With my four sons in my house, three of whom are 6 feet tall or more (my 4th is only 8 years old so give him time), my wife and I have realized that availability of large quanties of food is always essential. Our family has long been a proponent of the 5-second rule, that says that dropped food is safe to eat as long as its been on the ground for no more than 5 seconds (hat tip to Freakanomics). Of course, on the streets of Manhattan, the rule can be modified to 1-second.

I was thinking back a few years when we bought our current house. We knew that the house was right for us or at least in the running, within 5 seconds after entering the house. We had the same experience in our prior home purchase. There was no hard sell needed once we had that feeling.

I’d argue that buyers make up their mind almost immediately when they walk into a house, as to whether its within the realm of possibility as a future home. First impressions are everything.

It would seem to me that the broker’s skill in selling the house is made on or before that moment and not after. The need to fill the silence during the tour with statements like: “Here is the kitchen” drives me crazy.

According to a survey, Men (41%) more likely to put a premium on decor than women (30%) Here’s a useful list of items to focus on when selling a house that appeals to buyers.


  1. Joe Zekas May 29, 2007 at 12:52 am

    This baloney’s been laying on the floor far too long to be swallowed whole.

    Much of this is nothing more than a sales pitch for staging services. Homes sold before there was such a thing as staging, and they’ll sell after the current fad for staging is over.

  2. Jonathan J. Miller May 29, 2007 at 8:31 am

    Hi Joe thanks. While I think that emphasis on staging is overblown for exactly that reason, staging at a different level has always been done by agents who recommend homeowners to clean up, remove the clutter and get rid of a lot of the personal trinkets. I am a bit uncomfortable with moving in new furniture to sell the house because it doesn’t seem genuine, but i don’t have a problem with painting. I guess its something I have to get used to because I think its more than a fad. If you think about it, the seller is not leaving any significant personal items after closing so what difference does it make, “ethically speaking” whether you stage or not?

    But thats not the point of the post – I think that the real work and skill comes before or just after (5 seconds) the front door is opened. Staging doesn’t sell houses on its own. Its one part of a series of different efforts to sell the property.

  3. John K May 29, 2007 at 9:39 am

    As a real estate agent, I have to agree with the five-second rule.

    Most of the time I visit homes with clients, they know right away. Unfortunately, we usually end up having to take ten minutes to walk through the whole place, because the seller’s agent wants to show us every nook(?) and cranny of the condo.

    As a buyer, I have to agree, too! I couldn’t believe it when it happened, but last year when we were looking to buy, we saw maybe 10 places. When we walked into one I turned to my partner and said, “Oh, my god, this is the place!” It was very surprising to be so clichéd, but it was true.

    And now we live in it.

  4. Sandy Mattingly May 29, 2007 at 1:26 pm

    “Staging” works, and it ain’t cheating. The good stagers (and agents with the right skill sets) adjust the visuals of the apartment to make it easier for buyers to make the emotional connection that (when it works) takes place in the first 5 seconds. (No baloney.)

    I have worked with a stager who definitely saw things that I did not see about ‘opening up’ the space. The challenge is to set a ‘staged’ environment that the owners can actually live in during the marketing period.

    The other key thing that agents do is set expectations with the description and photos. When agents do it right, buyers are not overwhelmed by ‘negative’ features and understand value; when agents manage expectations poorly, buyers start scowling the second they walk in the door (whether a good value or not). It is hard to overcome that negative emotion with ‘rational’ discourse.

  5. CT May 30, 2007 at 11:43 pm

    I know that feeling! I likewise appreciated that our new home was right for us within five seconds of walking through the front door, despite the fact that the property was being marketed to an entirely different buyer! Ironically, while the virtues of original oak paneling were being extolled, I was fantasizing about splinter-free yoga on Trex deck. And that extra “office” space? Perfect for bunk beds! The property is proximate to a playground with a cult-like following on the preschool circuit, and zoned for a primo PS (neither fine points were mentioned in the broker’s pitch). All of which underscores the subtext of your post: buyers – especially well informed buyers – largely sell themselves on property.

  6. Todd Huttunen May 31, 2007 at 8:40 am

    I knew my apartment was the one for me five seconds after I got out of the elevator, before we even peeked inside. I saw that it had a southern exposure and I already knew it was on the top floor. Once the door to the apartment was open and I got an idea of it’s size, it was a done deal.

  7. ranty July 9, 2007 at 12:16 am

    Staging is not a new fad, it’s just a trendy new name for something that smart sellers, builders and agents have been practicing for years.

    The thing is that some of us (sellers, builders and agents) got a little lazy as a result of the great market which recently departed. Now we have to work harder to close deals, and staging is one of the ways in which we can do that.

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