Whether you are buying or selling real estate, it's a wise move to consider the reasons why people buy. Certainly, you buy as a means of shelter and for investment opportunities. But have you considered what propels those choices? If you are house hunting, do you wonder why some homes appeal immensely to you – delivering that intangible feeling of 'Home' – and why others do not? And, if you're selling, shouldn't you consider how to best tap into that decision-making process to garner top dollar for your property?
With ANY purchase, you need a product that connects a Buyer and a Seller. In the first part of this two-part series, I'm going to explore how a Seller can strategically tap into the Buyer's psyche by properly positioning their property. In the second part, I'll look at how real estate represents the needs, wants, wishes and dreams of potential Buyers.
As a Seller, there are specific steps that you can take to entice Buyers to purchase your home. Want a bit of guidance? If you've just got word that you're being located and need to move lickety-split, here our solution – and marketing program – in 'Dear Urbaneer: I Need To Sell My Home Fast!'. My team and I recommend executing a de-cluttering and deep cleaning, attending to small repairs, and refreshing space through simple décor improvements as outlined in 'Strategies To Help Sell Your Home'. This post is for Sellers who are on a time crunch to get their property listed and sold promptly, while 'Seven Home Runs To Achieve Top Dollar' is well-suited for those planning to sell in 3 to 6 months, and Eight Ways To Increase The Value Of Your Property outlines an approach for those with a longer-term vision.
At Urbaneer, we work with our Sellers to steer a prospective Buyer from curiosity to engagement, to active interest, concluding in a willingness to pay their top dollar to secure the property! While the end game is clear, have you ever wondered about the 'why' and 'how' behind this transition towards a purchase? I think the gears that the shifting gears and motivational mechanics at work are worth exploring. In fact, it's one of my favourite topics and was part of my own Graduate Research into the psychology of housing and home.
While part of what gives momentum to the red-hot Toronto real estate market is strictly economic – think 'supply and demand' (here's more on Why The Toronto Real Estate Market Is So Hot and if you're uncertain on the state of the market here's Dear Urbaneer: Should I Buy Toronto Real Estate Now Or Should I Wait? – there's a large part of motivation which resides in the psychological side of reasoning; appealing to a Buyer's most intrinsic needs incites action.
Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs
There's no question the sales industry has a lot to do with persuasion. Suggesting to the brain that it might 'need' a commodity, whether for purchase, use, protection, or consumption, is not necessarily a simple process. The theory here is that all our motivations are driven by our primal, instinctual needs as humans, and savvy sales techniques appeal to those needs in order to motivate action.
To put this in context, have you heard of Maslow’s 'Hierarchy of Needs'? Renowned American psychologist Abraham Maslow – in his 1943 paper 'A Theory of Human Motivation' – established a hierarchy that stacks human needs in order of priority. Picture a pyramid with the more fundamental physiological needs at the base and the psychological need of self-actualization at the top. Maslow's posits that human behaviour and decision-making are motivated by one of five basic human needs that make up this pyramid. The hierarchy starts with physiological needs for survival, like food and shelter at the bottom, and moves through safety and security, love and belonging, self-esteem, and finally self-actualization. Throughout one's life, as the needs of one level are met, the person graduates to the next level of needs.
Applied to marketing and sales, the ability to effectively appeal to one of these motivational drivers (needs) is the key to success. For example, non-essential services like massage treatments, luxury automobiles, or custom tailoring may be marketed successfully to those in the fourth or fifth level of Maslow's hierarchy because those people are driven by the needs for increased self-esteem and for others to view them as successes.
Because this pyramid can be so widely applied in sales and marketing, it has become required curriculum at many business schools and required reading in psychology courses. However, in my search, I couldn't find much written about Maslow's hierarchy as it relates directly to real estate, which is my own motivation to explore this fascinating subject. After all, as someone who's Graduate Degree included exploring the psychology of housing and home, I'm bonkers – ok, let's call it a healthy obsession – about housing as I shared in 'We Buy And Sell Toronto Real Estate'.
The Real Estate Connection
When you consider that marketing is all about appealing to a person's needs (and thus motivating them towards action), it’s no surprise that real estate is a commodity that is well-matched to this theory. It's easier than selling a non-essential commodity, like a 'Day At The Spa', because a house, by nature, already appeals to many of a Buyer's basic needs.
On the most fundamental level, housing helps to satisfy the need for shelter. It provides security and protection against the elements, so you can be certain it will appeal to everyone, even those that still sit in the first level of the pyramid. But your home is also where you can be your best self; it’s where you can express yourself most freely, spend meaningful time with your friends and family, build relationships, and put down roots. That's three levels we've just considered, and most people will recognize that housing satisfies these needs, no sales techniques needed.
