Understanding Motivation

Most human behavior is goal-oriented. But in addition to their stated goals — buying or selling a house — customers are motivated by a range of physical and psychological needs. Salespeople who understand these needs can help their clients through the decision-making process before the negotiation gets underway.

In the 1940s, psychologist Abraham Maslow used a pyramid to illustrate a hierarchy of human needs. Basic physiological needs such as food, shelter, and security were at the bottom. On the top of the pyramid was self-actualization, which Maslow defined as the ability to reach your potential. According to Maslow, motivation moves up the pyramid; you must satisfy the more basic needs near the bottom of the pyramid before you can work to satisfy the needs at the top.

Maslow's theories about motivation can be useful in understanding the needs of a potential client. Pinpointing the major motivating factors of a client may help you better understand what he or she wants in a home.

Customers motivated by the need for shelter might include:

  • People who have experienced poverty or had significant fluctuations in their finances.
  • Buyers seeking homes with sound structure and basic facilities.
  • Buyers seeking homes at the lowest possible costs.
  • Those who want to live in close proximity or a convenient location to their employment.

Customers motivated by the need for security might include:

  • Sellers who are reluctant to leave a home where they have spent many years.
  • Buyers looking for adequate privacy for their family.
  • Buyers looking for homes that provide freedom from environmental hazards and market uncertainty.
  • Those who want the ability to exercise control over their environment.
  • Older owners who have lived in their home for long periods.

Customers motivated by the need for affiliation might include:

  • Buyers who want to live in an area near family and friends.
  • Sellers who want to move to an area near schools and activities for their children.
  • Buyers with strong ties to schools or other community-based organizations.
  • Buyers who want to find a home with socially compatible neighbors.

Customers motivated by the need for esteem might include:

  • Move-up buyers who want a larger home as a representation of their success.
  • Buyers looking for an attractive house with nice landscaping.
  • Buyers seeking a prestige address to grant pride of ownership in an appreciating asset.
  • Buyers who find pride in owning their own asset.

Customers motivated by needs for self-actualization might include:

  • Vacation or second-home buyers.
  • Retirees, who no longer need to live near their workplaces.
  • Luxury homebuyers.
  • Buyers seeking recreational factilities in/near a home
  • Buyers looking for a home close to cultural/recreational sites
  • Buyers who want a home that is an expression of their specific values.
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