Home Buying: An Emotional Transaction like None Other

Home buying is a major milestone in the lives of most individuals, especially in a country like India where it is socially accepted to measure success in terms of an individual’s career growth, non-movable assets acquired and homes bought or built. While it is observed that millennials in India and abroad often demonstrate a deficit of long-term savings and retirement plans, this need not always be a thumb rule. There are yet quite a few who choose to put away their hard-earned monies towards a secure future, some even investing in real estate. These would typically qualify as first-time home buyers. And, then there are those, often middle-aged, who are second-home buyers or those who invest in real estate to create a bouquet of assets over the years. Whichever category a home buyer fits into, there is little doubt that the process of home buying is an involved one. The process may vary depending on how seasoned the individual is with the entire process, but yet, buying a home evokes a gamut of emotions – some pleasant and many others extremely stressful.

Buying a home is certainly not an impulsive process as would be in the case of a fun shopping spree at the mall. You simply don’t get up one bright morning and suddenly decide to go on a home-shopping spree. This is a considered process which sees a whole lot of social and psychological factors at play that eventually influence decision making processes. According to Sohel IS, CEO, HDFC Red, “Buying a home is more of an emotional investment than a mathematical one”. He adds, “the entire process of selecting and buying a house holds very different meanings for different people. For some, it is an emotional process of finding a place to raise their children. Others may look at it as an investment for their future selves. Still others might want a place where they can retire”.

A report last year on 99acres.com, also points to the influence of family in the Indian context, when buying a home. The size, structure and cultural background of a family play a crucial role in determining the kind home people may choose to reside in and raise their children. Joint families with children by and large would prefer to live in bigger homes than nuclear families would, and favour locations that are child and senior friendly (assuming they have parents living with them too). In contrast career-oriented DINK couples (double income no kids) often have a practical approach since they do not have the responsibility of children or the elderly. They have the luxury to choose homes tailored to their specific requirements thereby design a life that revolves around the things they love to do. With Indian women becoming financially independent too, home buying today increasingly takes into account the needs of the modern working woman.

According to a report titled ‘The New Science of Customer Emotions’, published in November 2015 by the Harvard Business Review, the authors Scott Magids, Alan Zorfas and Daniel Leemon indicate that there are plenty of ‘emotional motivators’ that drive consumer behaviour. These are categorised as follows:

  1. Stand out from the crowd
  2. Have confidence in the future
  3. Enjoy a sense of well being
  4. Feel a sense of freedom
  5. Feel a sense of thrill
  6. Feel a sense of belonging
  7. Protect the environment
  8. Be the person I want to be
  9. Feel secure
  10. Succeed in life

While the above data may vary across customer segments, product categories and brands, there is little doubt that emotional motivators do influence buying processes at some level, even when buying a home. The motivations to succeed in life or to feel secure, for example, can bring about a sense of aspiration and responsibility respectively, which may in turn contribute significantly in the manner in which a home buying process is carried out. A study published in 2002 in the Journal of Advertising Research explains that emotions can be twice as important as knowledge, in consumer buying decisions.

At the end of the day, when buying a home, it is not just the emotion of excitement that one encounters. There are whole lot of other dynamics that may influence decision making processes. Because, after all, every home tells its own story!


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