get back to your question of how did I get time to write: A lot of it was in my head already, just from doing this so many years. I always get agents in my office that come to me with questions like, “What do you think about this? What do you think about that? The seller is doing this… My buyer wants that…”

I would give them my feedback. I like answering questions and I like helping.  I felt that I was helping people out and it was nice and enjoyable.  I thought, “I can put it all in one place.” It’s really a consumer-facing book, but I think agents could read it too.

That was actually one of the first questions I was going to ask you. Really, who should read this book: real estate agents or clients, and why?

I think both. Originally, I thought it would be a consumer book. Consumers should read this because as you’re getting into real estate today, the world is so different, with real estate portals and online listings and so much information available. How do you do it? But I really think agents could read this and be better agents.

I think a lot of the stuff in the book applies to their lives. Some of the stuff in the book will help agents put themselves in their clients’ shoes. One of the things I thought in my years of selling real estate was that agents didn’t have a textbook or an exact sales training. They often came from another industry. They didn’t have the sales training background. Before I worked in real estate, I worked for a sales organization and you kind of learn about the sales process and how to qualify a person. I think it’s pretty helpful to understand. Like one thing the book talks about is why the sales process takes so long. From the time a buyer first gets a little inkling that they may want to be a buyer to when they actually buy, it could be a year or more. They need a few months to kind of play around on the Internet and do some research.

When I first saw the title of your book, I thought it was going to be another one of those books that talks about, “This is what Millennials like…. This is what Gen Xers like…  This is what Boomers like…” But it’s really not about that at all.

Yeah, this is really a how-to book: How to buy and sell real estate in 2014. I got the idea for the book back in 2004. I was ready to sign a contract on a home and went to my dad for advice. The advice was so wrong and it didn’t make any sense. He was giving me advice from what he did it in 1975.

So it’s really about how to deal with agents today. How to look for properties. It’s really how to buy and sell in this day in age. There’s really never been a book like this written by an agent, a how-to book from a prospective of an agent. There are books written by attorneys and the sort of how-to books written by consumer journalists and financial journalists. There are books written by the Nolo Group or the Dummy-Guide-to types, but there’s never a book written by an agent. I think a lot of people will say, “Well gosh a book written by an agent, I wouldn’t trust him. I don’t trust agents.” But I’m throwing it out there. There are parts of the book where I say, “You know what? Maybe you shouldn’t be a buyer. You can stay renting.” I even have a part on FSBOs. Maybe you should be an FSBO. If you are smart enough and if you have all time in the world and you think you can do this, I say, “Go for it!”  I’m definitely pro-REALTOR®. I think you need one, but it’s still pretty objective. The book is not pushing real estate agents down anyone’s throat, and it’s very much hands-off.

You say that your mission is to teach the different generations to all speak the same “language of real estate” and I really like that. If you had to pick a couple of first words to learn in that language, what would they be?

Search. The Baby Boomers need to learn to search. Search is in the DNA of the Millennial nowadays. They are going to search and double-check everything online. Whereas, I think a Boomer may take the REALTOR®’s word for it and maybe do a little search, but not to the extent of that Millennial will.

On the flip side, I think that a Baby Boomer would tell a Millennial to have patience and relax. There’s so much of risk coming from everywhere. You don’t have to decide right away. Sit on it. Sit on things. Don’t make decisions right away.

I also think presentation matters more than ever. The Millennial can teach that to a Baby Boomer with Instagram. People are so used to having colors and photos that it’s sort of normal. I think a Boomer probably doesn’t know as intrinsically that presentation does matter. I’ve been in so many situations where you have a mid-60s couple who are downsizing their place and just looks a little fuddy-duddy. They’ve been in that home for so many years they are emotionally attached to that house.  A Millennial might’ve been in that house a couple of years and they can pull themselves out from that attachment and say, “Hey, look at the house as a product.”  If that 65-year-old couple can see their home as a product and actually be okay with spending $5,000 to $10,000 and maybe paint it, clean it, and take out some of their outdated stuff, they might actually make more money out of their place. I think the Boomers have to realize that. It’s just a different world.  They know it in their heart obviously, and it’s logical, but it’s in the feeling of doing real estate. Things have changed a lot.

Also the Boomers can teach younger people about market volatility. In my book, I talk about how my dad was telling me what a 30-year-fixed loan was, and I was thinking, “Why would I get a 30-year fixed? You’re crazy! I’m getting a five-year, interest-only loan. Why would I pay extra?” Sure enough, the market crashed.  Gosh, my dad was right! Maybe I should’ve gotten that 30-year fixed. So I think that the Boomers have experience. Even though they weren’t brought up with texting, the Internet, or Instagram, they have something to communicate. The Boomers have a lot more experience, and it’s just like anything. They’ve been around the block. My mom always says, “I’ve been around 60-some-odd years and I may not be the smartest person, but I have a lot of life experiences.” The Boomers have lots of experiences that the Millennials do not. There is stuff in their heads and experiences that they have that really help during a real estate transaction. I think it’s grace under pressure, potentially being calmer, and having patience and not having gut reactions.  They can look at the bigger picture of things and not be so focused on a transaction.

Meg White

Meg White is the managing editor for REALTOR® Magazine and administrator of the magazine's Weekly Book Scan blog. Contact her at mwhite[at]

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  1. Sounds like this book is worth reading. What time does Barnes and Noble close? Thanks for cutting to the chase.