Photographing Your House to Sell - Tips for Home Photos

CHRISTINA STEVENSON

The fact that homebuyers begin their home search by perusing listing photos online means that you have to grab their interest in your home right away. The purpose is to get buyers interested enough to view your home in person and make a solid offer.

It’s human nature – we want what we see. Here are six important steps work together to get your home sold quickly and for the highest price possible in your current market.

Decluttering

Clutter crowds a photograph because the lens captures everything in its range equally. If a kitchen is cluttered with too many appliances and knick-knacks on the countertops, the impressions the buyer takes away are that (A) There’s not enough storage and (B) Lax housekeeping could also mean lax home maintenance. Homebuyers want a ready-to-move-in experience where everything works and nothing will go wrong.

The best way to look at decluttering is that it will save you tons of time, effort and money on moving day. You don’t want to pay movers to move or store items you don’t use, love or want, so resolve to cut down the amount of stuff you have.

Begin by clearing every surface in each room. Separate items you need now from seasonal items or items you seldom use. List items you want to sell online, or take them to a consignment store. Throw away broken items you’ll never repair and stained or wrong-size clothing you’ll never wear. You’ll be better organized and feel less stressed once you list your home for sale. 

Depersonalize

According to Homego.com, removing personal items from your home helps potential homebuyers imagine their families and themselves living there, as well as helps you declutter and pack non-essentials away for moving. You may think it does no harm to leave family photos on the walls or on the bookshelves, but they only remind the homebuyer that you still own the home.

Other examples of depersonalization include removing degrees, certificates, awards and trophies from home offices and children’s bedrooms. Hobbies are also very personal and homebuyers may not understand the tools and accessories that accompany needlework, games and puzzles, sports memorabilia, and exercise equipment.

Also, take down any décor that includes name art like “Welcome to the Smiths” or aphorisms like “Live, Love, Laugh.” This may rile some readers, but the same goes for religious icons and anything political. Keep holiday decorations to a minimum Photographs taken during the holidays date your home if it’s still being marketed in late winter or early spring.

Clean, clean, clean

Cleanliness makes things look sleek in photographs. It’s worth it to hire a professional cleaning service to clean your home after you’ve decluttered and depersonalized. The cleaners will get into every nook with such detail that things will sparkle. Have your hardwood floors waxed and buffed as well as the carpets cleaned. 

CleaningInstitute.org recommends washing the windows, which may have to be done professionally to be thorough. You want attractive views to be featured in your home’s marketing.  Be sure to use non-streak cleaning products on glass, mirrors and wood furniture.

Pay special attention to the kitchens and bathrooms where caulking may be stained, curling or holding mold or mildew. It’s better to remove old caulking and reapply so tubs, showers and sinks really shine. If your tile floors or shower are stained with use, you can apply a topcoat of grout to make them look fresh and clean.

Light and bright

Some homes are darker than others. Heavy curtains hold dust and can make your interior gloomy, so replace them with lighter, sheerer fabric. Let as much natural light in as possible. Lightbulbs matter - especially if they’re too dim, too harsh, too warm or too cool.  NYMag.com suggest Soft White bulbs between 2,700 and 3,000 Kelvins for the right color temperature in bedrooms and living rooms. In kitchens, baths and utility rooms, Warm White between 4,000 and 5,000 Kelvins work best.  Amplify the light you have with decorative mirrors and glass top tables where you can. 

Staging

Staging is simply adding, removing and arranging furniture and accessories to make your home more modern and attractive. A professional stager has many ways to improve your home’s appeal that you may not have thought about, including replacing and storing your furniture with better-looking, correctly sized and edited pieces for each room. It can also include painting walls a more fashionable shade, setting the dining room table with fine china and crystal goblets, or decorating an easy chair by the fireplace with an attractive throw or quilt.

Curb appeal is essential – the first impression the buyer has of your home. Trim trees and shrubs, keep the grass cut and pick up toys, tools or any trash. Make sure your porch has an inviting container of plants or flowers, a new welcome mat, and new outdoor pillows on the swing. Paint your front door a fresh new hue. Clean your outdoor light fixtures and replace the bulbs.

Photography

All of the above steps should be completed before you or your Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network professional schedules your photographer. Clutter, poor lighting, crowded furniture, messy countertops, dead tree limbs, cat boxes, toys and leaves in the pool, and cars in the driveway all make for bad photography.

As PhoenixRealEstatePhotography.com puts it, “We are not photographing your home, we are photographing the potential new home of prospective buyers.” They have a number of suggestions to improve the results:

Keep all the bulbs the within a room the same type, LED, incandescent, etc.

Too much furniture and decorations don’t photograph well, distract from the home’s features, and make a room look smaller.

Throw rugs and runners in entryways, kitchens, and bathrooms prevent the floor from being clearly seen, plus they’re visual distractions in a photograph.

Remove all items from tabletops except lamps. Make sure there are no fingerprints, smears, or dust on any surface as they will show in a photograph.

Don’t leave anything out that’s personal or used in the bathrooms, including toothbrushes, bars of soap, hair brushes, wet towels, shampoos, body creams, bath oils and candles on the tub. Replace mildewed shower curtains. Hide the toilet brush, and close the toilet lid.

In the kitchen, remove dirty sponges, dish towels, dish soap, hand cream and other clutter near the sink. Put small appliances, knife blocks, paper towels and kitchen gadgets away. Remove photos, notes, papers and magnets from the refrigerator. Clean the fronts of major appliances – refrigerator, oven, stove top, range hood, and dishwasher and make sure there are no streaks or fingerprints. Move trash cans out of sight.

Outdoors, move all cars, boats, RVs, motorcycles, bicycles, etc. from the driveway and don’t park in front of the house. Move garbage and recycling cans out of sight. Put away garden tools and lawn maintenance equipment such as hoses.

A swimming pool must be pristinely clean with no debris on the surface. Make sure pool lights, waterfalls, and spas are working before the photographer comes.

For the photography session, turn on all lights, open blinds, shades and curtains, and turn off ceiling fans.

As Realtor.com advises, more than 90% of homebuyers scroll through hundreds of listings on their laptops and mobile devices, so they’ll only click on the listings that grab their attention. Your job is to make them stop and linger on your home so they can visualize it and make it their next home. 

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