The psychology of selling homes

With the housing market in the UK going through a tough time, selling homes has become much more competitive. Fluctuating prices and an increasing lack of younger buyers – current projections show that 1 in 3 millennials will rent for their entire lives – certainly doesn’t help the situation for sellers.

House sales dropped in 241 out of 374 local authority areas throughout 2018, with the average reduction across England and Wales reaching 5%.

This might all seem like doom and gloom but don’t despair, there’s plenty you can do to give yourself an advantage when prospective buyers come knocking.

We scoured the web for the best tips on home staging, conducted a survey to find out what makes UK buyers receptive to purchasing a new pad and asked for some expert advice on what will get people over the line.

What Puts Brits Off Properties?

So, what is it that buyers are looking for (or avoiding, as the case may be), when shopping around for a new home? We conducted a survey that revealed the following…

  • 48% of prospective buyers are looking for a property that is a ‘blank canvas’ that they can project their ideal home onto.
  • 47% of Brits surveyed wouldn’t consider getting a professional survey before selling their home.
  • 57% of respondents would prefer to be shown around by a professional letting agent.
  • It’s not just the buyers having a tough time, 64% said that they view the process of selling a house negatively – describing it as ‘stressful’ and ‘difficult’.

The main reasons Brits gave for opting out of buying a house are that the property requires repairs and uninviting exteriors. Here’s the full list:

Reasons for not buying a house

Once they’re over the threshold, the majority of buyers have their eyes on one space in particular. Here’s what we found when we asked Brits which room is the most important when viewing a property:

Importance of rooms when buying a house

Now, with a bit more context, it’s time to take a look at how you can simplify the process of selling a home by giving prospective buyers exactly what they’re looking for.

What Makes The Perfect Staged Home?

So, now you know how the UK market thinks, it’s time to get proactive and turn your home into a no-brainer for buyers. Follow the steps below and you’ll be on your way to an easy sale (and potentially add a few quid onto the value).

What makes the perfect staged home

1. Declutter (But Don’t Depersonalise)

If your house is full of knick-knacks and ornaments, it’s tricky for a potential buyer to imagine themselves living there. Keep a few personal touches to create a homely feel but aim for a minimalist approach. Failing to do so can cost you, a study by online services marketplace Bark found that cluttered bedrooms can knock up to £10,000 from a home’s value.

2. Freshen Up Your Paintwork

Houses with neutral colour tones are much more likely to draw in buyers as they’re able to project their own style. Even if you’re already a fan of muted tones in your home, it’s important to freshen up your paintwork to make rooms more inviting. Studies have shown that using the right colour can add thousands to the property’s value.

3. Fix & Clean Everything

This may seem like a no-brainer but issues such as chips in mouldings, hairline cracks and dusty surfaces can drastically alter a potential buyer’s opinion of the property. Clean meticulously and ensure that any and all cosmetic damage is taken care of.

4. Brighten Up The Space

There are a few ways to make your home bright, airy and inviting. The most obvious is to ensure that windows aren’t obstructed and are thoroughly cleaned before a viewing. Mirrors are also a great way to open up a room and distribute light, consider adding some to key rooms (i.e. kitchen, living room) if you haven’t already.

5. Don’t Neglect The Exterior

Whether it’s the front and back garden, exterior walls or even the front door – first impressions are crucial. It’s worth thinking about undertaking some basic landscaping and repainting/cleaning entry doors to make sure potential buyers feel welcome before they even set foot in the home. Research shows that increased kerb appeal can raise your property’s value by up to £55,000.

6. Get A Survey To Help Identify Issues

No matter how thoroughly you check everything in your home pre-sale there will always be something you miss. To avoid any awkward conversations when the offers start coming in, hire a private surveyor to check your property and address any issues they identify.

7. Hide Your Pets

While your furry friend might mean the world to you, there are many people that aren’t as besotted with animals. This could lead to fewer or lower offers. Ship off your pet to a friend or relative’s for viewings, taking extra care to remove accessories and any associated smells. A survey of home buyers showed that up to 40% saw pets as a deal breaker.

8. The Kitchen Is The Heart Of The Home

The kitchen is the hub of the home and, as such, will come under close scrutiny from anyone viewing your house. If yours is starting to look a little bit tired, consider taking steps to remedy this such as changing up things like your cabinet doors and applying a fresh coat of paint as a cost-effective way to give the space a fresher feel. Even something as similar as changing the kitchen curtains or fitting kitchen roller blinds can allow a potential buyer to imagine themselves living in the property.

