Eye tracking study suggests buyers are drawn to clutter when viewing a home

Sellers are often encouraged to tidy up their home before viewing and they should take note as a new study shows that a quarter of viewing time is taken up focussing on clutter and mess.

The research used eye tracking technology to find out what house hunters really focus on when viewing a property and it found that men tend to focus on the outside while women pay more attention to inside.

For the study, conducted by Anglian Home Improvements, a range of house hunters viewed a property while wearing eye tracking glasses to see what actually grabbed their attention during the viewing.

The furnishings and decor took up 27% of the house hunters’ focus during the viewing, with a similar amount of time, 24%, being spent on looking at clutter and mess around the home. In comparison, the layout of the house took up just 4% of their time during the viewing.

Clutter around the house was most distracting for the female house viewers, who spent 28% of their viewing time focusing on it, compared to 20% for male buyers.

The results show that even when the potential house buyers didn’t mention the mess to the estate agent, their eyes were consistently drawn to it when panning a room.

Overall, men spent more time than women looking at the structure and features of the grounds and building at 32% compared to 22%, while women focused more on the personal elements such as photo frames, decoration and furnishings at 16% compared to 13%.

As with clutter and mess, personal items constantly drew the participants gaze. Photos were a big element of this. The data showed that house hunters often made eye contact with specific photographs, which distracted the viewers from other elements of the room.

Looking at exterior features and the garden accounted for 22% of the participant’s focus, with 17% of time spent looking outside through the windows.

Based on the findings of the study, Matt Carey, head of digital marketing at Anglian Home Improvements, suggests that there are key areas that a seller should aim to improve. These include keeping the garden tidy and clearly defining the boundaries between neighbouring properties.

He pointed out that when participants scanned the room their eyes were constantly drawn to clutter and mess, unusual décor and personal items which are likely to distract a potential buyer from their overall objective, making it harder to see them living in the property.

He also suggests making sure there are no problems with the building, ensuring that large features such as fireplaces, sliding doors and extensions are in good working order.

‘It was very interesting to learn that so little of the participants behaviour was focused on the building and structural features, apart from the things that needed to be fixed,’ said Melanie McDonald, head of PR at Anglian Home Improvements.

‘Although it is easy to forget to mend that broken light switch or socket, the fact that all the participants lingered on the badly installed light switch in the study just goes to show these little things are noticed during house viewings and will make the idea of them living in the property seem much further away,’ she pointed out.

‘With nearly a fifth of the house hunters’ time spent looking out the window, one of the top tips from this experiment is to make sure the view from your windows is up to scratch,’ she added.