Smells Like Real Estate

There’s been an explosion regarding all things “neuro” in the last decade. Neuro-economics. Neuro-psychology. Neuro-marketing.
Neuroscience is a many-headed hydra that keeps spawning new and interesting things to study inside the infinite crampedness of our skulls.

Real Estate of Mind would be remiss if it didn’t give an occasional nod to those explorations on the final frontier of inner space.

So Mr. Wizard? Well…This is your brain. And this is your brain on real estate. This smaller, lower portion of your brain here? It’s the limbic system – an older subcortical region that includes the thalamus, hippocampus and olfactory receptors. Ever felt the fright and flight response sending a tsunami of adrenalin through your body? Say hello to your amygdala.

See this giant outer portion of grey matter that surrounds the limbic core? That’s called the neo-cortex – familiar home to so much of the abstract thinking we humans like to hang our hats on.

Some 50,000 years ago Cro-Magnon brainpans evolved to accommodate the swelling pride man felt about his dubious ability to think about his own thinking. Somewhere in there – God kicked Adam and Eve out of the Neolithic garden – recognizing self-awareness as the original sin.

Since then, humans have managed to survive tens of thousands of generations convinced that the burgeoning neo-cortex is where its at. Even though the older centers of our brain – the limbic system – still exert an amazing amount of control over what we do and how we act.

Sorry to take a quantum leap across so many synapses at once, but…Enter Tom Hopkins, sales-guru extraordinaire. The guy who bragged about selling refrigerators to the Eskimos.

When I was first getting into real estate, I watched a few Tom Hopkins videos from the 70’s. There he was in full leisure suit and wide tie splendor.

One thing he said never made sense to me: “ Don’t befriend your clients (customers). They’ll call you and suck up your time after escrow.” Guess his success system wasn’t based on referrals – just more refrigerators and bigger slices of Eskimo pie.

But there was something else Hopkins famously touted: “Sell the sizzle rather than the steak.” And in this, he was at the frontal lobe of today’s neuro-marketing revolution long before the concept of neuro-marketing was a gleam in anyone’s mind’s eye.

Why does the sizzle sell rather than the steak? Because the sound of the sizzle and the smell of fat burning on the Barbie go straight to the limbic region of the brain. Eliciting strong emotions and decisive urges attached to instincts and animal behaviors and powerful memories from childhood.

Our neo-cortexes might be busy visualizing a picture of a steak. Calculating its weight. Or how much lighter fluid it’s going to take to get those charcoal briquettes going. But the limbic system already has our mouths watering.

What part of the brain writes an offer on a house? The limbic system. What part of it rationalizes the decision and explains it after the fact? The neo-cortex. Go to an open house. See if you can feel parts of your brain wrestling for control.

Oven-baked cookies? Vanilla extract? Potpourri? Fresh flowers? Cedar-lined closets? Limbic Candy!

New house smell is just as intoxicating for some as new car smell is for others. Even if new house smell often contains an amalgam of toxic sheetrock and synthetic carpet fibers.

Good Stagers are Limbic Shamans. They Feng your Shui and Float your Dream Boat. I once saw a Yogi Berra catcher’s glove framed in a model home. It made my five year old self want to plunk down an all cash offer. Thankfully my inner fifty year old was in charge of the checkbook.

Need to Sell a house? Sell the Steam Rising. Not the Jacuzzi. Sell the green of the Grass. Not the Lawnmower. Sell the Fire. Not the Ashes. Trust me. The Nose Knows. The Limbic System Rocks the House.

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