Smart home sellers want as many buyers as possible to see their home. That means the home has to look great not only in person, but also in photographs.
Making a house shine online starts with choosing a Realtor who prioritizes photography, says Barry Bevis, broker/owner of Bevis Realty in Tallahassee, Florida, and author of a blog at BadMLSPhotos.com.
“If (a Realtor) doesn’t take good pictures or pay somebody to take good pictures, you should reconsider listing your house with them,” Bevis says. “Most people find their home online. Even if they’re working with a Realtor, they find that house and look at the photos.”
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Some agents post dozens of photos while others are more selective, says Lee Manning, owner of Lee Manning Photography in Ventura, California.
Manning says he prefers to limit the number of views, letting buyers use their imagination and allowing more time to capture the best shots.
“There’s always a danger that if you show too much, buyers will find out what’s wrong with the house to them and eliminate the house instead of exploring it further,” Manning says. “And at a certain point, you’re taking 3 pictures of the laundry room. That just doesn’t make sense.”
If a room doesn’t photograph well, Manning says it’s fine to just leave it out. An example would be a room that’s so small that the best angle features the doorway rather than the space.
Sellers unwittingly do plenty of things that annoy photographers: dictating when photos should be taken, hovering around while the photographer works and even trying to tell the photographer what to photograph or how.
Rather than micromanaging, Manning says, sellers should step back and “trust the person who takes photos for a living.”
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If you’re painting the interior of your home for resale and want a look that’s light and bright, don’t use dark colors, which make rooms feel smaller and are a bit harder to photograph, Manning suggests.
It’s fine to use white, other neutrals or even strong colors, if they complement the home’s architecture.
If you’re remodeling for resale, don’t put in black marble countertops or black kitchen cabinets.
“It’s really difficult to make that look good,” Manning warns.
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If you’re staging your home, keep in mind that what looks best for open houses or showings isn’t necessarily right for photography, says John F. Walsh Jr., a realty broker and owner of Hearthtone Video and Photo in Minneapolis-St. Paul.
Walsh likes to remove or hide things like dish towels and electrical cords that can be distracting in photographs.
But he also likes to add things like a coloring book in a child’s bedroom that show how the seller uses the space.
What gets changed is a matter of trusting the photographer’s eye.
“Let’s say somebody has a set of lipsticks all in a row,” Walsh says. “If it looks visually interesting and adds an emotional response, it’s a good addition. If it just looks like clutter, take it away.”
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Like Realtors, photographers open drapes and turn on lights to make a home as bright as possible. Some photographers bring additional lights or even take down blinds if they block the natural light.
“The trick is balancing the outside light with the inside light so you see the detail outside, but you can see everything inside, too,” Walsh explains.
One setting that’s difficult to photograph is a combination of light and shade such as sunshine through a leafy tree in a backyard. Taking such pictures at high noon can help.
Bevis says if your photo shoot is scheduled for a day that turns cloudy, you should try to postpone.
“It’s better for your house to wait a day or two to go on the market than to rush to get pictures done, but they’re bad,” he says.
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Bevis, who has a sharp eye for what works and what doesn’t, offers these other tips:
“Dog bowls, cat bowls, play toys — any of those kinds of things are going to turn off a large segment of buyers,” Bevis warns.
“The market goes through fluctuations. Christmas tends to be the slowest time.”
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