New eye-tracking technology has revealed what house hunters really focus on when they're looking round a property - and the results are shocking. Buyers may think they're assessing your home, the space, and whether it suits their needs, but in fact they spend their time looking at far less sensible things.
The results demonstrate how sellers can dramatically increase their chances of finding a buyer.
The researchers, from Anglian Home Improvements, gave house hunters eye tracking glasses, which would record what grabbed their attention during the viewing. Astonishingly, they found that people spend a tiny 4% of their time looking at the layout of the house. And while men spent 32% of their time assessing the structure and features of the home and garden, women spent just 22% of their time on this.
Instead they were distracted by the kinds of things that you might have assumed they would overlook.
1. Furnishings and decor
An impressive 27% of their time was spent looking at the furnishing and decor. This may seem bizarre, because they would be incredibly easy and affordable to change once they moved in. However, you can appreciate how a bright paint colour, striking wallpaper, and tatty furniture might affect the overall appearance.
2. The garden
Men spend 32% of their time looking at the outside of the property and the garden - while women spend 22% of their time on it. At this time of year, it means that unless you are on top of your gardening, they'll spend a huge proportion of their time thinking the place looks a bit neglected.
Top tip: Keep the lawn mowed, and the garden reasonably well weeded. Given that people will mostly be looking at the garden through the window, take a look at the view from each window to check it looks tidy from each angle. For a quick fix on small weeds, keep some cheap compost in the shed, and chuck a layer over the soil to make it look freshly weeded before a viewing.
An alarming 24% of each viewer's time was spent looking at clutter - and women spent even longer at 28%. Despite the fact that many of the viewers didn't mention the mess at all during their visit, most people simply cannot look past it - so will spend a quarter of their visit horrified by the state of your home.
Top tip: Pack up at least a third of your belongings and furniture before you show the house. This may seem extreme, but the items you consider necessary for everyday life will be seen by other people as needless clutter. If you're not convinced, try it on just one room - you'll be astonished how much bigger it looks.
It's also worth investing in a couple of large plastic crates. Before any viewing, sweep anything on any surface into a crate, and hide it in the boot of your car. It's so much less stressful than keeping your home in a permanent state of readiness.
They may look nice to you, but the researchers found that women in particular were constantly making eye contact with photographs. This not only stopped them from noticing other features in the room, but apparently also makes it difficult for them imagine themselves living there - as it makes the current owners too much a part of the property.
Pack away your photos, and either fill the frames with something neutral, or take them down altogether.
5. Broken things
The researchers found that every one of their viewers lingered over a broken light switch in the study, which goes to show how many of them are taking in the jobs that need doing - and wondering whether the home has been left to deteriorate in your hands.
Top tip: Walk round the house with a notebook, and write down every little thing that needs sorting, from a dripping tap to a cracked wall socket and chipped tiles. This will be your to-do list in the days before the property goes on the market.