You Have Seven Seconds to Sell Your Home

The days when you put a sign on your front lawn with the hope of selling your house are long gone. Sure, you might still put out a sign and circulate fliers, but most of your traffic will come from online viewings at websites like Zillow and Realtor.

This can be both worthwhile and an obstacle for selling your home. On one hand, your listing is available to the entire world; on the other, so is everyone else’s.

Once upon a time, selling your home was a local ordeal. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to receive queries from prospective buyers who have never been to your town.

A Rule We All Break

We’ve all heard the phrase “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Everyone understands this, but we also know that in the age of right-or-left screen swipe, when people scroll through articles for nearly instant access to anything, we all judge everything immediately by what we can see.

Studies have shown that generally speaking, humans have an attention span of seven seconds. If their interest isn’t caught within that time frame, they’re gone.

That is in fact shorter than the attention span of goldfish. They linger for eight seconds.

So humans are pretty bad about not judging a book by its cover–or a home listing by its featured image. It follows that those seven seconds are critical for grabbing and holding eyes; and if we’re being honest, we have even less time to land desirable traffic.

Sell Your Home

Find a Professional

You might be hoping to reap tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars from the sale of your home, or at least enough for a substantial down payment on a future one. Having a professional list your home may require some up-front costs, but if it results in shortening the time your house is on the market, and avoids having to drop the price, you could end up saving money.

The professionals know what they’re doing. They know which words elicit high SEO and traffic rankings. They are aware of which images and descriptions will hook shoppers in those first seven seconds.

Professionals also know how to describe your property in the most attractive way. Perhaps you believe the marble staircase is the highlight of your home, at least in your opinion.

But the pros may recognize that, as a general rule, buyers are more interested in the size of the yard, or whether or not you have a two-car garage. Their expertise can be a worthy investment in attracting the most money for your home, and as quickly as possible.

Circulate Information

If you decide to tackle this yourself, send out as much information in as small an amount of space as you can. This goes back to the attention span issue.

No this doesn’t mean you should toss a mass of data at the wall and hope something sticks. You want to distribute a strategic array of information that will ensure your house gets listed (SEO) and capture the interest of potential buyers.

Have you ever shopped online for clothing and needed to find the precise measurements of a pair of trousers (“medium” being a highly relative term), and you scroll through a pile of content before you find what you are looking for?

After five seconds of searching, you’re still motivated. After ten seconds you start to wonder whether the pants would even look good on you.

Finally, after fifteen seconds of foraging, you are probably looking at another option. The same goes for buying a home.

If you’re looking for a house with a bonus room above the ground floor, you probably aren’t going to spend more than ten seconds looking for it. Even a structure has one, that won’t matter to the potential buyer who has already moved on.

So when you’re selling, you’ve got seven to ten seconds at most to get people interested. Being professional yet also brief can be a tough balance.

An effective format might look like this:

  • Number of Beds/Baths
  • Number of Floors
  • Number of Vehicles Garage Will Hold
  • Interesting Feature 1 (Office, Rec Room, Second Kitchen)
  • Interesting Feature 2
  • Size of Yard or Interesting Feature 3
  • Now you may go into the details; we’ve survived the seven seconds at this point, so you can brag about the house

In this initial list, avoid adjectives such as “large” bedrooms or “beautiful” entryway. Save those for the details section at the end.

Remember, you want them to be attracted first, then they’ll allow you time to explain why everything is so ______.

Also, the homepage will already have supplied some of the basic information about the house, such as the square footage, address, and price. Some pages include further information which you should note.

However, beds/baths are worthwhile to cite, even in the basic info, because that’s the most vital information for which most prospects search in those initial seven seconds.

Take Professional Photos

A picture is worth $10,000–I mean, words. Professional shots can go a very long way toward sealing a deal, especially in a competitive market.

At the same time, you don’t necessarily have to invest a pile of money for professional images. A simple search of higher-end homes (who do hire professionals) will give you all you need to know about looking good online armed with a phone that has a decent camera.

Look for the patterns in angles and subjects that professionals take and follow their lead. Shoot your own photos and then get someone’s opinion on them.

At worst, you’ll learn you can’t do it and will be inclined to bring in a pro. But you might come up with shots that are vibrant and attractive, and save some money.

In terms of photos, you’ll normally feature a total between 15 and 20, and place them in one of the following two orders.

  • Tour of the Home: Start on the outside and walk through the house. Each photo takes you to the next space. This enables visitors to walk through the house without having to drop by. With this kind of “tour,” a long hallway picture shot is vital because it gives people a sense of where the rooms are.
  • Timing Photos: This strategy is less common, but can be effective for snaring visitors who have a short attention span. The selection is based on the amount of time a person would typically spend in each room. For example, the first images would likely be multiple shots of the living room, kitchen, and bedrooms. The final ones would be singles of the laundry room or garage.

Either of these strategies can be effective if done well. Also, make sure the house is clean and your pets don’t appear in the photos–unless you have a specific room devoted to animals.

Watch the Market

Watch for sudden shifts in the market. If interest rates rise, you might consider lowering your price. If your neighbor also decides to move, see what price they set and be competitive with them.

Always study what’s happening in the market and make the necessary changes. Above all, be flexible.

Many if not not most buyers will try to negotiate. If the price of your home is at the level you want to sell, your odds of selling are lower than if you were to raise it $10,000 and are prepared to adjust downward during negotiations. That makes the buyer feel he or she is getting a deal, which raises your chances of a sale.

Going too high is an obvious risk, though. Many potential buyers will set a filter to show only properties within their budget. If that number is $350,000 and your house is listed at $370,000, they will never see it.

Even if you are willing to sell the house for $340,000, it won’t matter because the house has already outpriced many of the buyers.

Remain Calm

Remember, you are trying to sell a home. On average, people only purchase three homes in their lifetime. In terms of adult life, that’s about one every twenty-one years.

Compare that to the 9.4 cars, 166 flights, and +/- 4,000 loaves of bread a person will buy in that same lifetime. When viewed that way, it’s easier to accept that it might take a while to sell a home.

The key is to remain patient and avoid making emotional choices. Put yourself in the shoes of the potential buyer, which you could well be in since you may also be looking for your next home.

Purchasing a house is not a decision that may be taken lightly. Outside of work, where many people cannot control their surroundings, home is where we spend more of our time than any other place.

The worst thing that you can do is panic and either trim the price too early, or mess with your listing. If you’re thorough and follow the steps above, rearranging everything could hurt the listing. Depending on the site, it could also damage the SEO and traffic that arrives at your listing.

The national average for a home on the market is 31 days as of August 1, 2022. The region and price range can alter that number, and in the past the average has been closer to 60 days.

In cities like Boise, Idaho, the number is much lower than in rural parts of West Virginia. If you decide to list on your own and the house remains on the market for longer than the national average, it may be time to consult a professional.

No matter what happens, remember your goal is to make your listing as attractive as possible. Twenty years ago, if someone looked at your home, you’d likely sell it.

Today, it’s more about getting someone’s attention for more than seven seconds.

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