Technology reveals shocking secrets of selling your home

Estate agent showing a couple a property.

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.

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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.

Top tip: You can ensure the house hunter spends 27% of their time being impressed by your home, just by adding the odd coat of paint, putting tired furniture in the garage, and splashing out on some new soft furnishings. For less than £250 you can make an enormous difference to their overall impression of the house.

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.

3. Clutter

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.

4. Photographs
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.

Top tip
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.

The ten most valuable home improvements
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The ten most valuable home improvements

If you have the cash (and the planning permission) by far the best way to add value is to increase the floor space, by either converting the attic or extending into the garden. Work that adds an extra bedroom will typically add 12% to the value of the property, so a £20,000 outlay will easily add at least this much value. 
If this is beyond your budget, you should focus on increasing the space through clever storage solutions. In a bedroom, for example, by investing in clever under-bed storage, adding high shelves, and investing in taller wardrobes, you can turn a cramped single room into a spacious one - or convert a single into a double.

This is a surprisingly cost-effective way to boost the value. Admittedly you'll have an outlay of anywhere between £5,000 and £30,000, but if you choose a style that complements the architecture of your home, match the flooring to the rest of the downstairs, and make sure the conservatory feels like part of the rest of the house, you can add 7% to the value of the property.
If you live in an area where parking is in high demand, then by turning the front garden into a drive you can add as much as £40,000 to the value of the property. You may need planning permission, and you will have to apply to the council to have the curb lowered, but the time and money will be repaid several times over. Rather than chucking down tarmac, it's worth looking at a garden that incorporates greenery, which will mean you're not contributing to the flood risks in the area.
If you are selling in the near future, this is important, because you need to entice people in. At the very least paint the front door and touch up painting on the windows. You should also fix any guttering and give it all a good clean. Your home should stand out for the right reasons.
This is where most people will spend a good chunk of their time at home, so not only will you add value, you'll also benefit from any changes most. If you can stretch to a new kitchen you could add 5% to the value of your property. However, if you don't have the thousands of pounds required for that kind of change, just by replacing the doors for something more modern, putting down stylish flooring, and investing in fashionable appliances, you can add significant value.
You don't need to spend much. If you already have serviceable white suite, you can add a chrome heated towel rail, glass screen instead of a shower curtain, new mirror, or even a power shower, and you can add value to the property without the disruption and expense of a new bathroom.
This isn't cheap, but if the house is short of bathrooms, building one can add 10% to the value of the home. Increasingly buyers will come to expect them, so you'll dramatically add to the number of potential buyers by being able to tick that box.
The Energy Saving Trust estimates that if you upgrade from an old gas heavyweight boiler to a new condenser boiler, someone living in the average three bed-room semi could save around £500 a year. The costs involved mean that it could take just over three years before you start seeing a financial return, but from then on you're in the money.
In a poorly insulated attic, around 30% of all the heat in your house is going straight upstairs to escape out of the roof. This simple DIY job will save you £200 a year or more on your heating bills - so will pay you back almost immediately.
Artex ceiling or wall

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