Don’t Think About Elephants

Inception Top SpinningI like the movie Inception. Success rests in the ability of an architect – whether it’s making the target believe the world is real, or keeping projections running around in a maze. Near the beginning, there is a scene when Arthur and Cobb meet with Saito in his helicopter on a rooftop.

Arthur: Okay, this is me, planting an idea in your mind. I say: don’t think about elephants. What are you thinking about?

Saito: Elephants?

Psychology has a huge impact on business of real estate for buyers and sellers, whether residential or commercial. Key points are missed, advice may sometimes not be heeded and even recommendations become overlooked – maybe not intentional in all cases. I can recommend a home buyer on not being overly enthusiastic if they view a home that they love. Inevitably, the opposite will occur.

Psychology can hinder or empower you during a real estate transaction, creating a perspective or bias beneficial to your situation. Some of the commons ones are widely known; “My home is perfect, nothing needs to be done!”, “There is a better, less expensive property down the street,” etc.

In transactions, there can be more things that are discouraged rather than encouraged. I can recommend a seller to not leave dirty dishes out, not to leave dirty laundry strewn about, not to discuss their urgency to sell, or even not to leave pets roaming free during showings. Conversely, I can also recommend a buyer to not jump for joy, doing cartwheels when they see a home they love, not to discuss their purchasing potential, and not to discuss their urgency to purchase immediate.

All of these seem straightforward, with logical reasoning for each one. But each of these recommendations can also threaten the individual with their personal freedom. It may impede on how someone enjoys living in their home, how they express themselves, or they communicate with others.

Don’t think about elephants. What are you thinking about?

When behavior is discouraged, it’s easy for one to either become curious, like a child touching the hot stove you told them not to touch, rebel or even disheartened. So how is the business of real estate related to psychological conflict? It already is, positively and negatively.

Rooms are staged to have a desired effect. Comparable market analysis reports are show to argue for a desirable price. An offer of a cash purchase to make the transaction seem smoother. Even reverse psychology is employed. These psychological devices can create powerful perceptions. How can we use these devices? What might be going too far?

At the very least, understanding what perceptions you are prone to can help you realize when it is being used against you. No one wants to walk away from a transaction feeling like they were bamboozled. This applies to myself and other professionals related to the transaction. To quote Inception one last time, “I think positive emotion trumps negative emotion every time.”

Sherwin L. Sucaldito, REALTOR®, GREEN, ABR, CRPM
The Institute of Luxury Home Marketing
Green REsource Council, GREEN
Accredited Buyer’s Representative , ABR
Certified Residential Property Manager, CRPM
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