How to Prepare a Home for Professional Real Estate Photos

Professional Real Estate Photos Help Agents Prosper

Experts predict that the real estate market is showing signs of cooling off in the coming year. Hiring a professional real estate photographer is a no-brainer for agents that want to prosper through the market downturn. Professional photos will increase interest from buyers when displayed alongside listings with DIY photos on listing sites such as Zillow. Real estate listings with professional photos will also attract sellers. However, there’s more to the presentation of a real estate listing than calling a professional photographer. Listing presentation is key to a successful transaction. The home must be in tip-top shape for the professional photos to be completely effective. Ideally, the home should be ready the day before picture day. This ensures that all the time that the real estate photographer set aside to photograph the home is spent on taking photos. Being ready will mean the photographer has more time to take more photos. The photographer will be able to capture more angles and deliver higher quality photos.

How to prepare a home for real estate photos
A well prepared home will stand out on listing sites such as Zillow.

If the home is not ready when the real estate photographer arrives this could compromise the shoot. Professional real estate photos are high resolution HDR photos that will detail everything within the frame of the photograph. That rumpled bedspread on the king size bed in the gorgeous Master Bedroom will be a distraction in the photos. The broken blinds in the living room will scream “repairs needed!” in the listing. Yes, the photographer can angle the camera away from debris or infractions, but this will make the space appear to be smaller. In some instances, it will be obvious that something is amiss within the photo and look like a “cover up”.

Avoid Reasons for Buyers to Not Look at a Home

Professional real estate agents strive not to give buyers a reason to not look at their listings. Proper home preparation for photos and market only gives buyers reason to look at their home. Agents market homes to attract as many buyers as possible to the home. It’s real estate 101—the more interest in a home, the higher price that home will achieve when offers start to roll in. Every agent knows this. However, looking through any listing site and there are continually homes presented in subpar fashion. As the market cools and inventories rise this means fewer buyers and more homes for sale. Buyers will have choices and which homes will they choose first? Right, the ones with professional photos and that are prepared for sale. Good agents understand that they are not selling their clients’ old home, they are selling the buyers new home.

Move-in Ready

Most buyers in today’s market are looking for move-in ready homes. Home buyers have busy lives and families to look after. They’re like everyone else and live on a budget. They don’t have the luxury of living in their current home while their new home is being renovated. Usually there is just a 4 to 6 week window between selling their home and buying a new one. They have a million things on their to-do list and fixing up a home isn’t on their list. If they see things in the photos such as a moldy shower, deep purple walls in a dining room, or a broken drawer in the kitchen they will keep scrolling. Other “keep scrolling” triggers may be a cluttered kitchen counter, a pile of dirty laundry in the Master Bedroom, or a cat tree in the living room. If the sellers don’t take the effort to remove or fix these for the photos, what else didn’t they bother to maintain while living there?  

How to prepare a home for real estate photos
Buyers are looking for move-in ready homes like this one.

Coach the Homeowners

Homeowners know how to live in their homes and enjoy their homes, but very few know how to sell their homes. This is why they hire a professional real estate agent to sell their home in hopes of getting top dollar. What they often don’t realize is that it takes more effort to sell their home than only hiring a real estate agent. The trusted real estate agent has the duty to be a partner in the home selling process. The agent can market, network, show, and do everything else in their power to sell the home, but if the home is not prepped it’s not going to command the expected interest or price. Here are a couple of checklists for real estate agents to help guide their clients through the home preparation process. One list requires a budget and the other requires little to no budget. Keep in mind that it’s the cosmetic items that will matter most in the photos. This article is not addressing mechanical or structural issues that may arise during inspection.

Cost Required Improvements

  • Neutralize the color scheme throughout the home
    • Paint walls and trim a neutral gray or subtle beige
  • Have home professionally cleaned
  • Replace outdated flooring—If not needed, have carpets professionally cleaned
  • Update kitchen
  • Update bathrooms
  • Replace windows—If not needed, have windows professionally cleaned
  • Fix all sliding glass doors and screens
  • Fix all window screens
  • Rent a POD and declutter
  • Install professional landscaping for curb appeal
  • Paint exterior if needed

The preceding items will require an investment from the homeowner. If the homeowner has the means to make some of these improvements a professional real estate agent can guide them with advice on which improvements will give the seller a return on their investment.

