How Photos Can Keep You From Selling Your Home
Did you know that 90% of people in the market to buy a new home search properties online before they ever contact a real estate agent? Whether you are looking for a new home, considering selling your home, or possibly doing both, the importance of quality photographs cannot be overstressed.
Photos of your home are a main point of focus and you should use them to your best ability to showcase your home’s assets and downplay its flaws. Often a potential buyer doesn’t even read the copy describing your home, but they study the photos. If the photos impress, they will explore the listing further.
Photos can make or break any sale, helping or even considerably hurting the seller. A bad photograph can instantly make a potential buyer decide not to visit the house at all. Whereas a good photograph can bring someone in that might not have considered the house at all, simply because of their predetermined criteria.
Are your guilty of taking bad photos of your home?
Posting Bad Photos
If you’ve gone online to look at vacation homes, rentals, or even homes for sale, you’ve noticed that many of them have photos posted to help those interested make a decision on whether or not to rent or buy the home. Some offer great photos giving interested individual the best views of the home, including the size and number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and showcasing the best qualities of the place.
Unfortunately, most posted homes have little to no photos at all, and those they do offer are terrible. We’ve all seen the pictures of the corner of a room. Which room? Who knows. You can’t see enough of it to know. What about the picture of one of the windows, or of a light fixture? What is the most disturbing is that the realtors are usually the ones taking most of the bad photos that are available. And much of it has nothing to do with their skill as a photographer.
Regardless of whether it is the realtor or the homeowner taking the pictures, it is unclear if they just don’t understand what they should be photographing, or if they just don’t care. It’s easy, and pretty common sense to know what a potential buyer/renter would want to see and what would be meaningless. Really, who takes a picture of the closet shelf? Along with tons of great photos, this would make sense. But alone, what’s the point if you can’t see the rest of the house?
Taking Good Photos
Where most of the homes being photographed are completely empty and should be relatively easy to photograph, many are still being used and are filled with the owner’s personal property. This is where it gets a little bit trickier knowing what to photograph and how. See my article on Staging Your Home to Sell to get a good idea what your home should look like when in the selling and showing process, before you even consider taking pictures.
It’s amazing how simply closing a toilet lid, moving clutter from the counter, or standing something upright before snapping that shutter could mean the difference between the future buyer visiting the property or not! If you want to sell your home, it should be ‘show ready’ with no clutter strewn about, dirty dishes piled all over counters, dirty socks and underwear on the floor, etc. You’d think this was common sense, but apparently it’s not.
Your home should look like you would want a home to look if you were seeking to buy it. This model home if you need a good idea of what this truly means. No personal photos, super clean, smelling good, and in a condition so that it is not only appealing, but a potential buyer/renter could imagine living there.
If you don’t plan to keep your home ready to show on a moment’s notice, at least attempt to make the photos look good! You will be given notice that the photos are going to be taken, or that you need to take them, so make sure it looks sharp on the appointed day.
What is a Good Photo?
Let’s first address the picture you take of the front of your home.
The Front of Your Home
Remember that this photo is most likely going to be what is displayed as the introduction to your listing. It determines whether someone reads the copy and description of your home.
This one photo should be given a great amount of attention and consideration. If the sun is at a bad angle, you should return to take the shot when the lighting is more appropriate. If there are cars parked in front of the home, move them or have them moved.
If the front of the home does not make the greatest impression, don’t emphasize that with multiple angles of the same bad view. And if your photography skills are less than stellar, please have someone with a steady hand take the photos.
The top of the picture should show your complete roofline and some blue sky for contrast. The borders on the left and right should also just perfectly frame your house. A good trick is to wet down the driveway and sidewalk with the hose before you take the picture. It gives the front a much neater appearance.
Tips for the Inside of Your Home
For the inside of your house, turn on all of your lights and open all of your window coverings for all of your photos so the sunlight shines in and makes your rooms look their best. Consider shooting your pictures at different times of the day to get sunlight coming in the windows hitting your hardwood floors or tile.
Really try to aim to show entire rooms, rather than just a wall of corner. By showing the whole thing, prospective buyers/renters will get a better feel of the home as a whole. Save the details for when they come by to see your house in person. That’s when they’ll get to see that great chandelier of yours, and the brand-new fans you’ve installed.
The kitchen is considered “the heart of the home” so it should be featured well in your pictures. In kitchens you want to show cabinetry, windows and appliances. No need to show the brand of appliance, just make sure they are in the photo.
Once again, attempt to show the kitchen as a whole at its best angles. If you need ideas for what makes a good kitchen picture, search for kitchen on Google, and sure to see some great ones that you can try to mimic. You want to show counter space, because this is a big item on every interested individual’s list. This means you need to clean your dishes and remove most of the clutter on your counter tops. You can easily put it all back after you take some great pictures.
