Play to buyer’s emotion to make the sale

Here’s the most important thing you will ever know about buying and selling real estate:

People buy real estate emotionally, then justify it logically.

Stop and think about that. Let it sink in. The implications are remarkable.

As a new agent at Barton & Ludwig in Atlanta in 1978, I attended an open house for agents put on by the sales department of a new condo complex. The open house was also a free lunch for agents, and their idea was that if they fed us, we would probably sell a condo. (There is some truth to that line of reasoning).

My fellow agents and I arrived at 11:45am, after we finished our weekly “rah-rah” sales meeting, expecting to walk among uncompleted apartments, over piles of plywood, and having to avoid large holes in the ground filled with dirty water.

Instead, we were greeted by young ladies in evening gowns and high heels. The model unit was not only complete, it was decorated both heavily and lavishly, and reminded me of the interior of a sultan’s travelling tent (whatever that means).

I vowed then and there to be their number one co-op agent! During the condo tour, we were led to the master bedroom, where a silver tray with two crystal flutes of champagne and a single red rose was on the turned-down bed. I almost bought ten units for myself on the spot!

After the tour, it dawned on me that I could not recall the floor plan, the name of the project, the price — but none of that mattered. I simply knew, in my heart, that I wanted to live there forever.

It was the most effective appeal to emotion I have ever experienced. The condo marketing team had studied their target market (me), and knew what would make my heart race (them), and orchestrated an encounter (lunch open house) designed to ensnare me. It worked.

All of which brings us to today, some thirty-eight years later.

If you have a house you want to sell today, you can make your job a lot easier by appealing to the emotions of your prospective buyers. And the easiest way to do just that (without donning formal attire) is to utilize light and color.

Over and over, buyers say they want a house that they find bright and cheerful. But what, exactly, does that mean?

Here are some (bright) ideas:

— Before your home goes on the market, hire a window cleaning company to clean every window in your house, both inside and out. My grandmother did this every spring, but no one since has accomplished such a feat on a regular basis, so call in a pro. You will be amazed at the increased ability of light to penetrate the glass. It will make your home appear, well, bright and cheerful.

— Replace every light bulb in your home with a new bulb of maximum safe wattage. Your goal is to force visitors to put on the sunglasses when they stroll through your home.

— Consider replacing your kitchen light fixture with a 2 bulb (or better yet, a 4 bulb) fluorescent fixture to really eliminate shadows and dark corners.

— Paint walls with light, happy colors which will reinforce the “cheerful” side of your illusion. Light sky blues, beiges and soft yellows are always safe, but steer clear of avant garde selections like fire engine red or black. Leave those for the designers.

— Finally, if your house has a basement, or even a crawl space, you should light it like the surface of the sun.

The buyer naturally suspects those spaces are overflowing with creepy crawly things. This suspicion is verified when they can’t seen anything for the darkness.

But if you’ll pay a handyman to wire up your basement and/or crawlspace, and install lots of flourescent shop lights (see big box store), even your crawl space can be bright and cheerful!

These moves don’t guarantee a sale or correct all problems, but anything you do to make your house more “bright and cheerful” will have a positive impact when the eventual buyer comes around.

Native Atlantan John Adams is a real estate broker, investor, and author. He answers real estate questions every Sunday at 3 pm on WGKA-am(920). He welcomes your comments at, where you will find an expanded version of this column.

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