What Home Buyers Want

You could say that: 1) I am a broker who works with buyers a lot and understanding what they want would really help me, or 2) you might say I am mostly a seller’s agent, so I don’t care what buyers want. But you are wrong bachelor #2, for marketing your seller’s home well means understanding what buyers desire and then providing that to them. This is key to receiving offers in the higher prices ranges of their neighborhood.

So let’s take a look at what buyers said they wanted, and then investigate how we really know what they desired based on their actions in the market.

We’re using NAR’s 2013 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers to try and determine what buyers said they wanted. But we’ll use a little caution here, as how a survey participant answers a question can be skewed a bit depending on their attitude that moment, how well they understood NAR’s jargon, and whether NAR even asked the right question—or if one of the multiple choice answers was really what the buyer wanted to say.  And NAR tries so hard to show themselves in a positive light that their survey borders on not being useful.

Then we’ll use the buyers’ real actions in the marketplace to deduce what they really desired. I like this second method much more as we get to see what they did, what they bought, what they paid, and then try to determine what their motivations were.

What Are the Two Most Important Services Home Buyers Want From Their Agent?

  •   #1 Find the “Right” Home for Them
  •   #2 Negotiate Price and Terms

I doubt either of these responses from the NAR survey surprises you. Finding the right home was cited as the most important task by 53% of the respondents. In a similar question “What Was the Most Difficult Step of the Process…” also 53% said finding the right home. So this is a sore spot with your home buyers.  Negotiating price and terms scored less than half the importance as finding the right home did. So your buyers are screaming for help finding the right home. If you do nothing else well your feedback from your clients should be off the charts by perfecting finding the right home for them.  So how did you do at finding the buyers their perfect home? We’ll have to look at two separate NAR questions to answer that.  The first NAR question asked home buyers about the greatest benefits provided by their real estate agent. What would you hope the #1 answer is? In their response, in order of weighted percentage, the buyers said: 1) helping me to understand the home buying process, 2) pointed out unnoticed features and faults with the property, 3) negotiate better sales contract terms, and 4) negotiated better price.

Whoa, home buyers emphatically stated that their absolute number one desire was for you to find the right home for them. But when asked what the greatest benefits were from working with you that number one desire did not even show up on the list of responses. That means either the home buyers never experienced that benefit from you or NAR forgot to note that most vital desire in their survey. That’s not good. Let’s look at a separate question for help.

NAR asked home buyers where they found the home they actually purchased. That’s a good question while remembering that home buyers’ number one desire was help in finding the right home. Forty- three (43%) percent found the home they actually purchased on the internet, all by themselves. Thirty- three (33%) said their broker helped them find it. So a good question, but a less than stellar answer if it was your goal to meet your buyer’s number one desire; you did it only 1/3 of the time.

In marketing analysis it can be helpful to graphically represent the two most vital desires of a market while plotting how the market perceives how well we are meeting these desires. This is called a perceptual map and is offered below.


The buyers’ desire of your finding the right home for them is the vertical axis. The purple circle is where you scored (34%). The light blue circle on the horizontal axis is how you scored as far as negotiating terms and prices for the buyers—very close to the “high” mark. The red circle is where you score on the combined top two market desires. Your goal is the red box. You are in the wrong quadrant.

But you say “that’s not me; I’m better”. Maybe, maybe not, but this is not about you; this is about how your market perceives you. The market’s perception (AND ACTIONS) state that they are better at finding homes than you are, as they did it themselves on the internet 43% of the time.

This really falls quite well in line on related statistics in the NAR survey: 43% of buyers found the home themselves, yet brokers were involved in 88% of sales—and you scored well at negotiating terms and price. Thus, buyers find their own homes but call you in to work the deal (negotiate terms and price). You may think that’s okay with you; you are still getting paid. This is true for the moment. But once home sellers figure out all they need to do is get a home on the internet and let the buyers find it, they won’t be hiring you to “list” it. They may be willing to pay you 1% or something to “work the deal”.


You’ve Got to Ask Yourself a Question…

Buyers’ number one desire is help in finding their perfect home. You can create some little preset searches and algorithms in the MLS to search homes for your clients; maybe some of the search portals allow the same. Then you can automate feeds from these to your clients. You can also run manual searches every couple of hours—playing on the fringes of your client’s desires to find them options, and sending them personal little notes via email all day long. This is if you want to control your clients AND your clients want controlled, seriously. Some share of the market wants every step completely done for them and they will appreciate this.

Then there’s a pretty strong portion of the market that wants good internet tools and the ability to do as much as they can themselves; they feel empowered this way. Don’t try to control these guys; it will turn out poorly. You’ll need to create tools at your website allowing them to do all the processes in the prior paragraph. You can choose to serve either set of clients, each with benefits and pitfalls. But you really should choose and set up and work a system based on your market’s desires. This is called market segmentation and it’s a good thing, as it allows your market to receive what they desire and it allows you to specialize and carve a really nice little niche for your business.

Since nearly 100% of home buyers are using the internet to find homes, you will want to design your website based on which market you desire to work with. It will be a lot better than the generic IDX template fed things nearly 100% of agents have.  And as you set up your site to best meet the needs of your market niche, consider also what the NAR survey shows buyers most want to see there.

Buyers’ foremost desires are pictures and detailed information. If you give them everything—all the pictures, videos, maps, and every detail you know about the homes, won’t they just dig through and leave unless they see something they can’t live without? Probably, and that’s okay. If your site is designed to best meet the needs of one of the two groups listed above, and you meet their needs better than your competition, they’ll be back. Don’t fight your market. Give them everything they desire and they will come back. Just make sure you know their desires and you meet them better than your competition does.

Both of these market segments want you to find the perfect home for them. They just have completely different ideas on how they want you to do that for them. Run with that.


Per the NAR 2013 survey 83% of buyers want photos (#1 desire), and 79% want detailed information (#2 desire). Wouldn’t it seem everybody would want pictures? Anyway, I see you staring at the purple and red circles thinking “hey, my website has all the pictures auto-fed from IDX for every house. What’s with that mediocre score?” I hear you; you’ve got pictures. Pictures of what? “Houses!” Okay, remember, perceptual maps are about how the market perceives your meeting their two most important desires. So let’s talk.

What is your buyer’s desire—to see pictures? No. Why does someone choose one house over all the others they have seen? Buyers choose the home which triggers envisioned future life events, which in turn immediately gives them very positive emotional benefits. They buy a home based on the emotional benefits of life events which have yet to happen.

You currently offer your market pictures of rooms and plastic uninspired descriptions, so the circles stay where they are. When instead your pictures (tours, videos) and descriptions capture those emotional triggers for the buyer the market will give you a higher score.


Demon of Marketing

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