The Psychology of Buying Homes

Why do consumers buy one product over another? Why do all the rational pros and cons in a purchase drive us towards a specific brand but, at the end, we choose a different one?
 
I still remember how I was deeply attracted to these aspects of the topics of the “Psychology of Marketing” exam I prepared many years ago, when I studied Occupational and Organisational Psychology at Padua University in Italy. 
 

 

My Psychology career has later driven me into different sides of the human behaviour, but my interest and curiosity about the psychological process behind consumer behaviour have always been a focus. And I am actually fascinated by how, over the years, emotional contents have reached higher than rational ones in marketing products or services: “Advertising is geared towards both thinking and feeling. However, feeling seems to rank higher.”

Based on advertising campaign performance, 31% of ads with emotional pull succeeded versus the 16% success of ads that focused on rational content. Emotional response to an advertisement, rather than the ad’s actual content, produces great influence on the intent of a consumer to buy a product.”  (D. and D. Dornsife, University of Southern California, 2018)
 


 

In recent research (January 2020), carried out by School of Psychology of University of Plymouth, UK together with the Center for Mind/Brain Sciences (CIMeC) and the Department of Psychology and Cognitive Science of University of Trento, Italy, researchers provided mechanistic explanations for diverse biases that can drive decision makers away from their own preferences or from rational choices. 

It is now clear that affective factors can exert robust effects on an individual’s decisions. Because these factors can be manipulated externally, academic research and theories are of great interest to the marketing industry.
 


 

Harvard professor Gerald Zaltman says that actually 95% of Purchasing Decisions Are Subconscious: “Emotion is what really drives the purchasing behaviours, and also, decision making in general”.

Well, in recent years, examples of emotion-based campaigns are everywhere, we can find them across all fields, whether it is a primary good, a technology product or a service, whether it is expensive or cheap. Just think about Nike’s "Just Do It" campaigns that often feature elite athletes that have suffered hardship or made sacrifices to get to the top. 
 

 

Apple may be the perfect example of a company that utilises emotions to create a connection with consumers and brand loyalty over time: their strategy uses simplicity, a clean design and most importantly, a desire to become part of a lifestyle movement. Airbnb’s campaigns are another example of wise use of storytelling to create an emotional connection with potential customers.

Car companies, have always toiled to establish their individual brand images and build up their personalities in the minds of consumers evoking, in their campaigns, emotions and desires of their targeted consumers.
 



Cars marketers’ effort in discovering how to elicit these emotions and meet these desires from a psychological perspective is clearly worth it, not surprisingly in the industry that represents one of the main expenses for the vast majority of us.

But actually, a car is not the main asset in a person’s life, is it? As property market players, we know it is not. So, after examining the importance, nowadays confirmed and utilised in every industry, after decades of academic, scientific and practical studies, of emotional connection with potential buyers in their purchasing decision, how do we rate the property marketing? Are selling houses, on the market in the UK for 250K, 400K or even over million pounds, properly presented and marketed in order to evoke emotion and instil the desire in a person looking for a new HOME?

I would say, definitely, no. If you’re asking what is meant by emotional advertising in property market, just think about a house prepared, presented and photographed at its best: furnished, decluttered and able to evoke a desirable lifestyle, the right one for its own target buyer.
 

Staging property to evoke emotional response to buy by Michela Caravati, EmotiHOME
 

With the exception of developers who invest in Show Homes, however even those are but a small part of the market, when we visit Rightmove or Zoopla we see, even today, too many badly made beds, exercise bikes in the middle of the living rooms, dog’s bowls in the kitchens and personal toiletries in foreground. Even occasionally washing up still left in the sink.

And all of this is not appropriate for a market that in 2020, year of the pandemic, generated over 68.1 billion British pounds in turnover. Now, you might be thinking that houses are selling anyway, ant it is true, but why not sell them faster and for more? Increasing at the same time the Real Estate Agencies credibility and differentiating them from competitors? Because, that exactly is where marketing property should go, should not it? If that is, it followed the psychology of marketing for other products.
 

The Home Staging Report UK & Ireland 2021


Why is such an important industry still largely overlooking the importance of emotional connection of their customers with a product (houses) that is, by definition, so deeply connected with emotions? Our home is where we live with our loved ones or where we nurture our passions, where we celebrate important events with family and friends, a place where we find shelter and peace after a hard work day.

Why supermarkets have understood, and for years, the importance of “first impression” and that is why in a supermarket you find the toilet tissue in one of the latest aisles, while fresh fruit and flowers are near the front? Why supermarkets do that but, in many houses, we bump, right at the entrance, into the owners’ shoes (and their smell)?


 

Staging to Sell by Michela Caravati, EmotiHOME

 

Research says (at this point you will have realised how I love research-based facts!) that only 10% of buyers are actually able to visualise the house’s potential, when it is empty. So, what about the remaining 90% who are looking for a new home? Of course, if they need a new place to move in, they will make an offer, but most likely, it will be lower than asking price, they will take more time before taking the decision and they will probably face one of the most important purchase in their life without being completely happy with that.

For personal and professional reasons, I have been, on many occasions, looking for a new house and I still remember the big effort in going over the occupiers’ clutter and their own personal items to see myself in there, or even to imagine how to put my furniture in an empty house. So, when I first heard about Home Staging, as psychologist and property market passionate as well as user, I completely felt in love with this powerful marketing tool which was yet to be completely understood in European countries.
 

Empty or Styled? Staging by Michela Caravati, EmotiHOME

 

In recent years, since starting my Home Staging business, I supported Richard, an estate agent in Shrewsbury, in marketing a lovely but “difficult to sell” empty apartment which stayed on the market over a year before staging and then found a new owner in a couple of months after my professional preparation.

I helped Danny and his family in “transforming” their cluttered cottage in Telford into an attractive and marketable property that sold very quickly. 

I also worked with Fiona, that after losing her mum, was struggling with her beloved home and needed someone to support her in decluttering and reorganising the space of a stunning bungalow that sold over asking price in less than 2 weeks. 
 

The importance of First Impression. Staging by Michela Caravati, EmotiHOME

 

One of my favourite parts in my job is just being able to facilitate my customers in starting the new chapter of their life, whatever it is, and, even if I never meet the new buyers, I love the idea that my job helps them to fall in love with their new home. Because, as I learned from Francesca Greco, Director of Home Philosophy Academy in Milan (Italy) where I started my training, “Home Staging cares about people, Houses are just a pretext to do it” (cit Barb Schwarz, the creator of Home Staging)

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