The Neurology of Curb Appeal

Curb Appeal Tips

Real Estate Education for Sellers
Article 5

from South Shore Realtor Alice Pierce real estate blog

Please feel free to visit my website anytime for professional real estate services of any kind.  I am more than happy to respond to whatever it is you need.

The last real estate article, “21 Questions to Ask a Realtor,” gave you some very specific advice on choosing a Realtor to list your home. This article explores the neurological, and scientific basis of curb appeal, and explains why first impressions impact a sale.

Increase Your Curb Appeal and Increase Buyers

There are many variables that affect how quickly your house will sell after listing it with a real estate agent, and many of these variables are out of your control. Curb appeal, however, is within your reach and is a powerful selling tool grounded in science. Anyone selling their home can be increase the chances of more buyers scheduling showings, and the season is now to capitalize on our fine, New England weather. The warm months give you a chance to present a stunning online and curbside first impression, with rich, professional images, and in what buyers see when pulling up to your house.

The phrase “curb appeal” came about because home buyers have a long and reliable history of getting their first looks at a property while parked at the curbside. These curbside assessments are still the most powerful, deciding factor in a buyer asking their Realtor to schedule a showing.

There are thousands upon thousands of articles to give you curb appeal tips, but none on the actual basis of curb appeal itself. Understanding why this first impression is such a powerhouse, and not just another cliche, might help motivate you, as someone selling your home, to reconsider how much time, money or effort you invest in sprucing up the areas that a buyer will see first.

Once a first impression is formed, there is no taking it back. The notion of first impressions has evolved as we have come to understand that there are solid, neurological reasons why the first impression is so important. As a home seller, you want to get that buyer out of their car and into your door rather than seeing them drive away.


The Neuroscience of Curb Appeal and First Impressions

Believe it or not, there are ancient neurological processes at work making curb appeal matter when your home is on the active real estate market in Hingham, or any other town.

Consider that the maximum amount of time it takes to form a first impression is, at best, one-tenth of a second. Also consider that curb appeal is a factor at the actual address of your home, and online, and that we use the same neurological process to form first impressions in both areas.

Much of what we know about human behavior has been learned from animal behavior and multiple studies of their brains. Like all animal species, our priority is to survive and thrive. Survival of all species depends on the conservation of energy and the expenditure of energy only when necessary. This is why many reactions like our hearts beating, breathing in and out, and digesting food are automated. If we had to think before taking every breath, or making our heart beat, our reserves would not last the day.

This is not to imply that a first impression is a reflex, because it is not. A first impression is little more than a step up from a reflex though.

All living things have appropriate reflexes and reactions to the world moment to moment, geared to save energy and to survive. Humans and other animals have the ability to process and consider information within the context of any situation. Whether or not we attend to events with conscious effort is based on the amount of data we can absorb and some of our evolutionary programming having to do with .

We are programmed to conserve energy as part of the survival scheme and and not to waste time on things that will not benefit us. The instantaneous evaluation we make based on the first visual impression of a house is connected to our neurological evolution. First impressions are formed within milliseconds, and when any type of emotion is involved (yes, buying a home does require emotional processes, even if these emotions are not expressed), the information received is processed much faster than information that enters into our logical decision making.

Add to this mix the matter of bias which acts as a filter to all of our impressions throughout life. Certain structures of the brain uses bias to sort what is relevant and what is not. Relevant information is then stored as memory, so it is more likely that a poor first impression will simply be stored as a cue, while a positive first impression will reach the highest levels of categorization

Curb appeal greatly increases your chances of tapping into brain processes that are logical, reasonable and memorable, all good contributors to a smooth sale.

Memory or Association

First impressions can shape the long-term memory that is then associated with your house. The impression can also become a negative association and never make it to the memory banks. Poor first impressions are quickly reacted and forgotten. But when a prospective and qualified home buyer is enticed by the appeal of your home, then the enthusiasm translates into action and remembering. If a home buyer ends up seeing the home in spite of a negative reaction, no matter how much effort goes into changing the impression, it remains a cue.

When our senses take in information to form a perception, we automatically encode the data as a categorized memory. Most of the time, there is no conscious awareness of this process, unless one is studying or purposefully memorizing. For relatively non-emotional tasks, or things that are not very meaningful, we prioritize what we recall based on when we perceived it in a timeline. The first and last bits of data in a series of information making up a single event is recalled most accurately, while the bits of data in the middle are often lost.

