Blink and you’ve bought a house

by Alistair Helm in

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Not quite that literally; but the fact is you may have bought the house you live in or another house previously with a decision made in the blink of an eye!

During a recent vacation I reveled in reading the bestseller Blink by Malcolm Gladwell and was fascinated by the examples and facts around our human abilities developed over time to make highly effective decisions with very little time or available information.

It reminded me of the many times that over the years people recount that the moment they stepped into a house at a viewing or open home – they knew this was the home that they wanted.

In a world so rich with information it seems almost at odds with logic to be making such a massive and financially significant decision based on an emotional gut-feel. People do and people will continue to do this.

Whilst I have no factual data I am sure that on reflection people collectively spend more time evaluating holiday options or the next large screen TV than they would do in finding the next house – why is this the case?

For one thing, the market for property is not a "perfect market" - that is to simply say not all the property is available to buy at any one time. When I search for a TV, I can be sure in using the web that I can see all of what is available and know that I can buy what I want. With houses, the very house I really want may well not even be on the market so you have to accept a limited pool of available property and then there is never the case that there is “4 of number 45 North Street in stock today” – there is only ever one house – once sold it is gone.

Property is also one of the most infrequent purchases, some people buy just one or two houses in their lifetime – others (the more typical buyers) may buy 5 in a lifetime. This infrequency has two consequential impacts. Firstly infrequent activity tends to lead to not being able to develop and refine skills, and then secondly such infrequency leads to a suppression of the traditional buyers remorse. We psychologically don’t really want to dwell on the purchase decision; as to change your mind once you have made your decision and committed to buy a property it is very difficult to back out or switch houses after a couple of weeks, unlike the buyer remorse with clothes, equipment or even a car!

To add to this analysis of buyer behaviour I came across a great piece of analysis from Redfin in the US. They are a smart tech-focused real estate company who often undertake analysis of their extensive database. This recent analysis titled “In home search, Men are from Mars and Women from Venus… Sometimes” found that men are more likely (71%) to be more analytical about home purchase than women (58%). Further insight showed that men view around 11% more listings in detail and have 8% more saved searches and view 38% more information about inspections, lenders and lawyers. So this would support the hypothesis that men are more objective and analytical about the home purchase, yet as we know women tend to be more influential in property purchase decisions.

I think in summary to quote a piece from the book Blink “We live in a world saturated with information. We have virtually unlimited amounts of data at our fingertips at all times, and we’re well versed in the arguments about the dangers of not knowing enough and not doing our homework. But what I have sensed is an enormous frustration with the unexpected costs of knowing too much, of being inundated with information. We have come to confuse information with understanding.

There is a wealth of information about real estate and property, however that is never the deciding factor - it is a key part of the decision making process, when it comes to the final decision all of us when buying a home tend to let our heart rule or head.