Houses and Hidden Dreams

There is this big confusion with owners, buyers, and agents in the Real Estate profession.  They operate as if the purchase of a house was really about the house – and it’s just not.  “What?” you say!  “Shell, has gone over the edge for sure!”  Allow me to explain.

Houses asecret-bathroomre big giant metaphors, always have been.  They are symbols of love, security, accomplishment, family; a myriad of things.  We imbue them with power and purpose beyond the walls and structure.  Yet, when we are asked about the house we want, we talk about the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, the school district, and of course, the cost.

We think that’s what’s important.  Our Real Estate person thinks that’s what’s important, and of course it is important.  But it’s not the real issue, is it?

I’ve been doing a bunch of presentations lately for Real Estate folks on how to talk about money.  Everything from how we all learned about money, to knowing what to say, and what not to say.  Often we end up in a discussion about a common phenomenon.  It goes like this. The client has a list of things they want in a house, and the agent shows them a home that meets many of the things on the list.  The client somehow doesn’t like that house.  Then the agent shows them another house that meets far fewer things on the list, and bingo, that’s the perfect house!

This is an example of the “house wasn’t about the house” thing.  Instead of being about the ‘facts’ that have been presented, it’s really about the ‘feelings’ that the house stimulates.  It’s not a left brained thing.  It’s a right brain one.  It’s all about a vision and emotion, it’s not about words, numbers or logic.  This is true even for those folks who operate more from a logical left-brain perspective.  It’s about the hidden dream.

Somewhere deep inside the client has a dream for their life.  A vision of how they want things to be.  Certainly the house may end up containing many of the things on the list, and can you see how it’s really not about the list?  It’s about that hidden dream.

If you are the sales person involved in this, it’s crucial for you to identify the dream.  Go beyond the questions about the appliances and garage size and ask how they envision life to be in the house.  What activities will they be doing?  Who else will be there?  Get them engaged in that conversation.

When you have dotted all the i’s and crossed the t’s and they are still saying ‘no’ it is very likely to be that you haven’t really uncovered the dream.  What’s true is that they may not even know or have named the dream they are hoping the house will fulfill.  It’s hidden even from them. They just sense that something is missing.  Help them uncover that dream so you can both look for it more purposefully and the likelihood of success will improve dramatically!

And a note to those of you who aren’t in Real Estate, this is true for many other purchases in life.  There is frequently a dream lurking behind all those practical questions – find out what that is and see how much easier things become!


Shell Tain, The Untangler

Need a bit more finesse around finding that hidden dream?  Give me a call at 503-258-1630 or check out my website at

One thought on “Houses and Hidden Dreams

  1. Sally

    Shell – I have a file folder labeled “Home Dreaming.” It has everything from yurts to pre-mfg to quonset huts. Maybe before I die (66 and still renting).

    Love your work always.

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