A picture might be worth a thousand words, but in the case of your home’s listing photos, pictures can be worth thousands of dollars. It just makes sense: buyers often start their search by sifting through online listings, and if the listing photos are blurry or dark, it’s a lot easier to cross a home off your must-see-in-person list in favor of the homes in your price range that are more photogenic.
If you’re taking your own listing photos, a great camera is a good place to start. But you also need to know what potential buyers are looking for when they peruse homes online. “Taking photographs is one of the most serious steps in our listing process,” says Carmella Laurella, real estate agent and president of CL Properties of Boston, MA.
Here are real estate agents’ top recommendations for capturing your home’s best qualities in real estate photography.
1. Declutter and set a stage
Just as you wouldn’t want houseguests or friends to see your home in disarray, you definitely don’t want potential buyers to know what brand of cereal you buy or to spot an old stack of newspapers. This is where staging comes in. “Spend time on the details: Organize bookshelves, tidy up desks, and remove rugs or pieces of furniture that will block the view in your photos,” says Scott Curcio of Coldwell Banker in Chicago, IL. “Stand in the spot where you will photograph each room: What do you see that distracts you? Remove it to get the best shots of the space.”
2. Arrange your images to tell a story
When buyers come across your online listing, you have only a few seconds to capture their attention — haphazardly ordered photos can be confusing. Arrange your photos like a virtual tour of your home. First, welcome them through the front door and around the first floor before proceeding to other parts of the home. This will help the buyer get a better sense of the layout of the house. “Less is sometimes more,” says Patrick McLaughlin, a real estate agent with Douglas Elliman in Sag Harbor, NY. “Listing photos need to be an invitation to a listing. Don’t make the mistake of trying to completely sell it online.”
3. Focus on a few choice parts of your home
While you may love your three freshly painted bathrooms, make sure to photograph the spaces you think will hook a potential buyer — and leave out the rest. For instance, if you have an amazing spa bathroom, use an image of that to put viewers in a relaxed mindset, as opposed to overwhelming them with multiple shots of similar spaces.
4. Don’t take unrealistic photos of your home
Honesty is always the best policy, especially when it comes to listing photos. “I like the photos to be accurately representative of the house, so people come and they either see exactly what they thought they’d see or they comment that the house looks better in life than it does in the photos,” says Sheri Bienstock, real estate agent with Keller Williams Realty Larchmont in Los Angeles, CA. Save experimental new lenses for your next art project, and be sure to shoot rooms from the corner as opposed to straight on.
5. Show off architectural details
Now is the time to really brag about the crown molding, coffered ceiling, and large bay window you’ve always loved about your home. Potential buyers are drawn in by interesting architectural details that add to the value of the property (not to mention the home’s character), so show them off in the listing photos!
6. Don’t include too much of the street in exterior images
Just as when you’re shooting indoors, you want to create the perfect vignette of the outside of your home. Showing too much street can make the image feel cold. “Preparation is the key element in achieving great listing photos,” says Carrie Wells, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Mason Morse in Aspen, CO. “Determine the right time of day or evening for each shot.” If you have beautiful outdoor lighting, don’t skip taking images at dusk. This can give potential buyers a better picture of the property and landscaping.
7. Don’t take blurry images
This sounds obvious, but first impressions are everything. Consider investing in a tripod to hold your camera steady so that you can get the best shot of the room. Check each image after a shot to be sure you got at least one or two crystal-clear images.
8. Take aerial photos
Really want to make a great impression? Show off your home and acreage from above. Jim Brooks of Realty One Group in Las Vegas, NV, suggests trying drone photography — if your neighborhood or homeowners’ association allows it. “The ‘wow’ factor alone is usually worth the cost,” he says.
9. Let in natural light
Selling a home is about creating a feeling for potential sellers, and nothing says this more than bright, happy images. “Natural sunlight can have a tremendous impact on the appearance of the property,” says Kameron Kang with ENG Garcia Properties in Washington, DC. “One of the best things about natural sunlight is that it’s free! Cloudy, dark days can produce very dull photos that won’t draw people into your property. With that in mind, try to schedule picture taking on sunny days, which will highlight your home.”
10. Don’t use unedited images
We all love cropping and adjusting saturation when it comes to taking personal photos. Listing images are no different — as long as they’re faithful to the real space. Patie Millen of John L. Scott Real Estate in Ashland, OR, always edits and touches up her photos before putting them into a listing. And you don’t have to use pricey editing software either. “Download Google Picasa to edit, straighten, lighten, add contrast, crop, or to adjust color saturation on your photos,” she suggests.
11. Get a florist on speed-dial
Creating a lifestyle and a “feel” is important when listing a home, and nothing gives images a special touch like flowers. Carmella Laurella insists on having a florist on call to “add flowers inside the house or plants to a deck.”
12. Don’t include holiday decor
While your dedication to decorating for every holiday might be impressive, potential buyers don’t need to see your shamrock banners and Easter figurines. Remove and store all holiday knickknacks before the shoot — or the open house, for that matter. You can always put them back in place later.