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Commentary by Steve Bunker

Real estate clients are unlike any other clients—they’re different from people who need a lawyer, a doctor, or a writer.

These people are embarking on perhaps the biggest journey of their lives, and they’re certainly making one of the largest financial decisions they’ll ever make.

What happens in a real estate client’s brain when they feel drawn to a REALTOR®? Are there actions that “light up” part of someone’s brain and make them more likely to work with a certain real estate professional?

We talked to some of the leading experts in the field of psychology, and you might be surprised to learn that there’s a lot more to choosing a REALTOR® than it seems like on the surface.

The Psychology of Choice: Why Some People Are Drawn to Certain Real Estate Agents
“There are many reasons why we may feel drawn to a person (some of which are apparent to us and some are subconscious or driven by nonverbal behaviors),” says Dr. Richard Shuster, a clinical psychologist and host of “The Daily Helping – Food for the Brain, Knowledge From the Experts, Tools to Win at Life.” Shuster’s extensive training in neuropsychology makes him exceptionally qualified to describe what happens in a homebuyer’s brain when he or she connects with a real estate agent.

“Research suggests that our brains are essentially wired to forge meaningful connections with others and actually ‘sync up’ with others. When we feel a connection to someone else, the brain’s distinction between self and others starts to decrease. The closer we feel to someone, the weaker that distinction becomes,” says Shuster, whose REALTOR®-friendly podcast is available online.

Two chemicals, according to Shuster, light up the brain when we meet someone new or connect with an expert who can help us: dopamine and oxytocin.

“There are absolutely specific regions of the brain that light up when acts of kindness are bestowed upon us or when we perceive that others see us as important, although there are other systems at play involving hormones,” Shuster says.

The brain is incredibly complex, as is the terminology for what happens when “feel-good” chemicals start flowing.

“There is increased activity in the ventral striatum which contains the nucleus accumbens, a structure of the brain associated with increased pleasure,” says Shuster. “There is also significantly increased activity in the ventral tegmental area, which is where dopamine is primarily released. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. When one feels important to others, they begin experiencing feelings of trust. This fosters the release of oxytocin, which is a hormone produced in the hypothalamus and released into the bloodstream. The presence of oxytocin has been demonstrated in research to promote feelings of trust.”

So what can real estate agents to do promote natural—and long-lasting—connections with their clients?

“Be yourself, be genuine, and truly learn the needs of your clients,” Shuster says. “The mindset of needing to be a chameleon is a false narrative because people buy from those that they first trust, and, second, see intrinsic value in what they are offering. REALTORS® aren’t selling houses; they are selling a shorter commute, a place to start a family, a better school for their son or daughter. Find out what your client really wants by asking meaningful questions, and the dopamine and oxytocin starts flowing.”

In addition to forging those connections with all the right questions, real estate agents can create memorable relationships with clients by finding commonalities and using leave-behinds that cement the relationship. Many real estate agents have tremendous success with:

The key to using these leave-behinds is to find ways that they connect you on a personal level. Say you struck up a conversation about beautiful flower gardens at the entrance to a subdivision, or you have a friendly football rivalry with someone you’ve just met. Related marketing materials are perfect to cement those relationships.

Steve Bunker is president and CEO of

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