Are Buyers Really Liars -- Or is it Just a Rhyme?


When I was a young real estate agent in St. Louis in the 1970's, my manager John coached us on how to handle buyers.  Buyers are liars, he warned.  How much of this he believed and how much was contrived to form a rhyme, I will never know.  But even back during those salad days of seller markets, John knew the value of a buyer and the importance of holding onto that buyer.  And when the buyer was from out of town?  Well, that was gold worth guarding.  "When you get an out-of-town buyer," John would shout, "you sleep with them until they buy!"  Now, what I think he meant was that we should keep very close tabs on them, although I happened to have known some agents who I think took him literally.

So, if they're lying, what are they lying about?  And why?  Are we to be like the old shoe salesmen who brought out three pair of shoes that matched the customers' request and one pair that did not, just in case they really didn't know what they wanted?  I took a training class years ago from Steve Brown, who taught that we need to determine a buyer's dominant buying motive, or DBM.  When I first heard that, I instantly understood why, in my first year of selling real estate, I was not able to find the right home for George and his wife:

George was a very successful insurance salesman.  The message from the partially-smoked cigar cupped in his right hand at all times could have told me a lot, had I been listening.  He was going to spend $150,000, and that was big bucks in 1973 -- especially to a new agent.  A friend of his lived in one of the old-money neighborhoods of St. Louis near Washington University, and George wanted a house like his.  Until one came available, I showed his wife what felt like hundreds of homes that were close, but not quite, the look of the Clayton neighborhoods of Brentmoor and Carrswold.  Finally, the day arrived that a new listing came on the market in Brentmoor for $150,000.  The first two floors were updated and air conditioned, and I could almost taste my commission.  I even took my husband along for the showing, to give him the rare opportunity to be inside one of these hallowed homes.

George was quiet as I walked him and his wife through the stately rooms with the very high, ornate ceilings.  He seemed uncomfortable with the push-button wall switches and wanted to know where the wet bar was.  What's going on? I asked myself in disbelief.  I finally found him what he's looking for and there's no gratitude?  No wanting to run to the office and write up an offer?  The answer was very clear to me:  George was a fraud.  He probably didn't have the money.  Or, did he?  I didn't wait to find out.  Feeling like a fool who had wasted months of her time, I promptly dropped George and his wife and moved on.  It wasn't too many months later that I heard they had purchased a 12-year-old home in an upscale but newer neighborhood for $125,000 -- a home with traditional wall switches and a wet bar.

I finally understood John's warning and the great lesson George had taught me.  It gets reinforced daily in my real estate practice.  Just the other day, while on a listing appointment for a 2-story home in Marysville, I was explaining the price I was recommending.  I pointed out that the home abuts a busy road and that affects its market value.  "I know," said the homeowner.  "When I was looking for this home, I was determined to avoid busy roads and stairs, but when I walked in, I just fell in love."

Leave a Reply.