Researcher Michael Seiler tracked the eye movements of 45 people viewing 10 online real estate listings with six photos in August 2011, determining that 95 percent of participants viewed the first photo—an exterior property shot—for just 20 seconds. The study is relevant because knowing how house-hunters view a listing online can help agents fine-tune their marketing approach.
Founder and director of Old Dominion University's Institute for Behavioral and Experimental Real Estate, Seiler says participants moved their eyes in a "Z" pattern from the upper left corner and after reaching the bottom right corner, they scanned up the right column of the screen.
After viewing the home's exterior photo, 76 percent looked at the property description; but 41.5 percent did not bother to ever read the agent's remarks. Researchers also cautioned practitioners against using all capital letters, overhyped adjectives, and brand names in property descriptions.
Seiler determined that overall, participants devoted 60 percent of their time to photos, 20 percent to property descriptions, and 20 percent to the agent's comments; and he found that their interest diminished after clicking through numerous properties.
"You have to grab people's attention within two seconds," Seiler remarked. "Do it the way a billboard does." Some agents ensure the photos, property descriptions, and remarks can be seen without scrolling; while others limit their remarks to only a few paragraphs and focus more on the lifestyle and neighborhood than appliances and other features.
Source: "20 Seconds for Love at First Sight," Wall Street Journal (March 22, 2013)
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