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Sure, we all know the unspoken language of sellers. A garden apartment is actually a basement. A European kitchen is, well, miniscule. But what is the secret language of buyers? To be effective buyers’ agents, we need to also understand and decode buyers’ secret language. What do they really want? Our annual survey of more than 5,700 real estate consumers, the National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers 2011, offers some useful clues.

Top priorities. The quality of the neighborhood, convenience to job, and overall affordability of homes are the top three factors influencing neighborhood choice—the same factors as last year. Overall, only 27 percent of survey respondents chose a neighborhood based on the quality of the schools. But, among families with children under 18 residing in the home, 55 percent choose based on school district quality, and 72 percent prioritize the quality of the neighborhood.

Tip: Accredited Buyer’s Representatives (ABR®s) can take advantage of Consumer One-Sheets—free, printable handouts on various topics that may come up when working with buyer-clients. “What Do You Want and Need in a Home?” may be particularly helpful when working with clients to pinpoint their priorities.

Don’t be short-sighted. Once the buyer is moved in to their newly purchased home, the typical buyer expects to live there for 15 years. This is substantially longer than last year, when the typical buyer expected to stay 10 years. Younger buyers (18-24 years old) expect to stay for the shortest tenure: five years.

Tip: With this longer tenure, it is important to help buyers really consider their needs over the slightly longer term and make a choice that will suit their needs for the long haul. ABR®s may find the Consumer One-Sheet, “Am I Ready to Buy a Home?” especially helpful in helping buyers assess their readiness to purchase a home and determine their needs. After all, they may be there awhile.

Going green. Buyers are more concerned than ever about sustainability, energy efficiency and their respective carbon footprints. The environmentally friendly features that homebuyers consider very important are heating and cooling costs (37 percent), followed by energy-efficient appliances (23 percent). A scant 2 percent are concerned with energy-efficient lighting.

Tip: It may be helpful to brush up on your knowledge of energy-efficiency resources in your own community in order to help interested buyers take advantage of green tax credits, if appropriate, or to find energy auditors or alternative energy installers.

Stumbling blocks. Just over half of buyers (51 percent) report that the most difficult step of the home-buying process is finding the right property—perhaps not so surprising when you realize that 40 percent refuse to compromise on any of their priorities. More than one in five (22 percent) say the paperwork is the most difficult aspect of the process.

Tip: The Home Buyer’s Toolkit is another helpful ABR® tool and the new version is ready. Packed with information to aid first-time and repeat buyers alike, the Home Buyer’s Toolkit takes consumers through 10 key steps for completing a successful transaction, including help with finding a qualified buyer’s rep, assessing credit and finances, evaluating wants and needs in a home, searching for a home, negotiating terms, obtaining a mortgage, etc.

There is a wide range among buyers’ wants and needs, but the good news is that most survey respondents are satisfied with the buying process. Nine in 10 buyers (90 percent) are either very satisfied (58 percent) or somewhat satisfied with their buying experience (32 percent). My guess is that those very satisfied buyers were working with ABR®s.

A wholly-owned subsidiary of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), The Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Council (REBAC) is the world’s largest association of real estate professionals focusing specifically on representing the real estate buyer. With more than 30,000 active members, REBAC awards the Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®) designation to REALTORS® who work directly with buyer-clients.

For more information, visit