The psychology of real estate: What makes a buyer fall in love with a home?

Matt Wineera, AREINZ
Matt Wineera, AREINZ
Published on August 26, 2018

Sure you love your home, but what is the secret to making potential buyers fall for it too?  Property experts advised on what to consider when preparing a home primed to sell, and guaranteed to make potential buyers fall in love.

First impressions

“The styling and marketing of your home should be geared towards that first impression,” says one expert. “At this point they aren’t looking at floor plans or taking in details. They are after the right ‘feel’ which can only be created through aesthetics, ambience and presentation.”

Statistically, you have just eight seconds for potential buyers to fall deeply in love, and creating the right feel, can be as simple as recalling what you felt when you bought the property.

Push back your curtains and turn on your lights for the best effect on buyers. 

“What gave you that ‘home’ feeling?”  “Did it smell good, feel peaceful or was it well-organised? Get your head in that space and remember that feeling, then think about the actions that can replicate that.”


Start by ensuring your colour palette appeals to your broadest buyer pool.

“White, off-white, cream or grey paint on the walls and mid-tone floor colours like grey or taupe are perfect,” says Justine Wilson from Vault Interiors. “If you’re staining floorboards, pick mid-tone stains like walnut, grey or oak. They have universal appeal.”

Keep your rooms impersonal by removing photos from frames. 

Sara Chamberlain from The Real Estate Stylist agrees, and says a nod to current trends gives your property a contemporary edge.

“Evergreen, silver greys, gum and black are strong options for feature walls and front doors,” she says. “Creating a point of difference boosts emotional attachment and these palettes feel fresh, open and calming.”

Layered lighting

Warm welcoming light is the first thing buyers sense on arrival.



Before the slam of the hammer come auction day, make sure you set aside an hour to spruce the house up. 

“Brighter homes always present better than darker ones,” agrees Wilson. “Open windows, push back blinds, and if you lack natural light turn on all overhead lights, table and floor lamps. Use mirrors to reflect and bounce light around – especially in darker rooms or transitional areas. It will make your property feel larger too.”


Key to tapping into your buyer’s emotions is through clever styling and finishes, from soft furnishings and floor rugs to luxe throws.

“It’s the little things that make a buyer fall in love with a home,” says Wilson. “Sisal or earthy jute rugs are good for coastal areas. For a top-end apartment, opt for luxe textures like leather or silk rugs, and for a family home a plush rug suggests comfort and easy-maintenance.”

Keep things clean and uncluttered – your buyers need to imagine adding their own personality to your home. 


If your location is a unique one, like the beach, a coconut scented candle can help create a relaxing vibe whilst reinforcing the location.

“Candles with scents like jasmine, vanilla or magnolia also neutralise any odours,” agrees Wilson.

Whilst scent can have a considerable impact on ambience, Chamberlain advises keeping it subtle.

“It can raise more questions than emotions as buyers wonder what it is hiding!” she says. “Fresh air and flowers are best, so ensure your home is open to the elements.”

Keep it impersonal

Wilson says displaying too many personal touches can distract and isolate buyers.

“Declutter pin boards and put away really personal items,” she says. “Present a homely feel that isn’t associated to any particular individuals. It allows buyers to properly imagine themselves there, and the property will appeal to them more.”

Call in the pros

If you sit in the high-end market, buyers expect your property to be complete and polished, says Mitchell.

“In order to be competitive and in a premium suburb high-price bracket, you can’t cut corners, unless it is a renovator’s delight,” she says. “A certain level of finish is expected, as is immaculately styling. It provides an air of completion, even if it’s not.”

Whilst styling comes naturally to some, it doesn’t to others and can mean make or break come inspection day.

“A professional property stylist can rejig your home to promote better flow, and introduce abstract art and décor,” says Wilson, “and they are the elements that make all the difference.”

Whilst some don’t want to spend additional money, others consider it an investment.

“Hiring a professional gives your property the best chance of appealing to more buyers and securing a better sales price.” she says.

On the day

If you have been living in the house during your campaign, come open day, it should be spick and span.

“Prepare for a full pre-sale clean for at least two weekends before each open,” advises Chamberlain.

If the hard work is done prior, it can also settle open day jitters.

“This is the moment you and your agent have been preparing for,” says Mitchell. “On the day it should be merely about tweaking and creating that all important ‘feel’ that is going to see buyers fall in love when they walk through the door.”

Mitchell says the RE/MAX open home 60-minute countdown guide is designed to walk sellers though that last potentially stressful hour.

“It’s the ultimate checklist for ensuring all important last-minute tasks are ticked off before the first buyer arrives,” she says.

The 60-minute guide walks homeowners step-by-step through their final preparations, from last-minute decluttering and vacuuming to lighting candles and using a neutralising room spray.

“It’s important after all the lead-up preparations, that you are calm and your house is polished,” she says. “This is your opportunity to create a lasting impression. Be sure to make every minute count.”

Other tips and ideas:

  • Instead of flowers, place live white orchids around your home. They look fresh and chic and more contemporary than a bunch of flowers.
  • Straighten framed art on walls.
  • Plump the pillows.
  • Turn off all electronic devices like computers and televisions.
  • Open a beautiful art book to a gorgeous double spread.
  • Leave toilet seats down.
  • Leave the bathroom counter free of products except a couple that have stylish packaging.



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