Once upon a time, most people thought hypnosis involved a scene in which a German-accented guy in a black turtleneck purred, "You are getting very sleeeeeeeeepyyyy," while lulling you into dozing off with a pocket-watch pendulum in front of your face. In fact, hypnosis is actually a very awake, very focused state of heightened suggestibility.

A hypnotist I know works hard to dispel the notion that this suggestibility can cause you to do something against your will. Rather, she clarifies, a hypnotic state simply allows you to accept suggestions that are already aligned with your innermost wishes and dreams — like the desire to stop smoking or overeating — without the normal, critical and often limiting thought patterns that stop you from manifesting these desires in your normal state of consciousness.

There’s a marketer, Joe Vitale, who makes the argument that taking in good marketing — of homes and other products, as well as a whole host of modern-day activities like watching TV, surfing the Web, reading a page-turner or even ogling an attractive member of the opposite sex — are all activities that can put us into a hypnotic state.

A state of heightened suggestibility, that is. While that may seem like a provocatively extreme spin to put on spin, I’ve seen it happen firsthand enough to know that there is such a thing as a hypnotic house hunt.

I define a hypnotic house hunt as the experience wannabe buyers have when they view a home with one or more characteristics that makes the hair on the back of their neck stand up, fuzzes out the sensory input from everything else in the environment except the property, and renders them super-duper suggestible to the idea that this house is the house.

When buyers’ ears turn red from heat and their vision goes all soft-focus at the edges from one of any of the following items, that’s a hypnotic house hunt happening in real time:

The "Vortex of Cuteness": A dear client of mine used this term to describe the homes, usually with overwhelming curb appeal and very skillfully staged, that rendered her powerless to do anything but envision mornings breakfasting on the veranda, Christmases setting the grand dining room’s 12-seat table with china from the built-in breakfront, and a bunch of other scenes of domestic tranquility that the people who’d lived there for 30 years had likely never lived out.

Neighborhood: The vision-creating potential of urban neighborhoods that surprise with leafy tree-lined streets, suburban districts that break from the ubiquitous McMansion with verandaed Craftsmans, viewing a home in the midst of a friendly neighborhood block party or Christmas caroling episode — it simply cannot be underestimated.

Relocating homebuyers notice the walkable strips of little boutiques, complete with French bakery, that cause visions of being your town’s Katie Holmes, toting your own little (albeit, nonexistent, as of yet) Suri into your hometown’s French bakery for "pain au chocolat," to dance in their heads.

Neighborhood can be powerfully hypnotic in instances where a particular property is priced to present a rare opportunity to buy in a tony neighborhood at a low price point. Buyers compare all the other hoods they’ve seen to the one of their dreams, and become highly suggestible that that home might just work. …CONTINUED

Marketing and open house experiences: I recently showed a home that turned out to be in a much rougher neighborhood than we expected from the address. It was very near a major street that’s not a great one to be so close to. However, the home itself was delightfully laid out and maintained. The staging was truly charming.

And on top of that, the listing agent had gone way above and beyond to create a very upscale feel — countering the reality of the neighborhood, by creating a French Riviera experience in the backyard, complete with accented baristas in white aprons serving custom espresso drinks from umbrella carts. My folks definitely stayed in that place longer than they would have otherwise — and actually considered it so long I had to remind them where it was at.

Similarly, professionally photographed home Web sites and a high-end feel that can be created by a home’s marketing description can cause the home to be more "sticky" with a buyer than it would have been without those items — it can even push buyers to crave to see it who wouldn’t have been crazy about it from the basic multiple listing service information.

A friend recently brought to my attention an agent’s description of a home’s amenities, including a "poulet chalet." That’s a chicken coop. And that’s hypnotic marketing.

Sellers, take note: In a normal market, these are the things you would consider using to "suggest" that buyers overcome an objection or flaw in your home. They might need the hypnosis to overcome the electrical pole in the front yard, or the eyesore house next door.

In this market, though, it behooves you to work with your agent to max out your home’s hypnotic potential in any event — it might be the difference between getting the best value for your home quickly and having your home lag on the market or not sell at all.

Buyers, you should also take note. I have seen cases where the vortex of cuteness threatened to overwhelm reason, by hypnotizing buyers into forgetting or blowing off important items that were high on their priority list five minutes before they walked into the door.

This is why it’s critical to have a written vision of home that you revisit and compare against your intended property at two critical junctures: before making an offer and, again, before removing your contingencies or allowing your objection period to expire.

If the items that were your real estate version of the hypnotizing pocket watch are still so powerful after a couple of weeks, and inspections and underwriting are complete and you are still comfortable ditching your previous must-haves and deal-breakers, go for it. But do so very deliberately and only after a well-reasoned analysis of the tradeoffs and after arriving at a level of comfort with your decision and compromises.

Tara-Nicholle Nelson is author of "The Savvy Woman’s Homebuying Handbook" and "Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions." Ask her a real estate question online or visit her Web site, www.rethinkrealestate.com.


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