If you've ever sold a home, you would probably agree that the day the photographer arrives is one of the most anxious times of the entire selling process. Everything has to be completely ready by the appointment time. It's a lot of stress.
As a photographer, it's common for me to show up on the day of a photo shoot to find the sellers frantically trying to finish the last steps of their cleaning & staging process. If you've ever been in this position, you understand the stress. The struggle is real.
Our Realtors work hard to help our clients get to this point of the selling process without much chaos. We use checklists and coaching visits from stagers, cleaners, and experienced agents to create a clear scope of work that makes our seller's homes look amazing BEFORE the photographer shows up.
I emphasize "BEFORE" the photographer shows up because there are sellers who think that the photos, videos, 3D tours, Floorplans, and marketing are just a small piece of the selling puzzle. They plan to have it all done before showings, but may not take the deadline before photos as seriously. In reality, these marketing strategies are the MOST IMPORTANT piece of the puzzle! The marketing of your home will dramatically impact your buyers opinion of your house, and your sales price. The understanding of this is why real estate marketing has changed so drastically over the past few years.
It's important for home sellers to understand the role of the photographer/videographer and how valuable they are to home selling success. One of the most important things to know about your professional real estate photographer/videographer is that they are truly artists. They can make your home look absolutely amazing with their skill sets.
When your photographer shows up, they are going to walk the house and spend some time searching out the most important aspects to highlight for potential buyers. Seasoned professionals have developed a uniquely honed in ability to identify the pros and cons of the home, and know how to showcase the best parts of the property to lure buyers in. Their experience and trade tools allow them to manipulate light and space to make your home look as big and bright as possible.
Since your photographer/videographer is an artist, you will get significantly more out of their services if your house is completely ready when they arrive. Artists can get distracted if they have to rearrange and tidy rooms before a shoot. After all, that's not exactly part of their job description. You want their attention to be focused on a bright & tidy home, not on the work it takes to get the home to that point. They're often on a tight schedule, and time spent doing your job is time they can't spend doing theirs.
To get the most out of your professional real estate photographer, follow the checklist below. It will help ensure that your house is photo ready and welcoming to the artist coming to film/shoot your house. It will help the photographer/videographer emotionally connect to your home, allowing inspiration to flow freely, enabling them to make it look as alluring as possible. This translates to more money in your pocket when you sell your home!
Here's a checklist of the top 20 items to prepare your home for photos.
(Each item is explained in more detail below the infographic.)
Clear & Clean Kitchen Counters & Sink
When the kitchen counters are completely cleared off, it makes the kitchen look bigger, and buyers can imagine how they might use the space. Coffee makers, mixers, and decorations only distract buyers, and often make the kitchen feel cluttered. Remove everything but perhaps a few decorative items from the countertops and clean all surface areas, including the appliances, kitchen sink and back splash.
Clear & Clean Bathroom Sinks, Tubs, and Showers
Place all of the shampoo bottles, soaps, shaving razors, and other items into a bin that can fit underneath the bathroom sink. Take everyhing off of the bathroom counter as well. You want the bathrooms to appear vacant. Clean, neatly folded towels on towel racks are fine.
Replace Burned Out Light Bulbs
This is one of the most overlooked items on the list. Be sure to check all of the ceiling lights, as well as extra lamps and exterior lights to make sure that they all work. If there are dark areas in the homes, such as a basement, add a few extra lamps to brighten them up. Floor lamps that provide up-lighting are great! The more light, the better!
Turn On All Lights Throughout The Entire House
Lighting is one of the most important aspects of photography. It's important to have as much light at possible. Turn on all of the lights in the house, including lamps and exterior lights. Your photographer will be happy to find your home in its brightest light when they arrive.
Open All Window Treatments
Natural light from windows brings life and emotion into real estate photos. We recommend opening all of the window treatments throughout the entire house to let in as much light as possible. If it's too bright outside, your photographer will alter your shades and curtains to balance the shot. Don't forget to clean the windows!
Remove Unnecessary Furniture & Decorations
This is probably the most difficult request for sellers, but it's one of the most important items on the list. Removing and storing excess or large bulky furniture can be challenging, but it opens up the floor space and makes the home look much larger. It's wise to consult a professional stager to determine which items should stay or go. This is truly one of those situations where "less is more".
Remove Floor Mats and Runners
Floor mats and runners are great at protecting your floors, but they can make the overall floor space look smaller, which in turn makes the room look smaller. Make sure to roll up and remove all of the floor mats in the bathrooms, kitchen, and laundry areas. If you have any rugs, consult a stager to determine whether or not they should stay.
Turn All Ceiling Fans, TVs, and Computer Screens Off
Most photographers use HDR photography, which takes multiple light exposures for each photo and combines them into one final shot. Any moving items like ceiling fans or active TV/Computer screens look very strange in HDR. For this reason, we recommend turning off anything that moves or causes motion blur.
Clear Appliance Surfaces of Magnets and Clutter
It's common to keep magnets, notes, reminders, and other personal information on the refrigerator. We ask our sellers to remove all magnets, calendars, and personal items from the refrigerator and any other place where they place notes. It will not only make your home appear tidier, it keeps your personal info safe from the general public.
