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3 ways to peek behind the real estate buyer pokerface

Tips & Updates

Buying a house is like a game of poker – it’s all about planning which cards to play, strategically holding your offer, mastering the pokerface and knowing when to fold. But the stakes are much, much higher.

Real estate buyers will go to great lengths to conceal their emotional attachment, their keenness to buy and above all – their budget. They know your job is to secure the best price for the seller. They know you’re not their best mate. So it’s really no wonder so many buyers consider a solid poker face the most important weapon in their armoury.

We’ve put together 3 steps to read your buyer’s poker face – backed by cold, hard proof.

1. Watch how they interact with the space

There’s a lot of information out there about how to tell when a prospective buyer is interested. Unfortunately, much of it isn’t exactly groundbreaking.

For example, someone with a lot more experience than me offers this handy tip: “If they linger for a long time in any one room, that’s telling you that there is something about this room that’s especially interesting to them.”

… Let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?

Someone seriously considering making an offer on a house looks about the place differently to someone who’s just browsing – opening up cabinets, looking in closets and meticulously inspecting every room. It’s a sweeping generalisation, but it’s one that generally holds true: genuine buyers pay much more attention to detail. A home is a significant investment, after all.

Serious real estate buyers will try to visualise themselves in the space, usually moving from room to room very slowly. And if you notice a potential buyer’s eyes darting around as they stand still, they might just be imagining how they’d place their furniture. This shows they’re emotionally attached – cha-ching! Emotion is the biggest price driver. They’ve just given up their trump card.

But it’s not just what they do in the house that signifies interest. It’s where they go. Serious house-hunters are likely to gravitate towards the kitchen – the hub and heart of any home. Unless they’re planning a full-blown renno, prospective buyers will be looking to see whether the kitchen is equipped to accommodate their needs.

2. Pay attention to their body language

Between 60% and 90% of communication is non-verbal – so sensitivity to the body language of prospective buyers is a necessary skill. It’s true what your Mum says: actions do speak louder than words.

Some signals are easy to interpret. When you’re talking with them, do they make tiny nods? That’s a positive sign. Are they making open-hand gestures? They’re talking openly with you.

But humans are complicated creatures, and it would be a mistake to rely on one small gesture alone. Instead, look at sequences and patterns of behaviour.

  • A real estate buyer will usually try to be polite – even if they’re not interested. But if you notice a buyer shake their head as they make positive comments, chances are they’re not being genuine.
  • If a prospective buyer won’t meet your eyes, they’re probably not keen to find out more about the property.
  • If a person furrows their brow or purses their mouth as they move through the property, it’s unlikely they’ll be back for a second look.
  • Pupil construction and squinting are signs the buyer is uncomfortable.

Make sure to keep an eye on the left side of their face – it’s more emotionally expressive and gives away negative thoughts more often than the right side.

3. Be a bit of a stickybeak

But it’s not just what they say to you that matters. It’s what they say to each other.

When prospective a real estate buyer brings along their partner, parents or children – alarm bells should be going off in your head. Chances are, they’re serious about this property. If their family approves, they’re putting in an offer.

If a couple is house-hunting together, they’re probably well past the puppy love stage. But visiting a property that ticks all the boxes tends to bring those emotions back. When a couple is serious about a property, they tend to get more lovey-dovey – holding hands, standing close together, hugging… standard PDA.

It’s also worthwhile keeping an eye (or ear) out for signs of buyer attachment. When a buyer mentally takes possession and starts personalising the home, it’s likely they’re going to put in an offer. Luckily, buyer attachment is pretty easy to spot.

Real estate buyers with serious interest in a property will often make possessive comments without realising it. Debating whether their couch will fit in the living room or which piece of art would look best in the dining room pretty obvious signs you’re onto a winner. As is lounging on chairs, encouraging the kids to pick a room, discussing how family gatherings would work in the space and talking about painting colours.

The best way to judge real estate buyers is by how they behave, not by what they tell you. Remember these three steps and you’ll never be fooled by a buyer’s poker face again.

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