For example, when we are asked to remember and then recall benign items on a list in any order, the very last item is recalled with the most accuracy. After that, the first few things presented are remembered with slightly less accuracy, and the middle items are often forgotten or recalled with a high percentage of error. This means that there is another chance to weigh in against a poor first impression by intensely attending to curb appeal before a buyer makes a visit.


Taking the Buyer’s Perspective

The impression starts with the visual field beyond the For Sale sign.

Imagine, for a moment, that you are driving your car on a preplanned route garnered from the active listings your real estate agent gave you. You are focused on looking ahead on a GPS, making multiple turns on unfamiliar streets, and then staying visually vigilant to spot the home that is for sale. The effort uses up all of your neurological resources, since we can only attend to so much incoming information before shutting off sensory channels.

The moment you spot the blue and white Coldwell Banker sign hanging close to the edge of the road, your gray matter resources free up. The energy we use can be likened to a computer. When we have multiple applications and software programs running, the energy the computer uses can reach close to 100%. If you then open another application, your computer might freeze, slow down to a miserably frustrating pace, or keep the most recently opened application chugging along in the background until you close one of your activities.

When you arrive at your destination, you can leave the GPS, stop searching for the sign and give more attention to the house you are looking at. This is when your attention spreads quickly from the sign to the house and what surrounds it. Within that millisecond, your decision is made.


Make Science Work for You

As a home seller, you and your Realtor work together to become a sales team to take a prospective buyer’s point of view as they drive down your road towards your house. Notice what it is that brings your particular home into your awareness as you drive towards it. Now switch to the other direction and notice it differently.

Buyers look for real estate For Sale signs since they are much easier to spot than house numbers. Whatever is in the visual field around the sign is the very first bit of data that any buyer will see. Remember that a home buyer has never been to your street or your neighborhood, and all of the things about your home and its surroundings are familiar and have become part of what you do not notice.

Another psychological theory lends itself to the process of home selling and that is la tabla rasa, or the blank slate. It is theorized that we will project, or take from our minds, dreams, fantasies and visions onto material that has no form or definition.

The individuals looking at your house will need space that is not encumbered by your creative expression in order to put themselves there. Reducing clutter, clashing color, multiple lawn and garden decorations, large playground configurations, and neglected perennial beds all help to facilitate expansive thinking.


General Ideas for Curb Appeal

Color takes on more importance at this time of year when the outdoor palette expands and the canvas is larger. Using complimentary colors (orange with blue, red with green, purple with yellow) with plantings creates aesthetically pleasing landscapes and makes your yard appear brighter and more attractive. A thick lawn with uniform, deep color also has a similar affect. National Geographic photographers once kept a red item with them at all times to compliment the green of the outdoors in photographs.

Adding colorful annual plantings and overturning the soil around all plantings gives your home a lush, tidy look that is soothing and inviting. When we see rich soil with some texture rather than hard-packed, arid soil, the association is one of fertile ground and hydration, both necessities for survival.

It is true that we need to take care of two environments; online and actual. The majority of photographic images online do not give the best impression of a home. Just because we all have cameras in our phones doesn’t mean that we can use lighting techniques and technical skill to adequately represent our homes. Many home photos are poorly defined, positioned and colored. It is well worth the investment to hire a professional photographer to create exceptional images.

Give yourself plenty of time to get your curb appeal in order. Nowadays, we rely heavily on visual information since it is processed more quickly than verbal information. Our technological channels allow home buyers to swipe through hundreds of listings in the palm of their hand and to easily bypass the images that are cluttered, of poor quality, or that show anything other than what is pleasing to the eye. Because of this, ramping up curb appeal take more effort than ever before so don’t be hard on yourself if the process requires more than you expected.

As always, thank you so much for reading my Massachusetts real estate articles. I welcome feedback and ideas at any time. If you are considering a move to the beautiful South Shore of Massachusetts I can show you premier waterfront homes for sale, and I can list your home for sale in Hingham, Cohasset, Norwell or any of the surrounding areas. Contacting me is easy! Call 781-762-7622, email me, or visit my real estate agent website.



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