We all remember that first date: those feelings of anticipation and expectation which were met, exceeded or destroyed, often within the first few minutes of meeting. The first impression would set the tone for the rest of the evening, with a positive initial reaction creating a suitable climate for future growth.

Is this feeling of initial euphoria or dysphoria, happiness or unhappiness, relevant to the residential housing market? Absolutely.

Human psychology is such that most buyers of any product make their decision at first sight. How should we as property professionals and sellers of residential properties utilise this practice to ensure that we turn a home into a bestseller.

The process starts with the initial interview of the seller by the estate agent. There is no one who knows a home better than the current owner. What impressed them the most when they acquired their home? What are the best features of the house? What would they change if they were able to? Questions of this nature help to ensure that the home is properly presented to prospective buyers by focusing on those aspects which have been most appreciated by the current occupants.

The effective estate agent will ensure that showings and open days are planned in advance, allowing the home to be dressed to the highest level possible. When preparing a home, consider each prospective viewer as an honoured guest in your home. The home must be clean, as uncluttered as possible, and importantly, any required repairs to the exterior or interior must be undertaken.

Not all homes are naturally light and bright, but it is important to create a light and serene atmosphere. Switch on the interior lights, especially in the early evening, and in darker storage areas like garages and pantries. The buyer does realise that the lights are on, but will appreciate that switching on lights is able to create the desired atmosphere. Open all blinds and curtains, as well as the security gates, because even though they perform an important function, they don’t need to be used at all times.

Take a tip from quality guest houses and hotels which have flowers in the rooms and a chocolate on the pillow in the evening. This is done to create a sense of homeliness and belonging, so do consider adding flowers and a bowl of sweets to your home in anticipation of a visit by a prospective buyer.

The entry point to the home is usually the front door. This is the first place that your prospective buyer is likely to linger. A freshly-painted or prepared door and frame in a clean and cobweb-free entrance will entice a buyer to look within. A non-functional entrance light will create a negative impression even before the buyer has stepped into the home. If plants are crowding the doorway, remove them. Alternatively, if space allows, consider adding flowering plants to the entrance area.

Inside the home itself, ensure all the beds are made and attempt to remove unnecessary clutter which will make any room seem smaller than it actually is. All slatted blinds must be in working order and uniformly opened. Blinds are normally a fixture that will be sold with the home, so exhibit them as neatly as possible. Bathrooms should have clean towels, fresh soap and clean soap dishes. Toilet lids should be closed, and an adequate supply of toilet paper should be on hand.

Perhaps in anticipation of selling their home, sellers should consider de-cluttering sooner rather than later. Before showing your home, donate those books that have been sitting on the dining room table for months. Identify whatever furniture is not going to be moving to your new home and consider getting rid of it before trying to sell the house. Each room should have only one defined purpose. A kitchen is not a study, a garage should be mainly used to house vehicles, a bedroom is not a storage area. Get rid of those items that are causing confusion as to the purpose of any particular space in your home.

All of the above pointers are less about the fact that the seller cares about his or her property, but more about showing the buyer that the home is fit to be exhibited as a high-end product, with sufficient capacity, space and features to meet the requirements of the buyer. New off-plan developments do not necessarily develop all the homes upfront for viewing by buyers, but successful developers will create an image of what the final result will look like. Your home should be the same. Show the buyer what it can look like with the right level of care and maintenance.

First impressions – good or bad – are lasting impressions. Some initial effort will bear fruit in the longer term.

The views expressed above are those of the writer in his personal capacity and may not necessarily reflect the views of Fine & Country as a national and international brand.

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