It has been known for years that all purchasing is emotional. I said that in a class once and a lady spoke out to say, “I bought toilet paper yesterday and that was not emotional.” The lady to her left said, “Oh yeah, have you ever run out?”
And what is more emotional than buying or selling a home. Every day real estate professionals spend time delicately balancing the fight between decision – emotional – and habitual parts of the brain, a fight that occurs whenever a decision is made.
The Brain Is Habitual
Our brain is made to work on habit. Once we repeat the simplest act a number of times, it automatically becomes habit. It does this so we don’t have to think about it. Walking, breathing, driving to or from the office is all locked into the visceral part of our brain where all habits reside. The visceral is the only part of our brain that grows as we age. The older we are, the more things we do habitually.
Where we live now (our residence), as well as our surroundings, has become a habit. When we walk into a home for sale, we start thinking about it. “Hmm”, says the Neo-cortex (frontal lobe where all decisions are made) this is interesting. I wonder if I should move? Then the argument starts. The habit brain says, “No, I’m fine right where I am and I’m not moving.” The decision brain says, “Yes, but look how low interest rates and prices are now.”
It would be great if we only had two parts of our brain engaged in the decision to change homes, but there is another – the Paleo-mammalian! What? It’s just a big word to describe the emotional part of our brain that sits between the neo-cortex and the visceral. It is activated when we are in a buying mode. If our emotion is not triggered in the impulse or purchase mode, there is more than an 85% chance we won’t act. Hence, all purchasing is emotional.
We, as real estate professionals, spend our days involved in the customer/client inner battle between the ‘habit’, ‘emotion’, and ‘decision’ parts of the brain. Add to that, appraisers, mortgage lenders, attorneys, and, of course, our family and ourselves?
In 1998, the National Association of Homebuilders announced that, “A New Home purchase is an impulse buy!” No news to me, I personally purchased at least two homes when I wasn’t looking. Once, walking into a home on office tour and getting emotional, I thought it had more to offer than our current home. I called Bishop (my wife). She came over and we got emotional together, which activated the decision making process. We shook off the habitual feeling to stay where we where and figured out how to make it work. Wham, in less than 24 hours, we bought a new home.
Agents all over the country tell me about sitting a house open when someone walked in and said, “No thanks I’m happy where we are…” and 10 minutes later they were creating an offer to purchase. The emotional impulse buy!
Back to Square One – They Want to Sleep on It
On the other hand, someone walks into your open house and you watch the emotional lights glow and whistles toot… “Oh look, a bath for every bedroom. Oh, and it has four bedrooms and a three car garage and look at this big yard!” You ask if they want to buy and they say, “YES! But first we need to sleep on it.” Years ago, Tommy Hopkins taught me to answer this objection with, “The time to think about it, Mr. and Mrs. Buyer, is when I’m here to answer all your questions. I’ll get my sleeping bag out of the car – let’s go get to work…” ☺ I trust that all readers are aware by now that if someone wants think it over or sleep on it – YOU LET THEM!
So these excited, emotional prospects go home to ‘think it over’. You call the next morning and they say, “We’re going to raise the roof, enlarge our house, add bathrooms, widen the garage, and see if the neighbor will sell us part of their lot so we can have a bigger yard.”
“What the heck happened?”
They were emotionally excited about this house when they left yesterday. Well… here it is. They ‘thought’ about buying, they got ‘emotional’, but wait. They went to where they have ‘habitually lived’ for the last 9 years and the habit brain figured out a way to keep them there. Habits have a STRONG pull on the Emotion. Have you ever quit, or attempted to quit, smoking? Enough said.
So therein lays the emotional world of real estate and the battle between what a prospect is doing now, habit, and what they are thinking about doing, change, all within a whirlwind of emotion. In the past, emotions prompted consumers’ actions – walk-ins, ad calls, drive-by’s, sign calls, open houses, escorted showings, brochure box flyer inquiries…
Gone are the Days
No one is walking in, driving by, or calling on the ads (let alone reading the newspaper). REALTOR showings are down, brochure boxes are so 1900’s, flyers are a waste of paper and so un-green. Open houses are lifeless or, if you do get people, they may just be looking for prescription meds or casing the house.