Hang some nice towels from the doors under the sink or on the oven handle, and clean everything really good. Grease stains, food on the countertop, and trash on the floor does not offer a good impression.
In bathrooms, make sure you can see the fixtures, sink(s) and tub clearly by taking a picture of the entire room, if possible. The smaller bathroom is often the most difficult shot to get. Try standing in a corner and holding the camera to the wall if you have to. You can even stand on the side of the tub if that gives you a good perspective. Remember, keep the toilet lid closed!
Once again, clean everything thoroughly, and remove not only all of your personal items from the countertop, but also any extraneous clutter that you wouldn’t see in a model home. Hang some nice clean towels on the towel racks and don’t get in the picture yourself. You want people t imagine themselves in your home, not to imagine you.
Bedrooms, Living Rooms, and Other Rooms
Kitchens, living spaces, bedrooms and bathrooms should all be light, clean, and crisp. All clutter should be put away, laundry and personal pictures should be tucked into drawers or hung nicely in the closet, surfaces should be wiped down, and the floor should be vacuumed.
It sounds like a lot of work, but you do want to sell your house, don’t you? Remember not to feature the specific furniture; you want to show the room size, light access, size of the closet(s), etc. Make the bed, throw some nice pillows on your bed and turn on your beside lamps. It also helps to remove any and all personal pictures from view.
Show pictures of the backyard and garage only if there is something special to see (like a swimming pool or nice storage shed). Pick a good angle either from the house looking to the rear or from the rear fence looking back at the house. Again, only take these photos if your backyard is especially nice. It can’t be stressed enough how important sun is. Would you want to buy a house with a beautiful, sunny backyard or a flat, gloomy yard?
What Makes for a Bad Photo?
Most of this will seem like common sense, but apparently it is not. Some no-nos that make a lot of sense would be trash, dirt, graffiti, a closet, or the corner of a room, and pictures of your personal items like they’re being put on Craigslist, but these are actually some of the biggest mistakes individuals make.
Unless you are selling the home furnished, which would require a separate bill of sale and an itemized list of everything included, you should not have photos that feature items and furnishings that will not come with the sale of the home.
You will want to avoid photographs of something that is unnecessary. There is no need to shoot a corner of a room, a closet door or a wall outlet. You should also not be shooting photos of light switches, toilets, walls, ceilings, light fixtures, or individual windows.
You want people looking at your home online to get a good feel of the home, and seeing a wall or a door says nothing but you have absolutely no sense in taking pictures and are wasting their time. They will leave your ad and never come back, even if you have the best house on the block.
If you find it necessary to show a special feature in a room such as a chandelier, a fireplace or window, please make sure that item is ready to be “featured.” Take the banana peels out of the light fixtures, get rid of massive spiderwebs, cigarette and cigar butts, remove trash and toys in the fireplace, and get your socks, shoes and underwear from the chandelier. (Yes, it happens more often than you’d think.
Get rid of your dirty clothes from the floor and furniture. If people will be coming by your home, they will probably be looking in the closets, laundry rooms and appliances. Don’t just stuff your belongings in these places. Clean your closet, clean your refrigerator, and put away your dishes. Pictures filled with trash on the floors, dirty dishes and bottles on the counter tops, and graffiti on the walls will immediately turn potential buyers/renters away from your ad fast. You could have a million dollar home and it wouldn’t matter.
Do not include people in your photos, whether they are moving or sitting in the room you are photographing, and do not catch yourself in the mirror. Another great tip is to clear your pictures of any pets (as some people may have an allergy), and cars. These are not necessary in your pictures and will only distract from your home.
Pick up overturned furniture, hide any unnecessary or extra furniture in the garage for the time being. Along with extra furniture and clutter, there’s another huge item that should be hidden in order to give your home the best chance of selling. As it is very offensive to some, and just plain terrifying to others, please remove animal heads and stuffed dead animals from your rooms while you’re trying to sell your home.
You may love your treasures and hold them dear, but you will also be holding on to your home if you don’t hide them. If you’re going to bother taking pictures, please don’t make the biggest mistake most homeowners make, besides taking pictures of corners and shelves, and take blurry pictures. Why bother uploading it if no one can tell what it’s a picture of in the first place?
Finally, on of the biggest misconceptions some make is that interested individuals would like a panorama of your entire home all in one shot. Not only is this distracting, and distorting, but it is meaningless as it doesn’t give anyone an accurate view of your home.
In closing, I’m sure this information seems like common sense to you. In the midst of chuckling at misguided attempts to showcase someone’s castle, I hope you’ve picked up a tip or two for when the time comes to put photos of your own home online.
All of these are just general guidelines. Each property is different and you’ll have to use your common sense and adjust your angles accordingly. You’re not trying to fool anyone. We are only trying to drive more traffic to the home with thousands of homes on the Internet for potential buyers to choose from. Good luck and have fun shooting and carefully choosing your photos!
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© 2013 Victoria Van Ness