How to prepare a home for real estate photos
A home with a neutralized color scheme appeals to buyers more than a home with a lot of bold or dark colors.

Low Cost or No Cost Improvements

              Interiors

  • Have home professionally cleaned
    • If this isn’t in the budget then make sure home is spic and span on photo day
  • Declutter, declutter, declutter
    • Utilize the garage and closets to empty home to bare minimum
    • Photos will look much better if the viewer can see from floor to wall to ceiling unobstructed in several areas of large spaces and at least one area of small spaces
    • It is ideal to have nothing in front of sliding glass doors
  • Make sure all window treatments are working properly and can open
    • If not, remove them for the photos—Let the sunshine in!
  • Make sure ALL lights are in working order and replaced with bright white light bulbs
    • The secret to good photos is good lighting
  • Clean all windows and mirrors
  • Clear kitchen counters and vanities in bathrooms
  • Clear all magnets, notes, etc. from refrigerator
  • Clear entryway of shoes, door mats, jackets, etc.
  • If using the space under a bed for storage be sure that bedding reaches floor
    • Only place items on the floor behind bed in secondary bedrooms, if they are not visible from door. Don’t place items on floor next to bed in Master Bedroom
    • Utilize walk-in closet for storage. It’s ok if walk-in closet is not photographed versus a cluttered Master Bedroom that looks small and dingy in the photos
  • Remove all signs of pets—Pets can be a red flag for buyers
  • Remove seasonal décor
  • Remove all family photos—Depersonalize the home. Buyers want to feel as if they are in their home
  • Remove religious symbols

Exteriors

  • Remove vehicles from driveway
  • Close garage door all of the way
  • Remove garden hoses
  • Spruce up yard—Mow where needed, sweep and trim
  • Remove all debris—Toys, pet belongings, pet waste, garden trimmings
    • Utilize small side yard if needed
  • Remove flags—Flags will be distracting and can look blurry in HDR photos
  • Clean and tidy up outdoor living areas/furniture
  • Clean pool – remove leaves, toys and vacuum hose
  • Turn on waterfalls and fountains

To do all of the tasks mentioned above will take a lot of hard work. Agents can ensure their clients that putting in the extra effort will pay off. The home will look better than competing homes and this will increase interest and showings. There are only so many buyers in any given market at any given time. Smart agents want to cast a wide net to attract as many buyers as possible. Savvy agents will also roll up their sleeves and pitch in where needed to get home prepped for photos.

How to prepare a home for real estate photos
Prepping a home for real estate photos doesn’t have to be costly. Neat and tidy will show buyers that home is well cared for.

Vacant Homes

An agent that is selling a vacant home is not off the hook when it comes to preparations for real estate photos. A vacant home is generally clean and devoid of clutter, but there are a few tasks that should be completed before photos.

  • Have home professionally cleaned
    • If not in budget then make sure home is broom swept at the very least
  • Remove all window treatments and make sure blinds are in working order
    • An experienced real estate photographer will shy away from opening blinds because it is very common for these to fall off of their mounts when attempting to open
    • If blinds are damaged or in poor shape remove them
  • Be sure wood floors are dust free
    • Shoe prints may show in photos if floors are not at least swept with a Swiffer
    • Do not try to enhance floors with a clear coat or sheen—This will degrade photos and floors will look flawed and in need of resurfacing
  • Replace carpets
    • If not in budget, then have them professionally cleaned
    • Don’t fret over stains that cannot be removed—Experienced real estate photographers will not remove these in the photos as this is a misrepresentation of the home
    • If stains are present it is still best to have them cleaned—The carpets will look better and this signals the buyers that home sellers did what they could to prepare the home
  • Have windows cleaned
    • Windows will become the main focal point in an empty room. It’s best to have them looking their best
  • Make sure all lights are working and change all light bulbs to white lights
    • Non-working lights will create uneven lighting. Old yellow light bulbs will make rooms look dingy and dirty. It is best to replace all lights with bright white lights to make the photos pop
  • Complete minor repairs
    • Make sure missing trim, broken drawers, or missing tiles are replaced. These items, albeit small, will give the impression that a major renovation needs to be done in the photos
  • Remove odd furniture pieces
    • Place these in the garage
  • Remove debris left behind
    • If physically removing from property isn’t an option try to place all left behind debris in side yard or garage. You want the front and back yard empty, same as the interior
  • Fix or remove broken screens and shutters
  • Have pool cleaned the day before photos
    • If property has a pool, often times it is neglected in a vacant home. Make sure it’s blue and sparkles on picture day
Las Vegas Real Estate Marketing
Vacant homes need preparation for photos as well. Broken blinds can be a red flag to buyers signaling the home was not well-maintained.