The Way We Were
The world, the market, the way we were ‘ain’t no more’. As I uncovered in my article, The Evolution of the Real Estate Consumer, the consumer has evolved! They are no longer dependent on real estate agents for information. That’s the good news. We’ve taken off the hat of information provider and replaced it with that of advisor – a more exalted profession. The consumer has all the information. Every piece of real estate that’s for sale is now offered to the world on the Internet. In case you missed it, Google, Zillow, and Trulla are the new MLS. Oh, you didn’t know that… GET A GRIP. That’s the way of the connected consumer! That being said, everything has changed – the paradigm has shifted and the entire real estate profession is starting from ground zero.
‘The LOOK’ (“the LOOK, the HOOK, and the COOK” ™)
It starts with ‘The LOOK’. Real Estate is the American Dream – the number one investment in many people’s lives, the hot topic on TV news shows, the subject of over 2,100 current books, and the buzz at the water cooler, the prophecy of economists.
There are billions of hits on real estate sites – most from consumers who are looking at one thing – HOUSES. Houses, prices, pictures of houses, floor plans, room sizes, prices, amenities, neighborhoods, schools, builders, prices, square footage, locations, maps, walking distance, construction, absorption rate, aerial photographs, 360 tours, and, did I say, prices. Don’t think these consumers are up for ‘capture’. No way!
The way YOU buy
Let’s examine your Internet buying practices. You are surfing on the LL Bean site and find a picture of some boots you like. So you click on the photo for more information. Blip, a screen appears that says, “For more info on the LL Beanie Boot, please fill out the request form with your name, address, foot size, e-mail, website, and first male born child.” What do you do? Fill it out? NO, you delete LL Beanie.com and go to Zappos.com and buy the boots. We love the autonomy of the Internet – we won’t be captured until we want to be captured. And, we’re not unusual. It’s the American and World way to shop. Especially now that the economy is tight, we shop more and buy less. When we do buy, we buy for less.
Before we buy, we look. Because surfing for real estate is an acceptable practice, we look when we’re at work. Yes, that’s the time people shop for real estate. Late night they reserve for XX or whatever the gamer wants.
Surf from 12 to 24 Months
People will look at real estate for 12 to 24 months before they ever think of buying. Then, once in the buying mode, they will look for 4 to 8 weeks at houses first and agents second. That’s correct, agents second. They don’t care about you. They don’t care about your production, degrees, designations, certifications, or photo. They want INFORMATION and they want it NOW.
The HOOK (“the LOOK, the HOOK, and the COOK” ™)
I know the HOOK sounds negative like the carnival barker hooking you into the tent of oddities, or but wait… you’ll get a set of Ginsu Steak Knives. I’m not referring to that kind of hook. I’m speaking of the hook that brings the salmon back to the same river every year. What biological intuition brings the salmon back? I’m afraid that’s way beyond my knowledge base. But I do understand what hooks buyers.
You see, there are some websites that real estate surfers and suspect buyers return to on a consistent basis. This is different than Sites where they can have autonomy and ALL the information without having to ask – where they, in a zone of comfort, can peruse all the properties – a website they might even, are you ready for this, “Book Mark”. Technology guru’s call this the Return Visitor.
It’s Obvious what they DON’T want
What can you do to keep visitors returning? Let’s start with all of the items I previously mentioned; no hoops, no ‘fill this out before you can e-mail me’, no ‘ME, ME, ME ego sites’, no selling, no big splash pages with sound effects, and, for gosh sakes, no – “Cozy Country Charmer, this lovely 3 and den is bright and cheery, Mrs. Clean lives here, decorators dream, delightful neighborhood, seller desperate….” Yeeea gads, it’s enough to make you puke. No wonder Stephen Dubner in his book FREAKONOMICS thinks we have a code. Yes, he says all that verbiage in real estate ads is code and we REALTORS have a decoder book; i.e., Delightful Neighborhood, means nice neighborhood but this house sucks. Cozy means; not enough room for a lady and her cat. He makes a point – no one wants that STUFF anymore!
