As we enter the summer home buying season, millions of American families will return to the real estate market in search of their next new home. Many will know exactly what they want to buy and will seek it out and make an offer. Others won’t be sure until they see it, but when they do they’ll take quick action to secure the property. And then there are those who just have trouble making such a big decision.
As business people, we have been trained to make difficult decisions that often involve a great deal of money. Consumers, not so much. Some people just have a hard time pulling the trigger when they’re talking about going into debt to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. And yet, they know they need to buy a new home for their growing families and we know it, too. So, how can we help them?
To help consumers do a better job of making decisions, we can use the same tools business people use to do it. Here are three examples you can put into practice at once.
1. Help the consumer create the habit of deciding. We may not realize it, but the skills we bring to work each day were developed through training and repetition. In short, we made them habits. While you may only be working closely with your client for a couple of months on this first transaction, you can do a lot to help them begin to create the habit of making decisions. The more they do it, the easier it will be for them to do so.
As you build the relationship with your client, you’ll be gathering a great deal of information. Instead of just asking closed-ended questions, offer up options with each query. Instead of asking what size yard they would like to have, ask if they want a large one or a smaller one. Then ask why. Each time, tell them you understand why they’ve come to that decision, underscoring the fact that they have actually decided something.
There are so many opportunities to do this with your client that by the time they are ready to put in an offer, they’ll be used to making decisions and it will come easier for them. It will be even easier when they buy their next home with your help.
2. Help them use if/then thinking. Often, we put off smaller decisions because we don’t have good alternative choices or we don’t take the time to think about them. For instance, we may find that often when we take a certain road to work we get caught in traffic. We may grumble about it, but since no other alternative to waiting for traffic to clear presents itself (we can’t drive on the sidewalk), we don’t do anything about it. If/then thinking allows us to make a rule and then take a predetermined action if the rule is broken.
For instance, we can say, “the next time I get caught in traffic I’ll surf to Google Maps and find an alternative route.” We can use the same tactic to help consumers make difficult decisions. We can create the list of required features in a home and make the rule that the next time a home meets 80% or more of our criteria we’ll take the next step.
3. Helping them understand uncertainty. The previous tip may make some consumers nervous because it means they may miss out on their dream home. Buying real estate, like every other decision we’ll ever make in life, is uncertain. The home that we think is perfect needs work after the purchase and sometimes the home we think we “settled” for turns out to be our dream.
One way business leaders make uncertain decisions, where there is no clear right or wrong decision, is to set a time limit. This is easier to do in today’s real estate market where competing bids will set that clock for us. Helping your customers understand that it’s okay to be less than 100% certain but they must decide within a certain time frame will help them make the decision — even if it’s a little scary — that can put them into their next home.