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  • Jesse

What watching House Hunters taught me about selling

Sometimes, after a long day, all I want to do is partake in some mindless entertainment. Most of the time that means putting on some reality tv. I’m not into Real Housewives, or Kardashians (no judgement if you are), but what I can’t get enough is HGTV. 

I don’t know why people looking for, buying, and renovating houses, is so intriguing, but it compels me nonetheless. The show that first brought me into the fold was House Hunters. If you’re not familiar, the basic premise is this: people (oftentimes a couple) tour three different houses and then pick one. 

Though perhaps not the most thought-provoking subject matter, it is a study in selling in a weird way. In most episodes, with rare exceptions, a real estate agent is showing each property. By virtue of that fact, they’re selling to the people on the show. And some are better than others. 

After seeing dozens of episodes, I’ve started to notice a few trends of the more polished agents and want to share them with you. 

Personalize your pitch 

How often do you hear companies talking about making a “curated” experience? Over the past few years it’s become somewhat of a buzzword. In reality what it means is making a personalized experience. And there’s research showing how effective personalization is. 

If you’re not convinced, think about how tv has changed over the last five years. Before, you got cable, and they told you what channels you got and that was that. Now it seems like every network has their own streaming service and people have the choice to only subscribe to the channels they want. 

On House Hunters what the best agents do is mention the features of a property as it relates to the specific client. For example, they may mention how there’s enough room in the backyard for their kids to play a certain sport. Or they may note how short the commute is from a certain location. 

Whatever the case may be, they make sure to place the buyer at the center of the pitch. In fact, another thing I’ve noticed the experienced agents do is present things as “your kitchen” or “your view.” By doing that they’re encouraging their client to picture themselves there. 

These may seem like small details, but they all add up to a better buyer experience for the client and a better chance for the agent to close the deal.

Listen intently

In order to sell effectively to someone, you need to know what they’re looking for. The only way to do that is by listening. At the top of most House Hunters episodes they actually show the agent sitting down with their client(s) going over their wish lists. 

Most of the time they use it as an opportunity to create some tension, but it’s also a critical part of the buying process. It’s usually easy to spot the best agents because they’re writing notes down. Also, they don’t shy away from being upfront if some of the wish list isn’t possible. 

By actively listening they’re better able to get at the core of what the client(s) actually need. It also allows them to ask some follow-up questions to dig deeper into certain items they may be after. Without listening intently they may miss out on some of those details. 

Salespeople in any industry can utilize listening to their advantage. Though it may seem simple to do, it can be harder than you think. So, when you’re talking to a client make sure you limit distractions by muting notifications, take notes (you tend to remember things better when you write them down), and repeat back to them to confirm you heard them correctly. 

By doing so, you not only set yourself up for success by having a deeper understanding of your clients, you also show your investment in them, which can pay dividends in the long-run. 

Be flexible

On about 50% of House Hunters episodes the client says they want one thing, only to end up changing their minds. It makes sense. Sometimes you can’t really know what you want until after you’ve seen an option, or tested something out. 

Realistically, we can’t control if someone changes their mind. But we do control how we respond to it. Based on what I’ve observed, the best way to respond is by being flexible, and understanding, when someone changes their mind

Not only are they flexible, the best agents use any changes of heart as an opportunity to re-engage with their client(s) about what it is they want. That approach helps get to the bottom of the issue, and also shows their continued commitment to the client and sets them up to deliver on what they’re after. 

So, if you’re in a situation where someone changes their mind mid-deal, ask some questions, reorient, and you’ll be back on track in no time. Also, though it can be frustrating, try to stay enthusiastic. It helps your client(s) stay at ease, which makes the sales process better for everyone. 

Don’t push too hard

Buying a house is a big deal. For most, if it’s a purchase they make, it’s the most expensive thing they’ll ever own. Understandably so, it’s common for people to want to weigh their options when making such a big decision. 

In some cases, there are market conditions that mean a quick decision is needed, however, that’s not usually the case. Most of the agents on House Hunters take a consultative approach, as opposed to trying to do a hard sell. 

There are any number of differences between hard selling and consultative selling, but I see the dividing line as this: consultative selling puts the client’s needs at the forefront, and hard selling tends to be more about the result for the salesperson. 

It’s not to say hard selling has no place in the world. It does. However, after watching House Hunters I’m convinced anyone selling a larger ticket item, or a subscription-based service or software, should probably lean more toward a consultative approach and there’s one big reason for that: continued relationships

Outside of simply creating a better buying experience, when you create deeper relationships you open up the possibility for things like referrals. When you do that you set yourself, and your company up for long term success.  


Though it’s easy to think the only thing you can really learn from reality tv is how to expertly throw a drink in someone’s face, there may be a few more lessons for the discerning viewer. House Hunters acts as a quasi case study of real estate selling. And, by extension, offers some insight into what works and what doesn’t.

Selling real estate has its own nuances, but it doesn’t mean the same lessons won’t apply to any sales efforts. So, make sure you’re personalizing your pitch, and listening closely to your clients. Also, remember, things change and your ability to be flexible is sometimes crucial to a successful sale. 

Finally, most people are fans of pushy salespeople. So, treat others how you’d want to be treated and take the consultative approach. And if you’re ever in need of some more selling insights, HGTV has you covered.

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