The Evolved Consumer Wants
What does the consumer want? INFORMATION! When do they want it? NOW! If they land on your site and don’t get ‘information now’… well, let’s just say your business success is just someone’s delete key away.
Here is a list of other items that will keep them coming back:
Full of useful information
Contact information on every page
An easy to recall URL
Updated often (at least twice a month)
Keep it fresh – keep it unique
Remind people to bookmark
Monthly give-a-way contest
Local Area Quizzes
Create Emotion ********* http://e-MotionalVideo.com
The number one reason that will keep surfers coming back to a real estate website is EMOTION. How does one generate emotion on a static website? Use photos? Yes, pictures can generate emotion. I cover this more thoroughly in Chapter 3, A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Bucks of my book, Dog Eat Dog & Vice Versa: 9 Secrets To Put The Bite Into Your Marketing. Photos do generate some emotion but not much. Every real estate website has photos. Virtual tours? Okay a little. After all, the number one click on REALTOR.com is “show me only houses with Virtual Tours”. However, I’ve never had a buyer stand in the middle of the den and turn slowly 360 degrees to the right until they fall over.
Video is the only hope to generate the kind of emotional connection we want to have with suspect real estate buyers. Think about it, consumers have watched billions of hours of video since the advent of TV. We’re accustomed to it, captured by it, addicted to it, wowed by it. We gathered around to watch a man walk on the moon. Now we look at photos of deep space from the Hubble Telescope on the screen of our smart phone. Video has become the norm. It is short attention span theater where ‘two and half minutes’ is considered a long time – yet it still can create emotion.
Rules of Emotional Video
First – “Stop It!” I know what’s going through your mind, “I can’t afford to do a video.” I agree, video is expensive, and if you were to spend the bucks on a high quality, highly produced, glitzy video, it most likely wouldn’t work. Why? Because that would look, feel, and smell like a commercial and drive people away. Think the YouTube phenomenon!
Second – it must be short, space isn’t the only reason YouTube limits videos to 10 minutes. For real estate, I’ve found 1.5 to 2.5 minutes. There’s no need to explain or narrate as in, “This is the bathroom…” (No kidding – Charlie come looky here – it’s on the inside). No flowery adjectives. Do not SELL it. Do not use the voice of the one holding the camera. No need to have people or actors in the frame.
And, while we’re at it: Who cares if you or an actor can walk out onto the page of your website and ‘try’ to sell something. If most consumers are looking at houses while at work, they’ll dive for the mute button to shut you, or your actor, up.
That’s right – Do It Yourself. Dust off that video camera you bought for the family three Christmases ago that’s in the hall closet – and get busy.
Lighting is everything. Yes, you can go out and rent expensive lighting equipment, but don’t. A couple of portable floodlights with high watt bulbs are all you need. There is an easy lighting trick you can use – gels. Gels are colored transparencies that you place over the floodlight to temper the light. Go to the office supply company and buy a pack of colored transparencies. Pink or salmon work well for most inside shots. If one sheet doesn’t help, use several at a time.
Another trick is to direct the lights up and be conscious of shadows. Needless to say, if natural light is too bright, close the shades, blinds, or drapes. Or, shoot in through the window from the outside for a different effect. Pick the best time of day (best light) to video the outside. If the house is well lit at night – that may be the best time.
Every house has a look, a feel, an emotion. It doesn’t matter if it’s a new Mac Mansion or a 970 square foot, 40 year-old track home. Remember the old adage, “Someone’s shack is someone else’s castle.”
Let me create an example of identifying the emotion. Let’s say you have a five bedroom home complete with a huge bonus room, large yard, and playground equipment listed. So what’s the emotion? KIDS. Putting kids in your video can be a whole new set of problems. So how do you demonstrate this emotion? Get a sound bite of kids playing and add it to the video of the yard. Have a sound bite of a football crowd when showing the bonus room. Sound bites are a great way to generate emotion and there are lots of Wav or MP3 files on the Internet for free. Go to: FREE SOUND
Sound of Music
Music is very emotional and there is a lot of free music as well – go to: FREE MUSIC for one. Use music to set the tone or pace of the property. If you can define a purchaser, or category of purchasers, you may wish to use music that they can or will identify with. At e-MotionalVideo, my emotional video demonstration, you will see a new home that the builder built with a targeted purchasing category of 28 to 65 year olds, high-income technology professionals, doctors, or lawyers. In addition, a 1963 Corvette Split Window Coupe was used as a prop, as well as classic blues rock music.