9. Don’t Leave Buyers With A Bad Smell

As you’re in your house day in, day out, it’s inevitable that you will become used to certain smells. The main offenders here are cigarettes and pets. Smoking indoors can lead to your property being valued as much as 30% less. Make sure you air out your rooms and, for extra impact, use positive smells to your advantage i.e. fresh coffee or scented candles.

10. Leave The Viewing To A Professional

While you will undoubtedly know your home better than anyone, it’s usually best practice to get a professional to show people around your home. It’s their job to know the right thing to say and identify exactly what features will sell the property. Plus, people feel much more comfortable viewing a house when they aren’t under the watchful eye of the current owners.

Advice From the Experts

Don’t just take our word for it – we asked a range of real estate and home staging experts the essential questions to consider when selling a home and here’s what they had to say…

Featured contributors

What are the main things prospective buyers are looking for in a new home?

“It’s fair to say that most people want to move into a nice living environment. The kitchen and living room are important considerations as they are areas where people gather the most. However, people prioritise different aspects of a home, so ensure all the bases are covered.” – Ruban Selvanayagam, Property Solvers

“A buyer often makes their judgement before even entering a house based on curb appeal, if not, within the first few minutes of the viewing. They want the property to feel welcoming and spacious. It needs to be a functional home that’s fit for purpose and well-organised with good flow. Therefore, it is crucial that the home shows well and makes a lasting impression. Correct home staging helps just do that.” – Zoe Hassall, Nest Home Staging

What do you consider to be the worst mistakes a seller can make?

“Spending too little on renovations such as fixing damp can instantly put a prospective buyer off straight away. On the other hand, completely decorating and investing in furniture could be a waste of money if the prospective buyer doesn’t agree with the new style.” – Matt Boyle, Mortgages and Property Expert at

“The seller must not presume that they know their target market – just because a young family currently live in the home doesn’t mean that this is who is going to buy it. The blanker the canvass the more likely all prospective buyers can see themselves living there.” – Carolyn Stuart, CS Property Consultants

What are your top tips for ensuring that buyers are wowed when they walk through a home?

“By the time a buyer walks through your home, they have likely already seen the floor plans, price and location. You now have the opportunity to show them how it feels to be in the house, and those first impressions are critical. Creating a warm and comfortable space will help buyers to imagine it as their own home.” – Claudia Hearne, Hearne House

“Make sure things are working! The last thing you want to do is show a buyer a room, switch on a light and find out it doesn’t work. Smart tech, such as apps to control the heating, the lights, the music, are now being adopted by property owners across the UK. Showing prospective buyers this technology in action could leave a strong impression.” – Matt Boyle, Mortgages and Property Expert at

If you had to choose one golden rule for sellers – what would it be?

“Psychology advocates experiences that use and appeal to our senses and I would suggest that it is vital to consider the sense of smell. Try and get rid of any pet or cooking odours but don’t use any scents that are too pungent. Above all, sell a lifestyle, not just a house.” – Carolyn Stuart, CS Property Consultants

“Colour within the home is important to consider. Using updated colours that are also on trend will help buyers remember rooms within a home. Colours which reflect light and adopt a calming mood work best.” – Zoe Hassall, Nest Home Staging

Do you believe the housing market has become more competitive?

“Definitely. As chartered building surveyors, we have noticed that no doubt due to the uncertainty of Brexit and the mortgage companies’ more stringent affordability measures, there have been fewer enquiries from buyers who are in the midst of purchasing a home.” – Carolyn Stuart, CS Property Consultants

“Absolutely – with house prices depressed as they currently are, it’s a buyers’ market. In addition, online property search tools mean each buyer has the entire market at their fingertips. Buyers are in the fortunate position where they aren’t in great competition with each other and can, therefore, afford to take their time looking or hold off on making an offer until the price drops. This means savvy sellers have a to make an extra special impression with their home to entice buyers into believing their property is the one they won’t want to let get away.” – Claudia Hearne, Hearne House

For more articles on home interiors including which design features are the UK’s least favourite and how to prolong the lifespan of all your soft furnishings, visit our blog.