The pandemic-era housing boom is still ongoing, and home sellers are staying safe in the driver’s seat. With more demand than supply, the US housing market is a place of rising prices and varied supply.
That doesn’t mean, however, that home sellers can ignore the traditional rules of marketing their properties. Sellers still need to make a strong first impression, and that part of image management begins with the marketing photos that accompany your home’s listing.
“Buyers are picky,” says Amy Hullet, an agent at Century 21 Morrison Realty in Bismarck, North Dakota. “Even if the market is what it is right now, they will wait for the right house.”
If you’re planning on putting up a For Sale sign in front of your house this spring, you’ll have some work to do before then. These tips come from Hullet and real estate photographers HomeJab and BoxBrownie.com.
1. Beautify the exterior.
Taking the shot from the front of the house is a good shot, so make sure you maximize your home’s appeal. The HomeJab photo above is an example of a property ready for close-up.
Remove trash cans from the curb and cars from the driveway. If the front door needs a fresh coat of paint, do that before the photo shoot.
Pick up all children’s toys. Put garden tools out of sight along with hoses and pool cleaning equipment. Mow the lawn yourself or have the garden checked by a landscaper. If there is a dead plant in a flowerpot, remove it.
If there is exposed dirt in the front yard, cover it with mulch. If you’re in a snowy climate, make sure you shovel.
“People want to see your porch,” says Hullet. “They don’t want to see drift.”
The same goes for Christmas decorations – although temperatures in her market have been brutally cold, Hullet is urging sellers to remove them.
“I don’t care if it’s minus 20 – put it down. I have to go,” she says.
2. Put away the clutter.
Be reckless with the interior of the house. Remove cell phones, purses, stacks of paper, drinking glasses, liquor and other items from countertops and tables.
Pull down personal photos and remove children’s artwork and testimonies from the refrigerator. Store hair dryers, medicines and toiletries in the bathrooms.
Remember that high-resolution photos reveal blemishes. “We do 3D tours, and people can really zoom in and see everything,” said Joe Jesuele, founder and CEO of HomeJab.
Hullet’s Advice: No more than three items are allowed on flat surfaces such as dressers and tables. For kitchen worktops, the limit increases a bit, but only to five items.
“Less is more,” says Hullet.
Remove shoes, umbrellas and other items at the main entrance. Remove TV remotes, video game controllers, magazines, and other clutter from living areas. This checklist from BoxBrownie will help you decide what to eliminate.
3. Make it shine.
After tidying up, thoroughly clean floors and dust from countertops and furniture. Dusting is especially important, says Jesuele, because it’s the kind of everyday detail that’s hard to erase with imaging software.
“We can take out a bottle on a countertop, but it’s a lot harder to get dust off a surface,” he says.
Make sure windows, mirrors, shower doors, and shower curtains are clean and streak-free. Hullet suggests shampooing carpets too.
4. Remove personal items, political statements, and valuables.
As a seller, you want to enable buyers to see the property for themselves. That means removing family photos and other personal items.
You should also remove any signs or images that are proactively political. The National Association of Realtors recently banned Confederate flags from listing photos. But some sellers still display the stars and bars.
Peter Schravemade, director of sales, marketing and revenue at BoxBrownie.com, says his company is asked once a month to digitally remove a Confederate flag from a photo of a home for sale.
A controversial political or cultural stance is unlikely to help you sell your property for the highest possible price. “They reduce the percentage of people who would be interested in the house,” says Schravemade.
You should also hide valuable works of art, antiques, or other items that could attract the attention of thieves. “Remove anything that could make the house a target for theft,” he says.
5. Focus on the most important spaces.
The kitchen, master bedroom, and bathrooms are top priorities for most buyers. So pay special attention to these areas. Make the bed, clean the toilets and close the lids.
In bathrooms, make sure towels are clean, fit, and folded in the same pattern.
On the other hand, garages and unfinished basements rarely feature in marketing photos, so they’re good places to tuck away the clutter you’ve cleared from the high-value areas.
Before the shoot, remove trash cans from bathrooms and the kitchen.
6. Hide signs of pets.
Remove all signs of pets. Stow away all pet beds, litter boxes and food bowls. The idea is to give potential buyers no reason to skip your home.
“Some people would be put off because pets can damage hardwood floors and carpets,” says Jesuele.