Getting Ready for Photos

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The photos of your home are extremely important to its sale because over 90% of home buyers start their search on the internet. The marketing of your home can be thought of in two parts: The photos and where they get shown.

Always keep in mind that less-is-more. The furnishings and appliances in a photograph give a room size and scale yet too much furniture or decoration will make spaces seem small, dark and cramped. The camera is completely unforgiving when it comes to stains, dirt and  streaks. Getting your home ready to photograph and show is the perfect time to indulge in hiring a professional cleaning service.  Instead of doing the cleaning yourself, you can carefully pack your family photos, keepsakes, valuables and other personal items that are best removed before your photo shoot and subsequent showings. While the selling process may feel overwhelming, not getting your home into its best condition may cost you thousands of dollars and months of time.

If your home is prepared with the checklist below and the tips from your agent, I can photograph your home in 1 1/2 to 3 hours. Very large homes, estates and properties with special features may take longer. After the shoot I will digitally process the photos to straighten lines distorted from using a wide angle lens, correct any color anomalies, adjust the exposure and upload the photos in the format the agent will need for MLS listings and quality printed brochures. The photos will be an accurate representation of your home. The only “Photoshopping” will be to fix stray power cords, accidental self portraits in reflective surfaces and personal items left out that distract from the photo. Buyers will not feel that they are looking at a different house than they viewed online.

The first and most important photo will be the front of your house. Care should be given to making sure that all of the landscaping is in good condition and has been trimmed, mowed and shaped to look its best. If your property has a space for an RV along the side, the RV should be moved or be able to move if needed. Fall or winter-scaping may be in order if you are listing your property during those seasons. Photos commissioned by a listing agent will typically be taken within a day or two of executing a contract with them.  Be sure to talk to the agent you will be listing with to make sure you know what the deadlines will be for getting ready. Photographs are taken of the home as-is when I arrive. It is possible that a chair or decorative item may be repositioned temporarily if it is in the way or a streak may be cleaned up on a kitchen appliance if it is very noticeable, but major cleaning or shuffling of furniture is not included.

Exterior: 

  • Remove all vehicles from the driveway, front curb and yard. Leave your car in front of the house if somebody else is likely to park there and block the view.
  • Put garbage and recycling containers in the garage or out of sight
  • Remove toys, seasonal decorations and bicycles from outside
  • Remove any broken or old outdoor furniture
  • Put away gardening tools and hoses
  • Clean rain gutters and repair any sections that appear broken
  • Repaint peeling trim, garage doors and front door as needed
  • Side yards should be groomed

If your are selling a condominium, your leading photo will be an interior shot. Your agent will be able to advise me on what will be the biggest selling point of your home. An exterior shot of the building will be of less importance but there may be association amenities such as a club house or work-out facility that deserve to be included in the portfolio. Be sure to know who to contact about arranging to photograph the common areas so as not to scare the security staff. A property release may be required to use images of common area facilities.

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Interior:

For all rooms:

  • Replace all burned out light bulbs
  • All of the light bulbs in a room should be of the same type if possible
  • Remove items of a personal nature such as family photos, collections and toys
  • Remove all pet toys, beds, fences, cages and food bowls
  • Pets need to be moved out of the areas being photographed (Fish excepted)
  • Remove all jewelry boxes, gun cases and items of exceptional value
  • Minimize electric and phone cords by unplugging items or removing them
  • Hunting trophies will repel some buyers and should be removed
  • Remove overgrown or dying potted plants

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 Kitchen:

  • Remove all magnets and items attached to the refrigerator and other appliances and cabinets
  • Remove items stored on top of cabinets and fridge
  • Clear counters to have a minimum of at least 80% showing
  • Remove all dishes, dish racks and washing up supplies
  • Remove the garbage can

A shiny and clean espresso machine, Kitchen Maid mixer and a good cutlery block make excellent items to hide electrical, phone and TV outlets. While having plenty of outlets for appliances is an important selling point, they can be visually distracting.

A fresh fruit bowl or fresh flowers makes a nice accent piece for a kitchen or dining area. A freshly baked loaf of bread on a cutting board with a knife is another.

Living room/Family room:

  • Leave just enough furniture to give a sense of scale and proportion to the room
  • Clear most of the contents of shelving units
  • Remove video tapes, DVD’s, video game equipment and remote controls
  • Dust and clean fingerprints from electronic equipment in view.
  • Neatly organize any wiring in view
  • Have upholstered furniture cleaned with the carpets
  • Fluff up cushions and add accent pillows to taste

Hiring an interior designer or recruiting a friend with the same visual talents can make a big difference when staging a room for photos and showing to buyers. Staging professionals specialize in preparing a home for sale. Most offer several levels of service from consultation to help you execute a revamp on your own to a full blown interior design using rented furnishings. A quick tip: objects in groups of 3 have the most pleasing affect. Three pictures arranged together on a wall. Three decorative items on a table or shelf. Grab a couple of magazines the next time you are at the market and see if you can spot the practice.

Bedrooms:

  • Remove children’s names from their rooms
  • Remove most items from flat surfaces
  • Remove digital clocks from beside tables
  • Pick up all clothes and other items from floor
  • Remove stuffed animals
  • Make sure nothing shows that is stored under the bed
  • Make beds with freshly laundered comforter
  • Remove large chairs or any excess furniture to open up some space
  • If small rooms are similar, use a different comforter in each room
  • Only have small amount of clothes in the master closet

The master bedroom will generally get the most photographic attention. Depending on it’s size and geometry, 2 or 3 pictures may be needed to showcase it properly. The master bath may be  the only bathroom with posted photos. Smaller bathrooms are frequently difficult to photograph even with a very wide angle lens and are usually much less interesting or important to most buyers.

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Bathrooms:

  • Remove toilet cover and rugs
  • Remove all items from counters
  • Remove robes, swimsuits and other clothing
  • All surfaces should be thoroughly cleaned
  • Remove soaps and hair care products from bath/shower.
  • Neatly fold your best towels on towel bars

You have made it! There may be other things to clean and organize, but if you get this far, all of the hard work is done. Take one last look through the house and make sure that there isn’t anything left out that you don’t want seen by the public. Having a home ready for showings while you are still living in it is going to make you feel like you’re living at a hotel. The better you can present your home, the faster that it will sell and the less time you will have to feel that way. One tip I came across while combing though videos on YouTube is to put things like your bathroom supplies and dishwashing articles in small plastic totes from the dollar store. This will allow you to quickly bring out your supplies for use and stow them again with very little fuss. The video may be listed on my links page or may be linked from one of those videos. Check them out and search for more by using “home staging” as your search term.

There are a few things that I probably won’t photograph. Laundry rooms are not usually very interesting. Linen and hall closets don’t need documentation nor will the closets in smaller bedrooms unless they are large and have premium organizers. The inside of kitchen cabinets and drawers are never pretty so we will leave them off of the list. If there is a large and nicely shelved pantry, it might make a nice photo if neatly organized (completely the opposite of mine). The object of good real estate photography is to provide enough views of your home to entice buyers to contact your agent, but not so many that they may become bored or find something to pass over your listing. Believe it or not, there are some agents silly enough to take their own pictures of listings that routinely post a picture of the water heater. I kid you not. I think in the Antelope Valley a home without a water heater would be remarkable.

Some of the things I will avoid getting in any pictures:

  • Built-in safes
  • Security/panic rooms
  • Central alarm boxes
  • Security camera recorders
  • Security sensors
  • Anything that would attract a thief or aid in their theft
  • People
  • Pets