Love at first sight

For many people, buying a house involves more than just rational decision making. The right location, price and views are all important considerations but for many buyers choosing the right one comes down to experiencing the “right” feeling. And Michael Caine, the famous actor, agrees.

In his autobiography (The Elephant to Hollywood) Michael Caine describes what made him decide to purchase a home for his family. He said that he bought a home because it felt “right”. Also, when his family members felt so right about a property that they felt comfortable enough to sit down then he knew it was the one. He calls it the ‘sitting-down test’ (Caine, 2010, p280). Like Michael Caine, we all use our feelings when we are buying a home.

So what happens when we experience “love at first sight” and how important is it?

In order to contribute greater understanding of how housing markets performed and were made three researchers from the University of Auckland in NZ undertook a study to explore how emotions impacted on family decision-making processes when buying a house (Levy, Murphy & Lee, 2008). They interviewed adult decision makers from 18 families who had just purchased a house.

The study confirmed that there is a strong perception amongst the families interviewed that feelings and emotions played an ‘important’ role in their decision (Levy, Murphy & Lee, 2008). Emotions and feelings are not just important to the process they directly impact on the final decision to purchase.

Because the decision to buy a new family home is such an emotionally charged decision the adult family members interviewed stated that they were looking for a house that also “feels” right (Levy, Murphy & Lee, 2008).

When we make significant purchases, like buying a home, typically it requires a lot of time and effort on the part of the buyer (Juan & Shurden, 2008). The emotional investment is substantial. The buyer undertakes thorough searching for information (often using mobile technologies), looks at the alternatives, consults with a property professional, extended family members and trusted friends or colleagues, and then finally makes a decision.

To say that men are concerned with the financial and status aspects of home-ownership, and women have a stronger interest in familial and emotional issues is not necessarily the case. These days women and men take on different roles depending on the family type and structure and this can also be affected by ethnicity, personality and experience (Levy, Murphy & Lee, 2008).

Many decisions are made primarily on the basis of values and emotions, they are not ‘rational’ in the economists’ sense (Levy, Murphy & Lee, 2008). So experiencing a sense of “rightness” is desirable when living in a world that can often feel uncertain.

So the lesson to be learned… the housing market is not always rational and easily understandable in fact it may seem messy (Levy, Murphy & Lee, 2008). However, if you have experience in the decision-making processes of families and can anticipate their emotional needs you have a definite advantage.


  1. Caine, M. (2010). Michael Caine The Autobiography The Elephant to Hollywood. Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, London, United Kingdom.
  2. Levy, D., Murphy, L., & Lee, C. (2008). Influences and Emotions: Exploring Family Decision-making Processes when Buying a House. Housing Studies, 23(2), 271-289.
  3. Juan, S., & Shurden, M. (2008). Purchase Decisions for High Involvement Products: The new generation of buyers. ASBS Proceedings, 23rd Annual Conference.
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Love at first sight