By Lance McCarthy
What if I told you I would give you $10,000 if you changed your mind about something wrong you believed? The trick is, you don’t think it is wrong.
I’m reading a great book right now by Daniel Kahneman called Thinking Fast and Slow. The book talks about how the brain is exceptionally good at quite a few things–it can make lightning fast decisions with incredible accuracy and sort through millions of points of data with dizzying efficiency. And yet, sometimes it gets it wrong. And when it does, it tends to protect its wrong decision instead of correcting it.
This happens a lot when people sell their homes. It is probably one of their largest lifetime investments, and there is incredible potential to realize financial gains. And yet, because it isn’t an asset (it is their home) it is easy to overlook strategies that may greatly impact how much their home will ultimately sell for.
Last week we explored some of the myths surrounding how to sell a house quickly for the most profit. This week I wanted to focus on one concept in particular–one secret that will help you sell your house. It is a concept that I call “unconscious exaggeration”, and it happens to everyone. Since it is impossible to know everything about everything, we are constantly making judgments and decisions that are based on limited facts. Does the babysitter have a nose ring? They’re clearly not the right fit. Is your glass dirty at a restaurant? The whole place must be gross. When we notice a small issue, our brains tend to unconsciously exaggerate that to represent the whole issue. Some psychologist call this the “moment of truth”.
Potential buyers do this a lot when it comes to house shopping. Most people know very little about what makes a house a good buy. Most people don’t know what makes a good foundation, or a great location, or an upwardly mobile neighborhood. They must rely on two things: other people (who may or may not be reliable), and their own intuition (which may or may not be reliable). The risk is that they take these shaky facts and accept them as truth.
This reality works against you when you are buying, but is something that you should be using to your advantage when you are selling. There is a stairstep of elements people notice in a home they consider buying. Each one is more important than the last. And here’s the kicker: when a buyer notices one of the elements, they exaggerate it into being a worse element.
These are the elements: Fixed, Clean, Clear, Neutral and Memorable.
- Fixed: things are in good working order.
- Clean: Things are clean.
- Clear: There is enough space and things are in order.
- Neutral: Nothing is too offputting or “out there”.
- And the bonus one–Memorable: Something in the house will stick in their heads later
And this is how they work:
Someone notices something not neutral (like monkey wallpaper, or a pinball machine in the living room) and they feel like the space is too cluttered. They notice a countertop cluttered with stuff or a room with too much furniture and they assume the space is somehow dirty. They notice dirt on the bathroom tile, and assume there are things that need fixing. And finally, they notice a cracked switch plate, or a sticky front door and feel like it means the house is falling down.
I’m exaggerating a bit, but this is what the brain does when it doesn’t have a reliable store of knowledge about a topic. How does this help? You can use this stairstep to prioritize. Make sure you are focusing on preparing your house for sale by evaluating it the way a buyer would. Is it fixed? clean? clear? neutral? and of course make something memorable.
Then I won’t have to give you $10,000. I’ll make it on your home sale!
Have questions, just let me know. I’ll be happy to talk about it.