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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Today's tip for home buyers: blink

headroomI've been reading Malcom GladwelI's book "Blink; The Power of Thinking without Thinking" recently. In it, he talks about "The theory of thin slices: how a little bit of knowledge goes a long way". It's what you and I might also call intuition although Mr. Gladwell does not like that word, feeling it describes a less rational, emotional reaction. He prefers to say that the book is about rapid cognition, blink a very fast thinking process in which we "thin slice" sensory input and rapidly reach a conclusion. Thin slices of observed knowledge, gained in the blink of an eye, can reveal the truth about people and situations, which can be every bit as accurate as the most studied analysis. That Blink moment describes well the decision point in buying a home, where some people decide to spend millions of dollars, after stepping inside for just a few moments and examining an apartment in less time than they might spend having lunch.

"We thin-slice whenever we meet a new person or have to make sense of something quickly"
The book dives into many examples of how a few seconds of exposure to a situation can reveal as accurate an assessment of it, as a exhaustively researched process would. He talks too about when our instincts may lead us astray. The book draws on neuroscience and psychology to paint an interesting theory about how accurate decisions are made in an instant, by filtering the essential information from distracting and sometimes overwhelming sensory input.

As an agent, I'm thin slicing constantly too, evaluating what people say by absorbing their expressions, postures, the tone of their voice— as much as by their words, which may be more measured. I also get to see a lot more real estate than the average person. That experience is a knowledge base which feeds rapid cognition, and helps me offer the right advice for my clients. It is one of the reasons why people turn to brokers and recommend them to their friends— turning data and information into usable knowledge; and into better informed decisions. Finding the right person to work with can be a blink decision too.

People buy homes that they love. Making practical financial sense alone is not enough (though it must do that too). Like most decisions concerning love, it can be hard to articulate the reasons why. Work with your broker to identify the boundaries of your purchase from the standpoint of money, location, size and what you think your basic wish list may be. Chances are some of those things will change as you start looking anyway; but you do need a starting point. Trust your instincts. If you've picked the right agent, trust them too when they say "you should see this one". Even though it may not fit the mold you expected. In my own experience, the first house we purchased was in Woodstock, NY where we went to find a charming country farmhouse, and wound up buying a mid-century modern box. It just felt right and we knew it in the blink of an eye.