Sound, Music, Props, Lighting, now camera work – pan slowly – take your time, it will show. Take care not to zoom in and out like a cartoon eye in an attempt to focus. Hold the camera low and shoot at a slight upward angle to give volume to the frame. Use reflection whenever possible by shooting countertops, mirrors, and window glass. Don’t forget the drive by and rolling shots. Placing the camera on an office chair gives a dolly effect, as will a child’s wagon.
To end up with approximately 2.5 minutes of good video, you’ll have to shoot 45 minutes to an hour. I’ve learned to use two tapes. One that will contain the actual footage and another that the pros call B-roll, which is a collection of shots that may, or may not, be added to the finished product. Here is a quote from a friend of mine, “Want to make a great video? Shoot lots of footage. Some of it will end up good and maybe a little will be great after editing.” Kyle Nuckolls.
As a PC user since 1986, I was entrenched, like many, in Microsoft. I also have a deep vein of the creativity and a need for atheistic consideration. In September of 2008, I switched to Mac at the urging of my artistic friends. And I’m glad I did, if for no other reason than iMovie. iMovie is very user friendly. I’ve actually become an amateur editor overnight – not really. Like everything else, there is a learning curve.
Others tell me that Microsoft’s Movie Maker is equally as easy to use. Whatever you use, understand that there will be a learning curve and time will be needed. The end result will put you in a new category of real estate expert. Let alone your family will finally be glad to get the videos you’ve taken burned onto CD’s to show on your 60-inch flat screen.
Remember, you don’t want it to be perfect. After all, this is not academy-award grade film. It is YouTube-reality based video. It is not created to sell the property or person (yes you can make a personal video that humanizes you and spawns emotion) but only to instill emotion. Instill emotion to keep the Internet real estate surfer coming back to your site, the HOOK stage.
The COOK (“the LOOK, the HOOK, and the COOK” ™)
Having properly executed the HOOK, the suspect purchaser, now buyer, is comfortable, well-informed, emotional, and ready to take action. This usually starts with an e-mail to you. It may also be by text or telephone. Whichever way they choose, understand that it will be their choice and requires your immediate response.
All the ingredients have been simmering in their Hook Crockpot over time – bubbling with emotion. It’s now your, the agent’s, turn to don the hat of advisor and facilitate the home purchasing process.
It is my belief that we cannot sell someone a house. What we can do is find what they want, need, desire, and can afford to buy and facilitate the process. Our job is not to sell – it is to facilitate the home buying and selling process. Not to use the 30’s flimflam dialog of Robert Preston, “We got trouble, right here in River City…”; Not the hard sell of the 60’s, “You should buy this now because I have another buyer coming at 4:00…”; or, the contrived dialog of the 70’s, “When the great American Statesman Benjamin Franklin had to make a decision, he would draw a line down the center of the paper and put all his reasons for buying on this side, and his reasons for not buying…”; or, the game show dialog of the 80’s, “Wouldn’t you, couldn’t you, shouldn’t you, don’t you agree?” Or, the practiced cadence of the 90’s, “If, for the benefit of everyone, I could show you a way….” All have given way to the ‘do not sell’ patience of the professional advisor.
The New Dawn of the Emotional Evolved Consumer
All purchasing is emotional. As real estate salespeople and once the purveyor of the information, we were with the purchaser during the time of their emotional rise. Now we are not. All of our purchasers today start their property search on the Internet. The Internet is a sea of real estate nets (websites) – all with the expectation of capturing the same fish – the illusive buyer. Standing out is next to impossible, so high-valued is now the goal – high-valued on the list of free content rich, instant information that triggers the emotional brain and activates the buying process. Now we, as real estate agents and brokers, are there, in comfort and rapport, to work in trust with the buyers and facilitate the process. It’s a new dawn of the real estate professional, once salesman now professional advisor with one more tool in our tool box, that of e-Motional Video.