Make All of the Beds
This is an obvious one that surprisingly gets overlooked often, especially in the secondary bedrooms. Be sure to make and decorate all the beds with matching sheets, blankets, and pillows. Use bedding that covers the entire bed and fits the mattress correctly. Use decorative pillows to brighten up the bed, if possible. If a room is clean, and the bed isn't made right, it makes the whole room seem off.
Remove All Personal Photos and Items
It's hard for buyers to visualize themselves in your house if your personal items are everywhere. Since you want your buyers to focus on the house and not on you, you'll need to remove all personal photos and items from the entire house; including patios, porches, and garages.
Put All Shoes & Jackets in Closets
When buyers see shoes and jackets on coat racks and entryway floors, they subconsciously assume that the home lacks storage space. It's best to remove all jackets and shoes from anywhere that they can be seen throughout the entire house. Store away any loose items to remove all distractions.
Clear All Night Stands and Dressers
Night stands tend to accumulate items naturally. Half-read books, prescription bottles, tissues, and electronic devices will quickly clutter these areas. Remove everything but a lamp and one decorative item, such as a small floral arrangement or decorative book to make the area look clean and presentable. Think of a freshly cleaned hotel room.
Remove ALL Pet Items
Not everyone has pets. In fact, some people are severely allergic to animals. It's extremely important to make sure that your house shows no signs of pets; especially pet smells. Spend some time getting this part right, as it is one of the biggest factors in home price reductions and negative feedback from home buyers. Consider that you could be "nose blind" to the smell, as you live in it every day. Ask a neutral party for their honest opinion before listing.
Tidy Up the Yard & Landscaping
First impressions are very important, so make sure that the front yard is cleaned up and all of the landscaping is trimmed back and tidy. The first picture that people will see of your home will be the outside front yard shot, so it really needs to be presented in it's very best condition.
Sweep up the Porch/Patio/Deck
This step is imperative in the Fall when leaves accumulate daily. Make sure that the entire front and back porches are swept clean, and remove any items that you can live without. If possible, stage these areas with flowers and decorative items to create a relaxing space that invites home buyers in.
Clear All Cars from Road & Driveway
It's never good to have cars in the driveway during real estate photos. Always remove all cars, trucks, RV's, and trailers from the driveway and front of the house. If you are friends with your neighbors and feel comfortable doing so, you could even ask them to move their cars from the road to make the street look quiet and inviting in your photos.
Hide All Garbage Cans & Lawn Equipment
Large garbage cans and unsightly lawn equipment can be very distracting in real estate photos. Put all of the trash cans in the garage, along with garden hoses, lawn mowers, and other yard maintenance tools. Keep the lawn free and clear of any small toys and pet items as well.
Remove Outdoor Cooker Covers
It's time to show off that awesome bar-b-que grill, not hide it! Smoker and grill covers should be removed so that cookers are exposed and ready for use. If it's an old grill that needs to be covered because it's rusty and unsightly, its better to just remove or throw it out completely.
Open Up Patio Umbrellas
If it's not too windy during your photo shoot, be sure to open up any patio umbrellas to stage the area. Dust off chairs and set up the area as though you are going to enjoy it with friends later. Fresh outdoor pillows and flowers will create an inviting space for your photographer to highlight while they're in your backyard.
A Few Extra Things to Be Aware Of:
Be Prepared to Reschedule
Most photographers work around the weather because it has such a strong impact on the final marketing materials. It's impossible to fly drones and get footage if it's raining or extremely windy. Be prepared to have your agent call and reschedule your photo shoot if the weather takes a dramatic turn for the worst. If a professional determines he/she should wait, trust them that it's for the best.
Be Prepared to Leave for a Few Hours
At Great Colorado Homes, we use 3D imaging technology that will scan every part of the home, yard and garage. If you have pets or kids running through the house during a photo shoot, they are likely to be in the 3D tour somewhere. This is a big problem. It's best to plan to leave your home and give the photographer a non-occupied space to work with. It also helps them to not get distracted. Even if you're just shuffling from room to room to "stay out of the way", it's very distracting. You will get the most out of the process if the home is unoccupied.
Leave Instructions for the Photographer to Lock Up
When your professional photographer/videographer is finished, they will usually message the Realtor who scheduled the photo shoot to let them know that they are done. If you've followed our advice and aren't home, leave a key and/or instructions to let the photographer know your preferred method of locking up when they leave.
The marketing of your home is the most important piece of the selling puzzle, and it begins with your preparation paired with a great photographer/videographer. Having the items on this checklist completed will ensure that your home will be ready before they arrive, which will enable you to get the most out of their time and talent. You've likely done a lot of work to get your home ready to sell; don't fizzle out at the end when these details matter the most! Remember, great marketing leads to great offers!
Hi There! I'm the founder of Great Colorado Homes and the creator of much of the content on this website. Thanks for taking the time to read this article. Please feel free to leave a comment in the message box below, or to share this article on social media with someone who might benefit from it. I appreciate your time here on this site and am always open to suggestions and ideas from our readers. Feel free to contact me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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