Buying or selling a home is fraught with emotion and the sooner you accept that, the better you will be able to help your clients handle the challenges of the transaction.
The Edge newsletter spoke with three Ontario REALTORS® about how they approach the emotional issues that arise during a home sale or purchase.
Emotions among clients can run the gamut from pride to greed to joy — but the most common emotion is fear, says Paul Maranger, a Toronto REALTOR with 19 years in the business.
“I’ve often seen extreme emotions because a home is such a personal part of someone’s life,” Maranger says. “But fear is what drives most buyers and sellers, in my view. The buyer wonders, ‘Is this the right deal? Do I have good taste?’ Meanwhile, the seller wonders, ‘Am I underselling my home? Will I regret this decision? What does the future hold for me?’”
“Fear is also the emotion that people hide the most,” he adds. “They don’t want to admit that they are afraid because it may be seen as sign of weakness.”
Maranger notes, “It is important that we Realtors realize that we’re not trained psychologists. Our role is to be calm and reassuring and to provide information so our clients can make the best decision for themselves. We can alleviate their fear with calm, professional conduct.”
He says that of course, REALTORS® also have their own emotions, but they must strive to set them aside and aim to be professional in service of the client.
“Our role is to be as calm as possible,” Maranger says. “If we let our emotions take charge, we can lead the client to make the wrong decision, and the client’s best interests must always take precedence.”
Selling a home, especially after many years and many memories, can be an emotional experience for an owner, saysBrian Wilhelm, a Stratford Realtor with 32 years of experience. He recalls working with a retired husband and wife who were selling their home of 37 years to move into a care facility.
“It’s important for us to be empathetic,” he says. “I always try to stay positive, knowing that the clients may be apprehensive about moving because it’s another stage of their lives. Mention, perhaps, that they will no longer have to worry about doing the cooking or that the place where they are going offers lots of activities.”
“Our role is not to be psychologists but to be as calm and reassuring as possible.”
Disappointment is another emotion that Realtors may encounter, especially when competition for properties is a fact of life in many markets. Keep in mind that you may need to prepare buyers for the possibility that their offer is unsuccessful, he advises.
“Sellers in Stratford may not get as many offers on a property as those in Toronto, but multiple offers can happen anywhere and we need to educate buyers in advance about what can happen,” Wilhelm says. “I ask them to consider what they’re willing to pay without giving up their first born – a price they can live with the morning after. Then we submit our best offer and if they don’t get it, maybe it wasn’t meant to be. Our job is to protect the buyer.”
A client’s emotions often run high after they lose out on an offer, adds Maranger. “We must be sympathetic,” he says. “Acknowledge what our clients feel and validate it. In those instances, I try to convey to them that a sense of loss is normal.”
“If their offer is unsuccessful, I suggest we talk again the next day and work out a plan for moving forward,” says Maranger. “That day is not the right time to talk about other options.”
He recalls a transaction a decade ago where a first-time home buyer lost out on a bid in a multiple offer situation. “He called me and was furious,” Maranger recalls. “He was angry at me and said I had talked him out of making a higher offer and that I should have pushed him, although he didn’t have the extra cash for the repairs that might be needed. He really needed to vent.”
“I suggested meeting later to review the transaction. A week later, he bought a house in a better location for his lifestyle and he’s still happy there.”
Sometimes the role of a REALTOR® is to soothe or moderate a client’s extreme emotions, says Shalini Bahadur, a Toronto REALTOR with five years’ experience. “If clients are highly involved emotionally, our job is to rein in those emotions and keep them from buying something they can’t afford.”
She suggests that buyers compare the hunt for a new home to a courtship. “Shopping around is like dating,” she says. “When you make an offer, it’s like getting engaged, but you’re not married until you’ve signed on the dotted line.”
Patience is important for buyers, she advises. Bahadur also talks about fate. “If this is the home for you, you’ll get it,” she has told clients.
Emotions can cloud expectations, Bahadur says, recalling one of her own experiences. “I had a seller who had worked in the construction industry and he had put high-end doors and finishes in his own home,” she says. “He had previously tried to sell the home himself, but it was overpriced because he was very emotional about the work he’d put into it. After I compared the property to the market value of homes nearby, I had to explain that some investments don’t add great value in the eyes of a buyer.
“He agreed to reduce the price and then got multiple offers,” she says. “In the end, he sold over his asking price. I presented the situation from a buyer’s perspective rather than his own, and that helped him to see the bigger picture.”
Advice for REALTORS® to help handle client’s emotions:
- Try to remain calm, positive, rational and professional. Try not to display too much emotion of your own.
- When you meet with clients, just listen. They need to express themselves.
- We live in an impatient world, so it’s better for everyone if we can remain calm.
- Don’t force a situation. Take the time to show that you are understanding and hearing your clients before you move on.
- Relax and stay calm. Be sure you’re helping your clients in the way you would want to be assisted.
- Remember that this experience may be a life changer for them. Hold their hands, figuratively.
- Be sensitive to their emotions. Compassion is the key.
Story by Elaine Smith
Sources: Shalini Bahadur, Paul Maranger, Brian Wilhelm
Editorial Policy: The REALTOR® EDGE newsletter is produced 11 times a year by the Ontario Real Estate Association. The newsletter aims to provide practical and useful news and information about the real estate industry to members of the association. The opinions expressed in the newsletter are not necessarily those of the publisher. The newsletter welcomes submissions from the real estate community, including letters to the editor, opinion pieces, events and news. The newsletter reserves the right to edit, based on space restrictions and/or suitability, and/or to refuse submitted material for inclusion in the newsletter without reason. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without the express written permission of the publisher, OREA, is prohibited. Contents are copyright of the Ontario Real Estate Association.
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Contributors to this issue: Elaine Smith, Merv Burgard, Mary Ann Gratton
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