Your heart is intertwined with your home.
“I’m sure that people end up working as Realtors for many different reasons,” Heather Elias wrote, “but for me, the reason I enjoy my job so much is that I know how deeply your heart is intertwined with your home. In the end, buying or selling a home is very much a business transaction, but it’s still a very personal decision and experience.” Last Friday, after reading Heather’s post, The House That Built *ME*, I felt compelled to revisit a book and a review I had written in 2007. Much has changed in real estate in the five years since, but Heather reminded me that the power of “home” has not changed. And never will.
“Anyone who doubts the possibility of falling in love with a house – with all that implies of fast-beating heart, sweaty palms, and waiting for the phone to ring – just hasn’t met the right one yet.”
This is how Marjorie Garber starts chapter one of her book, Sex And Real Estate: The House As Beloved – Falling In Love With A House. It’s been almost five years since I first learned of this book. I revisited it over the weekend and I still believe that Garber’s introduction to this book is worth the price, all by itself. There is just so much meat in the words she uses to lay the foundation for her arguments. You could buy this book, read only the introduction, and instantly have a more accurate and full understanding of the psychology of “home.” And you’d be making a mistake.
The Beauty Of Her Writing
I’ll talk about the lessons to be learned in a minute, but first I want to address the beauty and depth of her writing. In this first chapter she uses cultural references that bring her points to life. She uses the study of the conversations in novels and feature films to punctuate her declarations and illustrate the humanizing aspects of the language we use to describe houses. I guess it’s what you might expect from William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of English and Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University, and Chair of the Committee on Dramatic Arts. This language, common in these dramatic art forms, brings to life the reality of house as lover. In this first chapter she uses references to the following:
- Living Together: Independence Day
- Love at first sight: Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, The Money Pit
- Misplaced Love: Pride And Prejudice
- The house as spouse: Housesitter
- When love goes wrong: The War Of The Roses
Garber rightly points out that, “Realtors and house agents often find themselves functioning as therapists, psychologists, and marriage counselors.” I know from my own personal experiences and also from talking to real estate professionals all over the country, the process of searching for a house spurs questions similar to those we might ask before we truly commit in a relationship. “Is this where I want to spend the rest of my life? Is this who I want to spend it with?” Even affirmative answers to these questions can have both positive and negative effects.
Understanding that questioning is an important part of understanding the buyer side of the equation. The questions that the buying process bring to bear in their personal lives can be monumental, especially for first time buyers. This is one of the reasons why buying a house is such a stressful experience. The questions that this process force us to ask can often be more than we’re ready to answer. It’s not just about the house. It’s about our concept of “home.”
Love At First Sight
I’m going to spend the rest of my time on this segment of the chapter. It is the largest chunk of text, and the most telling. The others are very well done, but love at first sight is the dominant force that drives the other points in this chapter.
On a personal note, I’ve experienced both the exhilarating side and painful side of falling in love at first sight. I have fallen in love with more women than I care to admit. Each time it has been powerful and overwhelming. That emotional power is no less concrete in the real estate transaction. As a real estate agent, you have a responsibility to your seller to maximize the dominance of this emotion in the way you present homes. And on the buyer side, you have a responsibility to protect them from the dangers of falling in love too fast.
Protecting Buyers From Their Emotions (from the book)
- “Sometimes a buyer is infatuated with a house even before he walks through the threshold,” reports a real estate columnist, who hastens to reassure her readers that “there’s nothing inherently wrong with feeling passion for a particular property.” More than 50 percent of all buyers experience such overwhelming desire, according to an expert in the field.”
- “I’ve seen people fall in love with a home that wasn’t right for them,” says the former president of the National Association of REALTORS®.
- “If you bond emotionally to a property, you’re in danger of making a blunder from which you cannot recover,” cautions a broker for a national chain.
One of the key benefits a buyer’s agent can bring to the table is the wisdom of an objective third party perspective. They are there to protect the “suitor” from what Freud called, “the overestimation of the object.” Like a good friend who warns you to take your time with a torrid new relationship, a good buyer’s agent becomes the voice of reason, the best friend who is not afraid to tell you the truth about your new girlfriend.
But “as painful as love can be, lack of emotion can be a sign that there is something wrong with you.” Buyers agents should also learn to recognize when it may NOT be the houses that are the problem, but the client themselves. If, after a long search, the client still can’t find a house to fall in love with, there may be other, not so obvious issues getting in the way.
Using Emotions To The Benefit Of Your Sellers
I’m not a Realtor. I experience real estate from a consumer’s perspective. As a consumer I have some expectations. If you’re selling my home, I want you to make sure you do everything in your power to have as many people as possible fall in love with my home. I understand that there may be dangers on the buyer side, but that’s why they have their own representative, in my opinion. I want your marketing to flirt with the buyer, wink at them, lure them in. I want you to stage my property (put on nice makeup). I want you to make sure lots of people see it (take it to the dance). And I want you to use evocative language to describe it (make sure everyone at the dance get’s more than just information, I want fanfare). “As one buyer confessed,” Marjorie writes, ‘The reality is you fall in love with it (the property) first, then figure it (the price) out later.” This has been my experience as well.
“Hit the prospect at every emotional level,” counsels Ruth Simon in Forbes Magazine. Why? Because buying a home, unless you’re an investor, is not about information – the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, or square feet a home possesses. That’s what searching for a home is about. Buying it is about a relationship. We want to fall in love with the house. We NEED to fall in love with the house.
I find this hard to argue with. How about you?
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Tomorrow we’ll visit the concept of House As The Perfect Mother.