What Do Buyers Really Want?
While all buyers have a unique way of determining which house is right, they all want a house that will feel like “home.” Even if it is not perfect in other ways, that sense of home makes it easier for buyers to justify the purchase. Buyers are trying to fulfill many different needs with a home purchase. Your clients' needs will vary, and the same need may not be fulfilled in the same way for each client. They can't always put these needs into words, but the underlying requirements are there.
Buyers may insist on granite countertops, without truly realizing it is the prestige they are after. Buyers who say they want “a view” may really be looking for privacy. The underlying need for privacy or prestige might be met by a property without a view or granite countertops, but your client won't know that unless he sees it and feels good about the property.
Granite countertops and a view are specific, stated benefits some buyers look for to satisfy their needs. Determining the needs that underlie those requirements will help you point out the benefits of a home that lacks granite or a view, but may actually satisfy the need. The needs the average buyer wants his new home to fulfill can be summed up in this list:
Value: a quality home for a good price
Prestige: prestigious surroundings; a house to impress others
Convenience: easy access to work, school, stores, etc.
Security: a secure house in a safe neighborhood
Comfort: a comfortable, “warm” home
Aesthetics: an attractive home
Privacy: a private location; privacy-conscious architecture and landscaping
Entertainment: easy access to entertainment; the ability to entertain at home
Health: climate and facilities to promote health and well-being
Recreation: easy access to recreational facilities
Education: an exceptional school district or other educational facilities
This list is based on a list of basic human needs created by psychologist Abraham Maslow, who practiced during the era of Sigmund Freud and B. F. Skinner. His “Hierarchy of Needs” is represented by a pyramid, which shows the progression of human needs. The base of the pyramid represents the most basic needs (food, shelter, and warmth), and as you progress upward to the top of the pyramid, you see the more advanced requirements, such as the need to belong and gain recognition. The previous list is expanded for its relationship to real estate. It addresses the higher human needs, nearer the top of Maslow's pyramid, and assumes the more basic needs have been met.
The key to making a home desirable to buyers is to point out features that satisfy the basic needs that are important to that specific buyer. It is important to tailor your highlighted features to match that particular buyer's needs, as some features represent different benefits to different buyers and satisfy different needs.
When you show property, take note of the features the buyer chooses to comment on. Begin to discern the benefits and needs to which they are tied. If they don't volunteer the information, ask them about the homes they have seen. What did they like or dislike about them? What specific features made one home better or not as good as others? Careful listening will help you determine the benefits your buyer seeks to satisfy her needs.
Most buyers will have two or three primary needs that must be satisfied in order to purchase a home and, inevitably, some needs that are more important than others.
If you show a buyer a lot of properties and he makes no offers, consider that you may be missing one of his basic needs. As value is one of the basic needs, be sure you are shopping in the right price range. Pay attention to your client — you may see a trend. Close proximity to schools and shopping may satisfy the “convenience” need. A home with formal furnishings may put off a buyer who is looking for comfort. If you realize that comfort is a hot button for your buyers, you can remind them that the furniture does not stay and the house has a cozy feel were it not for the formal décor.
Here is an example of a buyer whose hidden need was expressed as a requirement: A woman insisted on many safety features, including an alarm system and no sharp edges on counters or hearths. She said she wanted her three small children to be safe at home. Her agent understood her need for safety, and he showed her several one-story houses, assuming they were safer than houses with stairs. She did not like any of them. After the third one-story house, the agent asked her why a one-story house would not work for her. The woman explained that she was worried someone would climb in a bedroom window and take one of her children. So, a two-story house, with the bedrooms upstairs, was a safety feature the woman really wanted.
As a real estate agent, you can discern many clues to what your client sees as the perfect home. No one wants to criticize someone else's home, but if your clients offer vague comments, such as “It's not my style,” be sure to interview further. See if you can get more information by asking about their style. Remember to ask open-ended questions. Each little bit of information will help complete the puzzle.
Pay attention to the needs that are most important to your buyer and try to select properties that fulfill them. You may not find a property that satisfies your buyer's every need, but you will find many that come close, which may lead to an offer.