When my wife and I were shopping for a house in 1998, we called a friend who was a real estate agent and told her we were in the market. We gave her a price range and some ideas about the look and feel of a home we’d like. She then pulled some listings and drove us around town, showing us homes that fit our criteria.
It all seems so quaint now.
Today, nearly every buyer is going online to see homes on Realtor.com, Zillow, and Trulia before they ever contact an agent or visit a property.
How important are those listing photos? National real estate company Redfin has done extensive research on the role of photography in real estate listings: “With 92 percent of home buyers using the Internet as part of their home search, listing photos are a critical factor in the selling price of your home, how quickly it sells, and whether it sells at all.”
Want to make a bigger impact with your home’s listing and get more showings? Follow these three steps to better prepare it for the best photographs.
Step One: Clean It
This is pretty simple, really. A house that looks fresh and “move in ready” will attract more buyers. Vacuum and mop the floors, wash the windows, counters, tables, and other flat surfaces. Got kids with sticky fingers who’ve smudged painted walls? A little dish soap in warm water and a rag will have them (the walls, and maybe the kids, too) looking new in no time. Touching up the paint may be a good idea in more “lived in” rooms as well.
Don't forget the yard: keep it mowed and consider adding some new landscaping like bushes or brightly colored flowers. All of these factors enhance your home's curb appeal.
Step Two: Stage It
Time to clear the clutter. Your goal here is not to showcase all your prized personal possessions, so stow the Beanie Baby collection. When people see your home's photos, they need to envision the house with their stuff in it--not yours.
HGTV recommends de-personalizing your home by putting some of your belongings in storage: “The more personal stuff in your house, the less potential buyers can imagine themselves living there. Get rid of a third of your stuff – put it in storage. This includes family photos, memorabilia collections and personal keepsakes. Consider hiring a home stager to maximize the full potential of your home. Staging simply means arranging your furniture to best showcase the floor plan and maximize the use of space.”
A friend with a good sense of interior design can be perfect for helping you stage your home. Otherwise, you may be able to find a professional stager in your area through organizations like the Real Estate Staging Association or the International Association of Home Staging Professionals.
Step Three: Shoot It
You’re selling a product worth tens of thousands--probably hundreds of thousands!--of dollars. Why would you market it with terrible pictures?
If you’ve seen enough real estate listings, though, you already know the sad truth: bad photos happen to good houses. In fact, there are web sites dedicated to lousy real estate photos. WARNING: do NOT click that link unless 1) you’ve got a couple hours to waste and 2) you’re not drinking something--because you’ll spew it once you start laughing at the photos and captions.
How can you get good, quality images that will have buyers knocking on your door (literally)? You have two options:
Do it yourself - And by “yourself,” I mean either you or your listing agent. Understand, though, that there’s more to making enticing real estate pictures pictures than just running through the house with a “nice camera.” The Photography for Real Estate (PFRE) site has a free photography guide for sellers and agents. Grab it and read it before you take a picture.
Hire a professional - If you’ve gone to the trouble to clean and stage your home, now is a great time to let a pro finish the job right and photograph it for you. Experienced real estate photographers can bring their knowledge and equipment to the job to make your home look like it belongs in a magazine. Find a photographer in your area through the PFRE Photographer Directory. If you're in central Illinois (Bloomington/Normal, Peoria, Springfield, Decatur, Lincoln), I'd be happy to talk with you about photographing your property.
A version of this post first appeared at GowinPhotography.com.