Real Estate Photography & Staging Tips

It's almost impossible to sell real estate today without professional photographs of your home. Exquisitely photographed (and staged) areas are the key to selling in today's competitive markets.

If you're relatively new to the concept of real estate photography, here are some pro tips to help you get started.

The Camera Equipment

Is your Smartphone good enough to take impressive, professional photos? Maybe not. Having a camera on your phone, even a good one may not be enough. The pros turn to professional cameras and professional equipment for all real estate photography. In addition to a good camera, (which you can rent by the way), impressive real estate photos are all about the lighting. Other equipment, such as the lens, tripod, and the software used to develop and enhance the photos are key players. Your camera should have a cable release. A responsive flash, and a wireless trigger. You will need multiple lenses (wide-angle, full-frame, and tilt-shift lenses as well). A good tilt-shift lens will help to avoid certain vertical lines like door frames or the edges of walls when leaning in or out. Tilt-shift lenses can have a steep learning curve so you'll want to play for a while before trying to take the money shots. There is a variety of techniques the pros use from exposure blending, wireless flashes, HDR, and light painting with many exposures.

Editing software, like Photoshop, is essential. A luminosity mask is key tool for editing real estate photos used inside Photoshop. A luminosity mask will help you correct a specific selection within a photo to correct how light or dark an area is. If it seems overwhelming to take photos of your own house, stagging is something you'll likely feel confident doing. The photos will get buyers to your house, the stagging will have them thinking about your house over your neighbors.

Staging for a real estate photo shoot. If you're hoping to sell your house fast, consider the importance of looking at your spaces with a clear set of eyes. Since you're in the space every day, you may not notice the things that may be offputting to a potential buyer. The goal of the photos is to encourage would-be buyers to set a time to walk through your house. You'd be surprised just how off-putting some personal items may be to the masses.

You'll want to clear out (or have your clients remove) any personal artifacts. This can include wedding and family photos. A buyer wants to visualize themselves in the space, and for some, any overshadowing personal items may stand in the way of them seeing their photos (and family) in the house over yours.

 

Religious symbols are deeply personal. People of different beliefs or faiths may have a hard time getting past yours.

 

Toys, general clutter, and items collected can be a distraction. You want all the clutter to be stowed away and organized. If you're a collector (of anything), a "collection" being more than three of anything, plates, guitars, dolls, statues, etc., box them up. The idea of stagging is only to sell your house, not your passion for collecting. There are some exceptions to collections enhancing a space. Well organized books or a library are attractive to most buyers, so long as the books have an order to them. Art is allowable so long as the art is appealing to the masses. Art is another one of those highly subjective mediums that some can take an offensive posturing to, even if it's not on a conscious level.

Laundry. You'd be surprised. Clean or dirty, either way, keep it out of the way of potential buyers. No one wants to see another's laundry basket. Years ago, I heard of a house selling because the lady of the house left her underthings out in the open, almost had them stagged. She ended up selling to a bachelor. While this story is possible, I wouldn't count on it. Since most of us don't have stage "able" lingerie, I'd stay clear of sporting the boxers and bras to buyers. Laundry can be smelly. If you have an active family and sportswear is pilled up, it can be overwhelming. You want your house to smell clean and fresh, not like a pair of gym shoes.

If you have a lack of storage in your house and have attempted to compensate for it, a buyer will pick up on that. Pan racks holding a litany of pots and bakeware screams to a buyer the lack of cabinet storage. Pack up the pots and take the hanging rack down, touch up the ceiling holes.

Neutral colors. If you're serious about selling, keeping things clean and neutral is the fastest route to the next step in your journey. If you love black and painted a bedroom wall all black, ask yourself if it's a decorative feature that a buyer will appreciate or potentially have them walk away.

Dirty carpet. This is one of the easiest things to do (since you can hire someone to do it for you), have your carpets professionally cleaned. This will make the house look clean and smell good.

Remove shoes. In some families, they have a no shoe in the house policy, meaning those shoes stack up somewhere else, generally by a door. Not only can shoes smell, they can take up a good amount of space. Organize the shoes elsewhere until you're under contract.

Lighting. Everyone knows this but the list wouldn't be complete without mentioning the importance of light. Natural light as well as room lighting. When showing your house, you want the rooms to be lights and bright. Turn on every single light in the house and open every blind. If you have faux wood blinds, absolutely open them all the way up. Wipe your window sills, free them of dust and dead flies. If you have shutters or other decorative window treatment (and faux wood blinds are not decorative), talk with your agent. Beautiful shutters can be a selling point for buyers, particularly in the south. Not all window treatments (and colors) will appeal to everyone. You may want to minimize the appearance of dated curtains or take them down completely.

Chippy paint. This is only a good look on rustic decorative features, like barn doors. If you painted your kitchen cabinets and the paint has started to come off, you may want to get that fixed. A buyer will see that straight away, adding dollars to their renovation budget, translating to a lesser offer for you.

Dirty dishes. Make sure nothing is in the sink. Stowaway in the dishwasher or wash and put away all dishes.

Personal bathroom items. This includes toothbrushes, razors, boxes of feminine hygiene products, limit the amount of shampoo bottles you store in the showers. Wipe down the bathtub and make sure the workout equipment isn't seconding as closet space, see pot rack above. Your toilets should be clean, buyers look!

Remodeling or minor cosmetic updates. When is it a good idea to throw money at your home in order to sell it? That answer depends on a multitude of factors. How much time do you have before you ideally need to be out of your house? How long has the house been on the market? Has your real estate professional given you any feedback from other showings? How'd the open house go? Have you had offers, but they are asking for a construction concession?

I understand how hard it can be to shell out money for a home you're distancing yourself from; whatever the reason. In some markets, to have a competitive edge, following the above steps may not be enough. If your home is dated, circa 1950's - 2010's, you're likely in dire need of some updates to set yourself apart. In my area, it's a buyers market. If buyers don't like my house, they can walk across the street and see my neighbors house. There is no shortage of dated homes. If you're serious about selling, you may have to spend a little money updating.

One of our specialties, here at Redoux, is a "one-day Redoux", or redo. We consult with sellers on what will provide the highest level of on-trend improvements while staying in their budget. Buyers today are savvy. They know when something has been slapped together and when it's been done well. We see this every day with flippers. Not all flips are done well. Inexpensive materials and cheap looking options are noticed a mile away and that's not what buyers want. A well-executed "Redoux" can yield you top dollar for your home. Consider consulting with your real estate agent on their opinions about the changes that will help you sell your home.

Instant updates may include adding cabinet hardware. Easy and not too expensive. Painting baseboards. Dirty baseboards can make a whole room feel dirty. A nice clean coat of paint will make the room feel fresh. Change out dating ceiling fans to a current lighting feature. Replace broken or cracked outlet covers, take down old curtains, touch up wall paint where needed. Clean your windows (and wipe down window sills), add crown molding in the living room or dining room to make the space feel upgraded. Replace dirty area rugs with new ones. You get to take them with you so it's a good investment. Add barstools to your eat-in bar top that you never got around to doing. Organize your pantry. A messy pantry makes the space feel uncared for. Buyers will pick up on a well-organized space and translate that to a well-cared-for home.

Selling your house and getting top dollar can be achieved, even if you don't have 1000's to spend on a mini-remodel. If you only take one thing away from this post, most buyers today want light, bright, open, clean, and airy. Make changes in your home to support appealing to as many potential buyers as you can use some of the tricks of the trades noted above.

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