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Selling your house: how to make a good first impression on buyers

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22/05/2015
It’s a cliché, but people really can rush to judgment. Some psychologists think we make up our minds about people within ten seconds of meeting them. Projections of how long it takes for prospective buyers and renters to decide whether a property is for them or not are currently unavailable – but you should assume the window of opportunity is just as brief.

Most estate agents will provide home sellers with a guide outlining best practice tips and suggestions for presenting homes to viewers, and creating the best first impression. These pointers typically refer to a home’s interior – and it could be a property’s exterior which seals the deal, or puts a viewer off, before they’ve even entered.

“A prospective buyer or renter will probably make up their mind about a property before they’ve even walked through the front door,” says Francesca Marchesini-Ashley, of CompareOnlineAgents.com.

“Ultimately, a viewer will be asking themselves whether they could see themselves living there as they walk up to the door. You want a viewer to be able to envisage themselves leaving and returning every day.”

The appearance of the approach to a property is thus absolutely crucial. Try to literally place yourself in a viewer’s shoes; go outside, and walk up to your house as they would. Take notes along the way; you may want to bring someone with you, so you benefit from an outsider’s perspective.

Aside from obvious areas for improvement, such as damage, uncleanliness and clutter, think about whether the approach can be ‘depersonalised’ as well. This means removing any decorations, but also installing innocuous beautifications (such as flowers), which could be to the taste of everyone and anyone.

“A viewer being able to imagine themselves living in a property is pivotal. As a result, get rid of anything that might act as a barrier to their imagination. If the property has a drive, you may wish to keep it clear of cars, so they can picture their own car parked there.”

You could also choose to look around the local area, and conduct some market research; identify similar properties, and note what appeals and repels you about them. Moreover, see whether anything makes your property look strange or out of place.

“Front doors can, funnily enough, make all the difference for a viewer. It should go without saying that a front door should look fresh and clean. However, colours matter too. Viewers tend to favour deeper shades of neutral colours.”

Litter, of both the manmade and organic variety, should naturally also be a primary concern. Make sure the approach is clear of leaves and other detritus, and get rid of any weeds.

“If the approach to your home can accommodate it, you may want to lay gravel or pebbles. Bags are inexpensive, and are very effective at hiding blights and rough patches. You should also store rubbish bins and recycling tubs neatly, perhaps even placing them out of sight entirely if at all possible.”

Finally, it is important to bear in mind that a viewer will almost always have seen pictures of a house’s exterior prior to their visit. In fact, their decision to visit will almost certainly have been partially influenced by these photos.

For Marchesini-Ashley, this not only highlights the importance of ensuring the pictures accompanying a listing are as flattering as possible, but also that the pictures match up with reality.

“A viewer can immediately feel disappointed and puzzled if they turn up and their first-hand experience deviates from the pictures they saw.

“This is, obviously, a very poor opening to a viewing – no matter how nice the property is on the inside, their perception may never fully recover.”

It is therefore important to ensure that every viewer sees the house at its best. It may be sensible to check up on the property’s exterior before and after every viewing, to guarantee it looks its absolute best for all visitors. Data recently issued by estate agency Move With Us reveals that up to 40 per cent of home owners don’t tidy up their gardens prior to a viewing – despite 68 per cent of estate agents believing a clean garden to be a fundamental deal breaker for viewers.

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