Photographing Your Home to Sell & Other Visual Tips for Listing Your Property

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It's human nature that we become attracted to something we are interested in, especially if the impression or presentation is inviting. When someone is looking to purchase a home, you need to attract them with a first impression. This specific first impression, for most homebuyers, is probably on Zillow, or some other real estate site. Let me mention that I am not a real estate agent. However, I do want to share five tips to take into consideration for visual impact.

OUR HOME SOLD FAST. We sold our house, one year ago, For Sale by Owner (FSBO) in only four days! The buyers did bring an agent with them, permission granted, beforehand. Since they brought a realtor into a FSBO situation, we didn't budge much on price, because the realtor earned half-commission, at 2.7 percent. We did help with closing costs, but we were willing to do that anyway. The agent took care of all paperwork and kept everything flowing nicely, so we didn't have any hiccups along the way - we were so fortunate and grateful for this experience!  Our first home was sold to a sweet, young couple, and we hope they are happy there!  I think about them often.

Ok, onto the tips!

1. The Purge Isn't Just a Scary Movie.

This tip was the most important when it came to moving. Who wants to move more stuff? Especially the stuff you don't use - that is taking up space in your current home?  The thought of physically moving boxes and furniture is my personal interpretation of hell. It's already stressful, so don't add more to your plate.  Take care of organizing, donating, and discarding all items before listing your home, if possible.  Then, use containers, boxes, racks and simple organizers to hide other odds and ends. Think about the insides of closets, and especially your pantry.  Potential buyers will be looking in those places.  

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Although this can take some time, it will help in the long run.  Don't be afraid to ask for help.  Ask a friend or family member over to be your voice-of-reason, as you're undecided on what to do with random items in your house!  For some people, getting rid of things causes stress.  Look at it as a fresh start where you can simplify.  Need more guidance? Check out The Complete Book of Home Organization blog post.  This was my bible through the moving process!

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2. Clean Your Space Like Never Before.

This should be a no-brainer, but when my husband and I would look online for homes, dirty clothes on the floor became an instant turn-off. Not only is a potential buyer trying to envision their family living in this space, they are forced to envision it clean first. Mentally, that's a lot more effort than most people will give, before scrolling to the next property.

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Cleaning should go way beyond the clutter - depending on your space, you may need to scrub tile, bathtubs, floors, and much more.  Wiping cabinets was something I didn't do in my normal cleaning routine, but before showing our house, they were wiped well.  A clean home gives the feeling that it was taken care of, and that's instantly appealing to a buyer.

3. Stage It. Decorate it.

Not everyone is a decorator, but surely you know someone who has an inviting home. Have them over. Ask for their opinion and be open to constructive criticism.  This will help you see your home at a different vantage point.  I love to decorate and keep a tidy home, but I still invited a friend over, who pointed out things I was used to seeing, like a small basket of dog treats on the counter, or too many magnets on the refrigerator.  

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POINT OUT STRENGTHS. They say kitchens and bathrooms sell homes. Those areas, we had renovated a couple years prior, so I made sure to focus on the strengths, like tile in the bathroom and granite countertops in the listing description and photographs.

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FLOWERS & PLANTS.  Here's another little staging hint - adding foliage, like faux plants or fresh flowers, around the home, adds freshness to the space.  Marshall's and Homegoods have the best prices on these.  (I have three identical flower arrangements, like the one above, throughout my house at all times!  I can't keep a real plant alive, so I make no apologies for my fake plant addiction. They make me happy!)

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FAMILY PHOTOS. Some real estate agents recommend taking down family photos. I think there's a fine line. Obviously, we had lots of photos on our walls (I am a photographer, after all), but we are a young family, and our home was probably going to be popular among the same demographic. When we would tour a home, and they had photos in it, it gave me a an obvious sense of who we would be buying from and a level of comfort. 

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DON'T LIVE A LIE. Keep in mind that you do have to live in this house through the sale, so some things have to be usable and available.  I wasn't going to deprive my 2-year-old, at the time, from playing with his toys in the living room.  Before a showing, you can always do a quick pick-up, rather than a full-blown declutter!  The above tips will save time in this area.

4. Hire a Photographer or Take Great Pictures.

Please don't take house photos on your iPhone, or right into a mirror, where I can see your reflection! Real estate photographers are an investment in the sale of your home. The well-lit, and well-defined photos of your space will stand out online, I promise. Around this area, a real estate photographer may charge $150-$250, depending on the square-footage of your home.  If you want to get people in the door, your photos will be the first impression and advertisement.  Make it a good one.

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If you want to try and take the photos with your own DSLR camera, time it right.  Natural daylight will help you achieve those "magazine-worthy" images, and help your paint colors look more true to life.  Make sure to turn off the camera flash, any overhead lights or lamps in the house. (That's my preference anyway.) Some real estate photographers think light fixtures add detail, but they also can add a yellow hue to the space, which dates your home and changes wall color.

5. Curb Appeal, Exterior Quality.

Remember that whole "presentation thing" from Tip #1?  If people are coming to look at your house, they begin making decisions about the property as soon as they pull up. How is the neighborhood? Is the driveway steep? What does the landscaping look like? They see all of this before stepping foot inside. 

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We listed our house before spring hit the Midwest, so our landscaping wasn't in bloom; however, we did a little clean up by picking up sticks, dead leaves, etc. Staging the deck with our patio furniture was a must, too!

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The yard was as good as we could get it....in February!  Luckily it was large and people loved that!

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What other tips do you have for homebuyers? Do you have a success story?  Share it in the comments below to help motivate others!  
Good luck with your home sale!!!

Dana Marquart

Photogenics on Location, 100 West Front Street, Washington, MO, 63090