The psychologists decided to check these lab findings in the real world. They looked at five years of real estate sales in Alachua County, Florida, comparing list prices and actual sale prices of homes. They found that sellers who listed their homes more precisely—say $494,500 as opposed to $500,000—consistently got closer to their asking price. Put another way, buyers were less likely to negotiate the price down as far when they encountered a precise asking price. Furthermore, houses listed in round numbers lost more value if they sat on the market for a couple of months. So, bottom line: one way to deal with a buyer’s market may be to pick an exact list price to begin with.
This isn’t all about money, however. Medical information, Janiszewski and Uy note, can also be offered in either precise or general terms: a physician might say that your chance of responding to a medication is “good” or that your chance of responding is 80 percent. The percentage is more precise, but many studies have shown that patients prefer vague generalities like “good,” so doctors tend to use them. But remember that life is an auction. In his mind, the patient is dickering with the doctor, so why not negotiate “good” up to “excellent”? When treatment choices are on the line, the auction house can indeed be a perilous place.