After You Read Listings, Your Agent Reads You

Every saleswoman will tell you that a customer is always transparent. Buyers and sellers of real estate send readable signals — the equivalent of poker “tells.” Experienced real estate brokers around the country can “read the minds” of their customers, and use their knowledge of consumer behavior to steer a market participant toward a sale.

“Here’s a tell,” says Jim Foote, who has been in real estate for 38 years and is broker-owner of Greenwich Custom Real Estate Services in Old Greenwich, Conn. “If they linger for a long time in any one room, that’s telling you that there is something about this room that’s especially interesting to them.”

Or if the opposite is true and a customer speeds through the house, it is often a sign of lack of interest. “If the progress from the hall through the living room, where the first fireplace is, through the dining room to the kitchen, through the family room where the second fireplace is — if that circuit takes two to three minutes, that’s pretty good,” Foote adds, “if it takes 30 or 45 seconds, that’s not so good.”

Real estate agents can maximize their sales through “primary and recency effects,” which is to show one’s favorite listings first and last. The first property serves as a mental benchmark — everything seen afterwards is compared with it — while the last property, having just been viewed, is easier to recall. Agents insist that by doing this they are not being tricky, for two reasons. First, a home is a well-considered long-term purchase, and with prices so high, buyers are more thoughtful than ever. Second, real estate agents are different from other salespeople in that the veterans have their eye on two transactions: the purchase and the resale. Fritzi Barbour, vice president and broker in charge of Coldwell Banker Caine in Greenville, S.C. states, “your agent is trying to find you what you like, but also what will be a good investment, because they have their mind on what will happen when they get the call about being able to resell it 5, 10, 15 years later. What’s the neighborhood going to be like? What’s the market going to be like.”

In order to perform this job, agents also often have to analyze customer personality types. According to Thai Klam, the broker-owner of Re/Max 360 in the Greater Houston area, “An amiable buyer or seller is more emotionally driven. Can I hold social events here? Can I see my family being happy? They want to know how other people felt. An analytical customer wants the past five year’ historical price appreciations. We just try to relate to them on their personality type to build rapport.” Surprisingly enough, agents often empathize with potential buyers, knowing full well that it may take the buyer some time to warm up to them. Roger Dawson, a former real estate executive, says he would tell clients, “Let me just take this phone call,” as an excuse to give the buyers a moment alone. “I have found it helpful to let the husband and wife have a little time together to discuss things.” These tricks of the trade, in conjunction with being able to read a buyer, make for the most successful sales in real estate.

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