Seven seconds to make a first impression

Published: 16/01/2020

From look before you leap, to think before you speak and never judge a book by it's cover, we're always being told to exercise restraint. But the reality is that we're made to be delighted, intrigued or repelled in an instant.

When we're out on viewings showing buyers their potential new homes, we can see how quickly their opinions start to form. It's from the very moment we arrive when that feeling - the one we all get when we find the home of our dreams - either shows up, or doesn't. Sometimes it's at the place we already think we'll love, and sometimes we're taken by surprise, but when that feeling is there, the game is up.

The science is that people take just seven seconds to form an impression of another person, but property isn't far behind. Why? Because we LOVE to judge a book by its cover! Surely that's it's purpose? The cover draws us to the book in the first place and hints at the delights inside. And often, not only do we judge a book by its cover, we buy it by it's cover.

Not only do first impressions do indeed count, they are the easiest to build upon. Otherwise you'll be climbing a steep hill to claim back your buyer's interest, rather than rolling along and straight to an offer. Of course you'll have cleaned the house to perfection, but what are the things to look out for to make sure your property rings the right bell from the start? Well, let's begin right there.

Chiming right
What is the state of your front door? Is the door furniture rusty, unpolished, dated or broken? Is the paint looking sad, or a colour that was all the rage in 1990? More hip-bath than hipster? And have you still got that novelty screaming doorbell your in-laws gave you when you first moved in that you've meant to change ever since?

If the answer is 'yes' to any of those then it's time to start a revamp. Contemporary Farrow & Ball shades like Downpipe Grey are popular colours for Instagram-trending front doors: they manage to be inoffensive, on-trend and suit most styles of property - something of a challenge! -  from Victorian to 30s; modernist to minimalist; even industrial to new build. Everything looks good with a dark grey door.

Make sure it has a professional finish, no splashes, wobbly lines or paint drips (use a radiator roller for the primer and sand between coats (or hire a professional: you won't regret the time and energy that saves). Other colours that scored high in 'first impressions' polls are classic racing green and a strong, homely red.

If your doorbell is a 'hilarious' dog bark, or the theme tune to Hawaii Five-O, it's time to say goodbye. Your home isn't a novelty item and a buyer is looking to make one of the biggest purchases of their lives: choosing a plain ring or simple chime will stop your bell from raising alarm.

Being upfront
While a home should be more than just a pretty face, it certainly helps to have a tidy, well groomed and happy frontage. Things like weeds in paving stones, rotting leaves, desolate window boxes, mulched up gutters and peeling window paint can cause instant gut reactions of 'no'. So empty those gutters, give the woodwork a lift and replant your window boxes (or clear them away and use ready-planted tubs by the door instead). Make sure the windows are cleaned before the viewings start: a sparkling front of house says is the equivalent to wearing a good suit for an interview.

Aroma therapy
Homes have their own unique scent: some smell of baking bread, brewing coffee and Jo Malone diffusers, while others emit damp Labrador, moth spray or kitty-cushion. None of us notice our home's own scent - we're used to it; it smells like home - but strong odours can turn a viewer off. We're not just talking doggy smells either: to someone who hates fish, those yummy organic breakfast kippers won't be quite the turn on that seduces a pescavore. So call in an objective 'nose' (i.e. straight-talking friend) to tell you if anything's off: maybe an animal basket clear out, or a professional clean for a rug.

Smoking is an absolute no-no for viewers - even those who smoke themselves will often smoke outside - and remember that smoke and nicotine are smells that linger. So if the porchway is the smoking area, check for yellowing paint, giveaway whiffs and any physical evidence: definitely no butts!  And go careful with masking odours: the most wonderful scent in the world can also be too much.

Sound, lights, action
If anyone from your household is home during a viewing, give potential buyers headspace to think. The chaos and noise of multiple TVs, radios, music and video games can drive viewers out, when what you want is love at first sight. Read a good book, lose yourself in our blog, or help the kids with their homework.

Turn on any lamps that show your home in its best light. Perhaps the one on the desk in a dark corner, and those in areas without windows (e.g. utility rooms, internal halls and bathrooms). If you have a fabulous working fireplace and it's chilly enough to make sense, make sure you have it lit: nothing says 'home' like a fire to gather around.

Your adorable pets should go where they won't cause a stir. Not everyone is dog-friendly and some people - not just the postman - can be a bit wary. Likewise, but to a lesser extent, the current Lords of The Internet: cats. So unless yours operates in permanent snooze mode, tuck kitty and puppy in a comfy room and explain they're in there to your viewers.

Personal conduct
And now, to you, the head of the home, and what to do if carrying out your own viewings. Yes it's your place and yes you love to lounge in jimjams and Disney slippers (don't we all?), but not when you've got viewings. Even if you favour the chic silk of Katherine Hepburn's pyjamas or Clark Gable's matching smoking robe - admittedly the last word in luxury home apparel - there's a time and a place, and viewings aren't it.

Consider the best way to show your home: should you follow the order of the sales particulars, or head straight to your fabulous dining kitchen to pour some tea? During the tour, break up the sales spiel with nuggets about the area (shops, restaurants, transport, schools), then invite people to explore on their own (many don't need to, but the invitation is a welcoming gesture). Whatever you do, do not hover! Helicopter sellers put viewers off; allow people to relax and imagine themselves making your home, their home.

TIP: If you have a gorgeous garden, use the moment to say "when you've finished, come and find me outside". Extra bonus points for cutting delicious tomatoes or wonderful fragrant roses: show them the lifestyle that awaits for whoever buys your home.

If you have a property to sell in or around Berkhamsted and Tring and would like to make a brilliant first impression, our sales teams would love to hear from you.

Berkhamsted office: 01442 863000
Tring office: 01442 820420