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Photography Tips To Sell Your Home

Hanna KielarOctober 16, 2019

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. If you’re trying to sell your house, a picture might also be worth thousands of dollars. That’s because 87% of home buyers who browsed listings online said photos were some of the most useful pieces of information in their search, according to the 2018 National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers & Sellers.

Another study found that homes that had been professionally photographed sold 32% faster.

“It’s imperative that sellers make sure their pictures are attention-getting,” says Ashley Baskin, a licensed real estate agent who also serves on the advisory board for Home Life Digest. “Photos offer the first impression of the home, making them a key determining factor in whether a potential buyer continues to consider your property.”

Given the importance of great photography, we rounded up some tips for shooting your home like a pro (even if you do it yourself).

Use The Right Equipment

Yes, smartphone photography has progressed to the point that the results are almost professional quality — but the key word here is “almost.” Brian Davis, real estate investor and co-founder of SparkRental, suggests using a real camera, even if you need to borrow one from a friend. “The lens is better; the image sensor is larger; and they simply take better photos.”

If you do use a smartphone, there is software you can use to increase the quality of photos to really highlight in-depth details, says Jackson Siegel, human resources manager for AI PhotoLabs. He suggests looking for free software that can convert low-resolution photos to high-resolution photos for the best look.

And if you really want your photos to stand out, Stan Mead of Summit Home Buyers in Salt Lake City recommends creating a 3-D virtual tour of the entire property. For about $500, you can find a company like Matterport that will combine drone footage with a 3-D camera.

“Imagine starting with a sweeping overhead shot of the home’s exterior, which leads you to the front door, and then on a room-by-room virtual tour so that potential buyers can explore the entire house from their phone or computer,” Mead says. This type of tour is especially useful for high-end properties, or for out-of-town buyers who need to choose a property sight unseen.

Organize Your Home Before You Start

Just like when you’re showing the home, clean it until it sparkles, says Baskin. “Marketing a spotless home gives buyers the idea that the home is new.” Polish all surfaces, and don’t overlook windows and stainless-steel appliances.

Then you’ll want to stage it. Start by eliminating clutter: “Pack up knickknacks and photographs, and hide remote controls and mail in stylish boxes and baskets,” she says. Then clear as much furniture as possible. “Leave tasteful pieces to show the potential buyers how each room is used, but the house will feel bigger with less furniture, and it also allows the buyer to picture their own belongings in the space.”

If you’re not wild about your own furniture, you can “flash stage” your property, Davis says. This is when a company comes in and stages the property just before your photographer shoots it. “They then immediately remove the furniture and decor they brought in, so it costs a fraction of the price of traditional staging, but you end up with professional photos of your house perfectly staged to post in your listing, thus attracting more viewings.”

Another option if you have a vacant home is virtual staging, says David Eisenberg, a licensed associate real estate broker with Douglas Elliman Real Estate in New York City. “It's very difficult to imagine what furniture might fit when you’re looking at a photo of an empty room, but a virtual staging company can place beautiful furniture and accessories into your space, accomplishing the same result as staging without spending tens of thousands of dollars on actual pieces.” You can do the same with a fixer-upper, he says, creating a “virtual” renovation to show the potential buyer some possibilities for the space before they bring in their architect and contractor.

Be Your Own Set Designer

Once the house is cleaned and staged, it’s go time. The first thing you should do is take some sample photos before you continue. “There have been times I have taken a bunch of photos without looking and then afterward, I realized I should have turned off my flash or used portrait mode,” Siegel says.

Now’s the time to go through and make sure that everything is literally picture perfect — toilet seats are closed; towels are hanging nicely; dishes are out of the shot. Baskin recommends adding a pop of color, like an orchid or a throw pillow, to draw attention to featured spaces.

Don’t forget to make your yard look its best, too — mow the grass, plant flowers and make sure any unsightly features are out of the photos.

Eisenberg recommends opening the curtains or raising the blinds in the photos — and not only for natural light.Whether you have gorgeous, unobstructed views or you're facing a brick wall, photos that show the windows covered will make potential buyers skeptical,” he says.

Then photograph your home from the front entry to the backyard, taking care to capture as many details as you can. “Just about every listing site shows you 15 to 20 photos, where each photo is a landscape view of each room in the house,” notes John Bodrozic, co-founder of HomeZada. “But when people visit your house for a showing or during an open house, they usually take their phone out and start taking even more photos of the house.”

He recommends taking close-up shots of appliances and various materials in each room, along with features of your outdoor landscaping. “Consumers want to see the details of which brands of appliances you have and what the counters, flooring and plumbing fixtures look like,” he says. “Potential buyers want as much visual information about homes for sale that they can get, so create an in-depth story that’s almost like a detailed digital brochure of your home.”

Get The Lighting Right

Good lighting is essential for strong photos. Davis recommends shooting the house during the middle of the day when there is plenty of natural light. “The more light you have, the more crisp your photos will look,” he says.

If you’re struck with a dreary day, flick on all your lights; just be sure that the light is directed on the object you’re photographing, rather than the camera, says Siegel. Try shooting with and without the flash, as sometimes the flash creates too much saturation, he says. “This happens when the flash is focused on the photo, which you might have experienced taking a selfie in front of a mirror.”

Choose Your Angles Carefully

Make sure to take wide-angle shots, which make the rooms look bigger, saysAlice Bil, photographer at studioEPIC. “Spacious homes sell,” she says, so use the widest angle lens you have, or invest in a wide-angle lens or converter. You can even find affordable wide-angle converters for smartphones, she says.

Davis recommends not just settling for the same angle, but taking photographs of every major room from multiple angles. “Take shots from eye level, then higher and lower.” Taking shots from the corners of the room can make the room look larger. “By getting ‘coverage,’ as they say in the film industry, you leave yourself plenty of options to choose the photos that paint each room in the best light, both literally and figuratively.”

But don’t get too zany; after all, people do want to see the features of your house, not your artistic creativity. “Stick with keeping the camera vertical or horizontal, rather than at an angle,” says Siegel.

It’s a lot to think about, but whether you engage a professional photographer or take the pictures yourself with an eye for the details, a well-thought-out photo shoot will bring traffic — and eventually the perfect buyer with the offer you’ve been waiting for.

Have you ever seen something crazy in listing photos? Let us know below!

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    Hanna Kielar

    Hanna Kielar is an Associate Section Editor for Rocket Companies focused on personal finance, recruiting and personal loans. She has a B.A. in Professional Writing from Michigan State University.