How to generate trust with today’s home buyer

By John Graham

It is perfectly true that in today’s fast moving world, change is the only constant.

  • People no longer need photographic film – they use digital cameras
  • Amazon now sells more E-books than hard covers and soft covers combined
  • Newspapers are under pressure as people turn to the internet for their information
  • Doctors get second-guessed by their patients who have used Google to research their condition

In the property world the times are also changing:

  • Home buyers are now younger and more savvy.  First-time buyers and buyers in  the 25-45 age group are starting to dominate the SA market.
  • This internet generation of buyers typically research endlessly before making a buying decision.  This is why property web-sites and demand for services such as home inspections are growing rapidly.  In the US professional home inspectors were only used for 2 per cent of property transactions in 1970.  Thirty years later – by 2000 – over 70 per cent of US properties were being inspected prior to sale.
  • The Google generation buys with their heads as well as with their hearts.  These people are acutely aware of the power and accessibility of knowledge; they really hate making a mistake or feeling that they have been taken for a ride.  For this reason the use of home inspectors in the South African property industry is expected to gather momentum even more rapidly than what happened in the States.

This means that the estate agent needs to adapt to the changing profile of their buyers, or die. 

Like the doctor, facing a Google-informed patient, the estate agent is no longer automatically the “guru” – but rather only one of several sources of information that the buyer will tend to rely on before making a decision.

In times past the agent could focus on selling the positive features of a house and especially “position, “position”, “position”. But no more…

Now the buyer wants to know more about the real cost of the property. 

  • He is interested in a comparative market analysis;
  • He wants information on rates, insurance premiums and crime statistics;
  • And mostly he wants reassurance regarding the physical condition of the house.   He wants to be sure that he is not making an expensive mistakewhich will cost him many, many thousands in unplanned for maintenance and repair costs.He wants a home inspection report.

The main challenge for any agent today is to establish trust and credibility with their prospective buyer who is now buying with the head as well as the heart.

The best way to build trust is for the estate agent to “get real”…to be transparent and up-front and to communicate honestly and openly all material information regarding the property that the buyer may be interested in.

Openness breeds trust and trust breeds sales.

Estate agents and sellers mostly have neither the ability nor the knowledge to climb into and onto the roof of the house and produce a comprehensive, factual and balanced report on all aspects of the house.

This is the role of the home inspector.  There are several things which an estate agent can do to build confidence with the buyer as regards home inspections. 

Most importantly, the agent needs to control the process of home inspection by being in a position to recommend a home inspection company which, while being thorough, professional and objective, is not a negative, destructive, deal-killing “nit-picker”.

In my next article in this series I will look at how estate agents use and control the growing swing towards home inspections.  How you can turn a potential negative into a sales advantage.

John Graham is the CEO of HouseCheck.  He can be contacted on 083 3109 766 or


How to generate trust with today’s home buyer

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