It’s Photo Day!

All the things above have been done as of the evening before the scheduled real estate photo shoot. What needs to be done on photo day? There’s still work. Prior to the professional real estate photographer arriving these last-minute things need to be done. To best utilize the photographer’s time, make sure she or he can start taking photos the minute they arrive.

  • Real estate agent present
    • If the home is occupied it is best for the agent to be present to make sure all items are complete. Agent should arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the shoot in order to complete any missed tasks
  • Homeowners are gone
    • Ideally it is best that only the agent and photographer are present at the photo shoot. An agent can direct the photographer to get the angles they feel is the best. Both photographer and agent can exchange ideas on what looks best and what should probably be looked over without interference from home owner. If homeowner insists on being present it is best that only one homeowner is present. There should only be three people in the home at a maximum during the photo shoot
  • Pets are removed from property
    • This is a good opportunity to clear the home of both pets and occupants. Having pets in the home can be a distraction even if they are contained. A barking dog behind a closed door can distract the photographer. The photo shoot can be a dry run for showings and open houses for homeowners to vacate for short periods of time
  • All Lights on all ceiling fans off
  • Window blinds open
  • Toilet seats down
  • Cell phones and chargers are put away—These are the most commonly overlooked items
  • Televisions are off or paused on an appealing scene
How to prepare a home for real estate photos
Be ready for the professional real estate photographer. Even doing finishing touches when photographer arrives might result in a missed shot.

No One Said it Was Easy

If it were easy then anyone could sell a home. This is why real estate agents are needed. It is tried and true that the most successful agents also have the best prepared homes. Market fluctuations happen all the time. Some experts are predicting a slowing in most real estate markets across the country. At the time of publishing this article, inventories are up, days on market are increasing, and price reductions are becoming common across the board. If there is a downturn, agents will have to do everything they can in their power to make their real estate listings stand head and shoulders above the crowd. This will mean having professional photos and well prepped homes on all their real estate listings. Good listing presentations will attract both buyers and sellers.

It’s not a perfect world and having a seller do all the things above is not realistic in most cases. Successful agents will approach their listings with a grading scale. If the home is 90% or above prepped that is an A. 80% or above is a B and that’s enough to earn them a place on the honor roll. Anything below a B is average and should not be accepted.

This is home is in the same market as the one featured in this article. It has the same number of occupants, similar square footage, schools, etc. Which home will garner the most activity? Note: home above was seller occupied and not tenant occupied.
How to prepare a home for real estate photos
Having a well prepped home in a slow or buyers market will make a huge difference.

Today’s Featured Home

The home featured today is an example of a well-prepped home. Normally we don’t like to post all the photos from a shoot, just the highlights, but this home is an exception. We wanted our readers to see what a well-prepped home can do for their listing.

 This home at the time of the photo shoot was occupied by 3 adults, 2 children and several pets (homeowner was a veterinarian). Home was neutralized, decluttered, depersonalized (not 100%, but acceptable) and free of pets at time of shoot. There was a turtle and guinea pig in the children’s bedrooms, but ok in this case. It is most notable that there were small children living in this home, yet bedrooms and yard well neat and tidy.

We would also like to mention the real estate agent listing this home is a very successful agent in Las Vegas and has had Rick shoot several of his listings over the past year. He is present at every shoot and 95% of his homes look like this or are very close.

For more info on the services provided by RCRdigital click here.

For more info on preparing a home for real estate photos please check out our friends at HGTV.

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