The Mentalist and Real Estate

I have a friend who’s not only both honest and smart, but is consistently one of the top sellers in her brokerage.  One day over coffee she let me in on a secret — she watched a particular television show every week, because she felt it helped her to sell real estate.

I was surprised to learn that the show was not a real estate show, but The Mentalist, a detective show whose main character, based on the Amazing Kreskin, uses psychic powers and his ability to observe to solve crimes.

“How does The Mentalist help in your real estate career?” I asked.  The question itself reveals that I don’t have any psychic ability.

“Because,” she replied (a cream moustache had formed over her upper lip after a particularly large gulp of her flavored coffee), “real estate involves 30 per cent the spoken word, and 70 per cent trying to either figure out what they’re really saying, or what they’re not saying at all but revealing through their body language.  The Mentalist is not just mindless entertainment; it actually provides me with tools and tricks that allow me to hear what my client isn’t saying out loud.”

I thought of another popular television show from my youth: Kung Fu.  “You must listen to what you can’t hear, Grasshopper!”  Fortunately, my friend did not pick up on my thoughts.

I signaled with my hand for her to wipe away the moustache and admit I was impressed that, after a few minutes, she picked up on it and wiped away the unflattering residue from her lip.

“Can you give me some examples of body language and real estate?” I asked.

“Well,” she began, “you never enter a home or, for that matter, a room — first.  Always let the perspective buyer be the first to enter.”

“I suppose that’s just good manners,” I wisely noted.

“No, you don’t get it!  It has nothing to do with good manners.  This allows the buyer to get the full impact of the room without your large body blocking the view.”  (Sensitivity to body image is apparently not covered in The Mentalist.)  “So, while your potential buyer is taking in the view, you watch their shoulders.  If they sag, well, then they’re not really interested.  Also, watch their facial expressions.”

“But, I’m behind them!” I interjected.  I felt my shoulders sag; she didn’t pick up on this.

She waved my comment away as though it were a fruit fly.

“You have to get around in front of them and then watch their facial expression.  It’s very important to watch their facial expression, because the truth may just be a momentary flicker of what they really think, and you have to see that flicker; so get around to the side, and watch for the flicker.

“Oh,” she added, “don’t check your Blackberry when showing a home.  That’s not body signals — that’s just common sense!”

We finished our respective coffees and air kissed.  She was then on her way, smart phone ringing with three simultaneous deals, while I pulled up my collar against the cold winter wind and watched.  She confidently walked to her car, looking every inch the successful business woman that she is.

As I drove away from that meeting, I remembered the experiences I had 20 years earlier while working as a waiter.  At first, I was the world’s worst waiter, but as time passed I found that I could accurately judge the dynamics of a new table long before I approached it.  It was all in the person’s body language, and once I learned what to look for the tips improved.

So, I have started watching The Mentalist, because in real estate the words left unsaid are often just as important as those that are spoken.


1) Watch for body language, both yours and theirs.  What message are you sending your client by crossing your arms?

2) Avoid sending off any signal that suggests you are not listening.  (I struggle with this one)

3) Let the client walk into the home first.

4) Allow the client the time to imagine how the house would look if they owned it.

5) Watch your clients’ facial expressions and those knowing glances between spouses.

6) If you fold your arms, don’t tuck in your hands.  This means you’re closed to information or that your hands are cold.

7) Look up from that Blackberry when showing a house.


By: Peter D. Wilton,


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