However, when we employ more sophisticated marketing efforts to transition a Buyer toward purchasing a property, we try to appeal to even more of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. For example, we at Urbaneer offer our Style Enhancement service where we elevate your furnishings to entice buyers (or, if your property is vacant we recommend you engage the services of a professional stager) because beautiful, on-trend styling inherently appeals to those whose needs include being viewed as successful and respected as unique individuals (self-esteem). For example, we might have a Seller invest some money in landscaping to elevate a property's curb appeal to pull at a Buyer's heart-strings, ask our Seller to install an alarm system to further stroke the need for security, or recommend upgrading a luxury residence with technology in Do Your Walls Think? Exploring Technology In The Home. See? Through presenting a property in a certain light, we create the opportunity to capture subconscious needs and massage the potential Buyer toward purchase.
By the same token, the reason a single property can repel one Buyer but make another Buyer fall in love is that everyone's needs are different, depending on where they sit psychologically on Maslow's hierarchy at this point in their lives. There are lots of reasons depending on where and what you might purchase, for when it comes time for you to buy a home, you may decide to locate in a neighbourhood that reflects your cultural affiliation, mirrors your economic status, or complements your social world. I touch on this in Why Do We Love Where We Live?; in Finding Your Quadrant In The City Of Toronto; and On Buying A House Versus A Home.
And that fifth, top level of Maslow's model? Well, it may be a bit of a stretch to state that real estate marketing techniques could fulfil someone's need for self-actualization. But is it so off-base to imagine that the deep sense of accomplishment in having achieved homeownership might help solidify one's sense of their ideal self? I believe so, even though Maslow wrote that very few people ever reach the fifth level of his hierarchy, which to me is both intriguing and depressing.
That Sense of 'Home'
When you are selling your home, you’re not just selling the bricks and mortar. You are selling the experience of living there (let's hope it's filled with love, light and laughter, and not sadness nor grief!). That intangible quality of 'Home' defies physical description, but I can assure you it resonates loudly with a prospective Buyer when they establish a positive emotional connection to your home (or they may even subconsciously recognize an undercurrent of negative energy which invites the opportunity to negotiate price!). This sensation can be tracked back to Maslow’s model. Don't underestimate the myriad of levels in which Buyers 'sense' and 'respond' to any property. It can even be as simple as colour, as I wrote in Colour Communications: What Message Are You Sending?'
Buyers need not only to value what they see when they cross the threshold, but they need to feel it as well. They need to be able to envision their own lives unfolding happily in the space, where their physical and psychological needs will be met and will even flourish.
As a realtor, I know most Buyers are initially drawn to a property because of fairly pragmatic criteria that fulfil their basic need for shelter – location (i.e. neighbourhood, proximity to amenities, green space and transit), price point and housing type. And once they're focusing on a particular property those Buyers then have to critically assess the property itself, as I wrote in this post called Understanding The Six Essential Layers Of Property. However, the ultimate decision to buy your property comes mostly – in my opinion – while both the pragmatic needs are met while the Buyer develops an emotional connection through that sense of “Home”, which subscribes to Maslow’s hierarchy.
While a lot of realtors will recommend you neutralize a space of personal belongings when it's going up for sale, I like it when 'personality is present, as long as it doesn't overwhelm the place. Yes, I encourage decluttering, cleaning and repairing so it allows Buyers to envision how your space might meet their specific needs, and how they can tap into that sense of Home so they, too, can put down roots. But I don't believe this means making your home devoid of your spirit. I once wrote about this in How Can I Make An Emotional Connection Through my Home? which is more about celebrating the emotional patina of a well-loved home than depersonalizing a space. I consider a home well-loved – no matter what its condition – to be an intangible asset to any property.
Not to suggest you underestimate the importance of curb appeal and first impressions. After all, it's like dating. Are you going to fall in love, or not? Here's a post about first impressions the moment you cross into a foyer, and my belief that there are sequential layers in how you reveal your public, and private, spaces.
I hope you've enjoyed this first instalment of our discussion! In the second part of this series, we look at Toronto real estate from the Buyer's point of view – and how real estate subscribes to their needs, according to Maslow. Intrigued? Continue to Part 2! Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs And Toronto Real Estate For Buyers.
I hope you can see our enthusiasm for real estate in this piece. At Urbaneer, my team and I provide comprehensive service in the most literal sense of the word. Our multi-faceted points of view and decades of experience in the market give us a uniquely thorough and advantageous skill set and expertise, whether you are buying or selling.
Have questions? Please know my team and I are here to help!
~ Steven and the Urbaneer team
earn your trust, then your business
Steven Fudge, Sales Representative
& The Innovative Urbaneer Team
Bosley Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage – (416) 322-8000
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