By David Knox | February 2022 | Blog Topics


Motivation has always been the most important factor in real estate transactions because it determines everything else: urgency, timing, pricing, offer price and negotiation.

In simple terms, motivation is the emotion to take action. If you look closer, you’ll see that there are really two sides to motivation: avoiding pain or seeking pleasure.

At first, this may seem like an academic discussion, but this distinction directly affects what features and benefits you address as well as what words you use in your listing presentation.

If you’re a member of David Knox Real Estate Training, watch: Knox First Tuesday: Seller Motivation: Away or Toward. Fill out the form below if you’re interested getting a subscription for your company.

The Valentine Card

I remember standing in front of a card rack selecting a Valentine when a guy reached over and said, “I’d better get one for my wife or she’ll kill me.” I’m not sure his wife would be pleased with that type of sentiment. She may have preferred a card to be reflective of his love, a testament to their relationship. This example reveals the two sides of motivation: away from the spousal disappointment or toward a loving gesture.

It is possible that we both purchased the same card, but for a different reason. A salesperson would have two different presentations to sell this card. To the gentleman next to me a salesperson would say, “If you want to live through the holiday and avoid passive-aggressive bitterness, I suggest this card.” To another customer, “If you want to truly express your admiration and affection, I suggest this card.”

Does this apply to real estate transactions? Absolutely.

Car Purchase

As another example, let’s examine a car purchase being Away or Toward.

Away: If your car breaks down, it becomes dangerous, requires expensive maintenance, etc. You “have to” sell the car and buy another.

A benefit presentation would focus on keeping the car driveable, removing the fear of breaking down, preventing an accident, and saving money.

Toward: You’re happy with your current vehicle and could continue driving it. But you are attracted to the new model with updated styling, improved performance, etc.

A benefit presentation would focus on the latest styling, increased power, new high-tech capabilities, etc.

Moving Away

In general, the avoidance of pain is a stronger motivator. If your customers are in a painful, difficult situation then they will be more agreeable to the requirements to buy. Examples include death, divorce, wrong size home, dislike of the weather, maintenance costs, etc.

Moving Toward

Customers are happy with their home and don’t have to move, but it would improve their lives. They will probably be more selective and willing to wait for the right home.

Their attitude is more positive, and they look forward to a nicer home, being near a new job, close to friends and family, into a relaxing retirement, etc.


This chart provides benefits for each motivation:



Get your money out

Minimize the payments you’ll make

No more expenses

No more showings

No more home preparation

Done, never see it again

No more maintenance

No more snow shoveling

Say goodbye to ______

Equity for your next home

Start searching for the next home

Move into the new home sooner

Plan furnishings and decorations

Arrange contractors

Get back to your friends

The kids get their own bedroom

Sunshine every day

Start your new life


All moves are a combination of moving away from one situation and to another, yet one may carry more emotional weight than the other. So ask questions, listen, and determine whether your sellers are moving Away from pain or Toward pleasure. Then build your feature-benefit statements to address their state of mind and desired outcomes.

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