The Professional Difference

Cutting Corners Cuts Profits

Even if you think you (either as a seller or real estate agent) can photograph your home pretty well yourself, or that your buddy with that new DSLR can do it, don’t be tempted. Your potential buyers will know the difference, and it can only hurt your sales prospects.

They know it when they see it

We are very visual creatures (70% of our bodies’ receptors are visual), and when it comes to photography, we can be tipped off by little things that we don’t even know we are noticing.

Unprofessional photography gets noticed subliminally, and very quickly. Real estate photography, good real estate photography, requires not just excellent photography skills, but an experienced, artistic eye.

On the flip side, people can fall in love with a house they see online because the images give them instant, positive first impressions. That is what you should be striving for, not trying to save a few bucks on what is your home’s most important selling tool.

The bottom lines

Ninety-two percent (yes, 92%) of homebuyers use the internet as part of their home search.

Studies have shown that homes photographed by professionals garner considerably more (from 60-100%) online views, sell faster (50% faster), and for a price closer to the list price (39% closer).

Takeaway: professionally photographed homes get seen more often, sell faster, and for more money.

But this is also key: over half the time buyers spend perusing online listings is spent looking at a home’s photos (and it is the first thing they look at). Most decide within 60 seconds if a property is suitable for them or not.

A home does not sell itself. It needs the advice and work of a stellar agent, and it needs professional photography.

With all that in mind, here are some tips to get people to spend more time looking at your listing.

How to Prepare for a Shoot

Clutter is Enemy Number 1

There is a lot that can be “fixed” in Photoshop, but a badly cluttered room is not one of them. If a room looks cluttered and unorganized, it is a signal to a potential buyer that the home may not be well taken care of. You want your home to look homey, but not “lived in.”

If you want the best results, take the time to prep your public spaces (the technical term is “staging”), and clean up every room as if your pickiest relative were coming to visit. Or think of it as preparing for a multi-page magazine spread on your home. What do you want the world to see? A dusty dehumidifier in the corner of a quaint parlor? A torn and tattered curtain?

Stand in each room and look at it with new eyes, as if you are seeing it for the first time, because the people seeing these photos will be.

Some specific checklist items:
  1. Remove everything from the doors and top of your refrigerator. Magnets and kids' drawings go into a drawer.
  2. Framed photos can also be put away, unless they are hanging on the wall. Piles of magazines and books by the sofa? Gone.
  3. Knicknacks are definitely not photogenic.
  4. Clean and wipe all countertops.
  5. Have the windows washed. A perfect interior shot can be ruined by a dusty window that does not allow a clear image of the outdoors.
  6. For the kitchen, remove everything from the countertops except a well-placed bowl of fruit or flower vase, perhaps. (A nice toaster or expresso maker is ok, but its prestige and brand value should be in line with the home’s asking price and aspirational look.) Put away all soap, sponges, implements, paper towels, and of course dishes and dish racks.
  7. Want to go the extra mile for your dining room? Set the table as if for a nice dinner party. Same for an eat-in kitchen island. As long as it is all done cleanly and tastefully.
  8. In the bathroom: fresh towels, fresh toilet paper roll, toilet lid down, clean the mirrors and any surfaces; consider adding a small potted plant, especially something with color (bathrooms can be monotone, so a small violet plant can add a nice accent).
  9. On that note, if your rooms are neutral colored (which is a good thing for keeping your property’s appeal as broad as possible), consider adding something that offers a gentle accent point of interest: a colorful vase of flowers, or a colorful stack of books, etc. Just don’t go overboard. Simple, clean and with accents of color are the watchwords here.
  10. Make sure beds are well made, wrinkle-free, and that nightstands are cleaned off and uncluttered.
  11. Outside is important too. Sweep the front walk, prune or remove dead plants from around the entrance, wipe away cobwebs. Hide the trashcans and put away the kids' toys, garden hose, etc. Fill empty flowerpots with colorful plants. You get the idea.
  12. Have a nice outdoor space like a patio or deck? Spruce it up, open up the umbrella, stage the grill and make it look like a place people can have a lot of fun, while still looking uncluttered.
  13. Once you think you have uncluttered every last space, go back through and give everything one more look. You surely missed some things.

Allow enough time

It takes about two-three hours to photograph a 2500-3000 ft2 home – if it is done right. There is plenty of moving tripods and lights around, checking for the best angles, primping backgrounds. Don’t rush the photographer. In fact, your best bet is to be there to meet the photographer when he arrives, show him any special features or architectural touchpoints you think should be highlighted, then retreat to a distant corner of the house, or go out to lunch.

No pets

Pets and all evidence of pets should be removed from the house for the duration of the shoot. Some people will skip a listing if there is any sign of one of our furry friends, whether because of allergy concerns or damage worries. Much of the home buying process is about elimination, not just discovery, so don’t needlessly give someone a reason to dismiss your property.

Turn all your accent lights on

This will give your home a homier feel, no matter the time of day. And if your photographer knows his or her stuff, they will accommodate this to the best effect.

Order a dusk shoot

For a modest additional fee we can come back and shoot your home around sunset. You will turn on all the interior lights and the outdoor accent lighting, and the results can be stunning, with your property offering a warm, welcoming glow. And that’s what it’s all about, right?

Don’t forget the outside

All the points above about clutter matter here just as much. Put away kids' toys, spruce up flower pots, sweep porches, put away anything hanging over railings or in windows, coil and hide hoses, etc. Think about your curb appeal and so will your prospective buyers.