Subtext in buying or selling a home

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It’s all in the subtext. “Buyers are liars” is a saying that many real estate agents seem to verbalize when things don’t work out with a home buyer.  It’s an insulting false aphorism that is proclaimed as an attempt to shift all responsibility by saying that the buyer was deceptive and did not cooperate.  And when things fall apart with home sellers, the same agents won’t take responsibility and start hurling insults such as wacko, ignorant, or greedy.  Of course, if the relationship becomes contentious, then you can imagine that the name calling becomes increasingly harsh.

And it goes both ways, of course.  Real estate agents, as a profession, have a bad rap; and conditioned consumers bring those expectations into their relationships with their agents.  Many buyers and sellers have a low opinion of real estate agents while often having high expectations for the outcome of their experience.

You may begin to see that, unless the settlement is flawless, these mindset combinations don’t bode well for the agent-consumer relationship.  The home sale transaction is full of pitfalls.  And if there is an underlying distrust between you and your agent, then the outcome can become an ordeal for you both.

Writing for RealtorMag, Jason Forrest laid out why such buyer (and seller) repudiation by agents is wrong (Agents: Stop Saying Buyers Are Liars:; September 2015).  He pointed out that agents often blame the buyer (or seller) when the relationship and transaction is unsuccessful.  But in reality, Forrest stated, the agent is the one who fails by not taking the time to understand and coach their client.

Research of real estate outcomes suggest that your experience during a real estate transaction may depend on both the agent’s and your ability to communicate.  Clear communication between you and your agent should leave no doubt about your intentions, as well as your agent’s ability to convey and interpret motivations from your transaction counterpart.

The evolution of the real estate industry has not really improved the quality of communication between agent and consumer.  Agents focusing on high volume sales along with the public’s reliance of the internet for home information reduce face-to-face interactions; which may allow for the creation of false expectations while decreasing overall consumer satisfaction.

In his book Re-examining The Art of Sales: Broadway Style (AuthorHouse, 2006), real estate broker Nilton De Macedo asserted that the key to communication and understanding lies in the subtext of the dialogue.  Having stated that subtext is “what you really mean under what you say,” he provided an example: saying “I’m going to bed” may sometimes imply “I don’t want to talk to you now.”

De Macedo explains that as a sales professional, it is essential to discover the subtext of the conversation.  The real estate agent should not only attempt to decipher the client’s subtext to reveal their “unspoken intentions” – but they should also work to discover the subtext of their own communication.  He proclaims that this approach deeply influences how we relate to each other and will greatly improve communication.

Although De Macedo places the responsibility of communication square on the shoulders of the real estate agent, it really goes both ways.  Your agent may also be communicating something else through subtext, implied by what or how it is said.  You can improve your outcome by becoming aware of the subtext in the communication between you and your agent.

Dan Krell
Copyright © 2016

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.