The Psychology of Real Estate

What makes a house “sellable” or “unsellable” ? What makes some buyers swoon and makes others turn and run? We’ll tell you, and it may not be what you think.

We’ve all heard the phrase “location, location, location” and to a large degree, it is location that is the prime factor in how buyers make decisions. But if all locational factors are equivalent, what drives buyers to bid some properties up above asking price and others to move on to the next. At the end of the day, it’s all about how one home stacks up to another and how fierce the competition is. Below are 7 ways you can help propel your listing to the top of the charts and encourage a quick sale for top dollar.

#1- Make sure you maximize your home’s curb appeal. There are whole television shows about this on HGTV and there is some strong science behind it.  The exterior of your home is the first thing a potential buyer sees and it is the first chance that you have to give a lasting impression. Psychologists say that we often make a decision about a person (maybe a house) within 15 seconds. If your front yard is messy or brown, your porch is covered in cobwebs or clutter or the roof looks rough, you may have missed your opportunity to make a good impression before the buyer even steps foot inside. We suggest you clear all clutter, put a fresh coat of paint where needed, spruce up landscaping with color and correct any issue that would appear to be “deferred” like replacing any broken glass or fence panels. Consider adding landscape lighting, especially if you are trying to sell your home when the days are shorter and buyers may be coming to view your home after they get off of work.

Add Curb Appeal for $100 or less via DIY Network

Add Curb Appeal for $100 or less via DIY Network

#2-To continue the positive vibes for a few seconds longer, create a welcoming entry space. Many homes don’t have a formal foyer or entry area, but you can create one using furniture or artwork. If you do have a formal foyer, treat this space just like you would any other room in the house. Decorate it with complimentary colors and furnishings and be sure to enhance it’s positive features like high ceilings (use a great light fixture) or use a neutral but slightly bright color to give your potential buyers a warm and welcome feeling. If you don’t have a formal foyer area, create one by using a sofa table and artwork to anchor the space. Use an area rug to define the entry space from the living space. Mirrors also add great drama and enhance the light in a space. Just be sure to keep the clutter at a minimum. Baskets are a great way to hide necessities while keeping the visual business from creating a restless feeling that could send your buyers right back out the door from which they just entered.


Goodbye, House. Hello, Home! has great ideas about creating an entry space.


#3-Do what you can to avoid polarizing smells. We’ve all visited an open house that smells like fresh baked cookies, but that just isn’t always an option if you have a late afternoon showing on a Wednesday. The first thing to be careful about is that you haven’t gone “nose blind” to your own home smells. We have both dogs and cats and while I can’t smell anything specific, I am quite sure that others are able to. Cigarette smoke is another strong and difficult odor to ignore. Even if you smoke outside on the porch (don’t leave your ashtray laying around during showings), the smell comes in on your clothes and likely creates a musty, smoky smell on your dirty linens. This may make your master bathroom or laundry room have an unpleasant appeal. If you smoke in your home, try to replace your flooring and paint your walls prior to listing your house. If you have pets, consider rolling up your rugs and bathing your pets more regularly than usual if they are particularly odorous. Buyers are smart. They can tell if you are masking a stinky smell and this makes them think there may be other issues that you are trying to hide. It’s always better to make the correction and put your best, fresh foot forward.

#4-Buyers don’t always like bold color choices, but a neutral palette doesn’t have to be boring. I love a very modern interior and so my favorite wall color is white. But I have color in all of my linens, furnishings and art work and the last thing you’d consider my space to be is boring. You would only want to consider white walls if you have the home staged with appropriate furnishings, otherwise, it could appear stark and unfriendly. Beige is fine, but there are many softer, neutral colors that feel happy and custom without feeling overbearing or taste specific. Consider soft blues, greens and yellows. Avoid colors like purple or pink that may limit the appeal of a space to particular gender.

Warm gray paint colors from Better Homes and Gardens

Warm gray paint colors from Better Homes and Gardens



#5-You’re moving anyway, go ahead and de-clutter now. It’s a good idea to begin packing all the extra and unused items now. If all goes well, your house will sell quickly and you will be moving on to greener pastures, so you might as well start preparing. Think of what a good impression your home will make if you clean all of the extra towels and linens out of your closets and place small baskets in the blank spaces. This gives buyers the impression that your house has SO much storage, you can’t even fill the closets. If it’s Winter and you aren’t using your linen pants and white shirts, go ahead and pack those away so your clothing storage appears ample. The same goes for Summertime sales…get all that heavy Winter clothing packed up and ready to move with your to your new abode. If you can make the sacrifice to use a single set of drinking glasses and dishes, do so for the short time that your house is being marketed. If your cabinets are neat and organized, buyers will think that if it is that easy for you to keep it clean, it will be for them as well.

#6-This one is easy, make any and all obvious repairs up front. If buyers can easily spot items that require maintenance, it gives the impression that you haven’t been taking care of the property. It’s kind of an “all or nothing” impression as well. Your house may be in very good condition, but that one broken window or damaged area of carpet will make buyers start counting up the renovation dollar signs in their heads and this may encourage them to either submit a very low bid, or just move on to the next property that doesn’t appear to need as much work. Most buyers don’t want to have to do anything before they move in except begin to personalize the space. If you have leaky faucets, water damaged sink cabinets, or dirty/dingy walls, go ahead and spend the minimal amount required to make those repairs now so that you aren’t suffering from lowball offers or lengthy marketing times, later.

#7-To garner the most attention, price your home competitively from the start. Everyone wants top dollar for their home because let’s face it, you have some major expenses coming up with your move, but if you get too greedy your listing will become stale. A stale listing is almost as good as a dead listing. Again, there is strong psychology behind this concept as well. The last thing you want when trying to sell your home is for it to have a negative stigma. I’ve even fallen pray to this notion when I’ve shopped for my own home and I wound up almost missing out on one of my favorite houses I’ve ever owned. I was searching our local MLS and one particular home came up in my search every time. The location was right, but it had been on the market for longer than typical and the photo used in the MLS was not as complimentary as it could have been. I passed that listing over so many times until I stumbled upon the house in person as I drove through the neighborhood hoping to find a “for sale by owner” or some listing that I’d missed. Sure enough, as I pulled into the driveway and called the number on the sign, I thought “why has this listing not popped up in my daily search for homes?” Well, it had, but I had written it off as being damaged or not good enough because it had been available for so long and had that ugly front photo on the listing. I couldn’t have been the only one to pass it over either as it had sat on the market for nearly twice as long as the competing listings had and in reality, it was a beautiful home that we fell in love with. The market here in Orlando can change on a dime and it is always a good market strategy to get your listing in front of the largest buyer pool possible, even if that means listing it just a little lower than what you’d hoped. Often times, a lower priced listing can even get bid well above list price if many buyers are vying for it.

While not all of these improvements will translate directly into a higher sales price for your property, they certainly can be the edge that places your property in the lead for buyers who are looking at between 3-8 listings in a weekend. Remember, the market acts of its own accord, neither you nor your realtor can steer it but you sure can make some strategic plays that ensure that your home shines among it’s competition.

About The Author

Megan Johnson Judd


Adam Judd

(407) 282-1600 *1

Cert Res RD 4142

Megan Judd

(407) 282-1600 *2

Cert Res RD 3035