This post serves as a checklist to prepare your home for real estate photos. Here you will find important, detail-oriented information to make sure that you set your photographer up for success in capturing the beauty of your home. The marketing of your home will dramatically impact your buyers' opinion of your house and your sale price.
Studies have shown that buyers choose the homes they want to see based on the quality and quantity of pictures they see online. In order for your photographer to get the best possible images of your home, they’ll need your help.
Here are some things you can do to prepare your home for a photo shoot:
Clean & Unclutter Kitchen Counters
When the kitchen counters are completely cleared off, it makes the kitchen look more renowned, and buyers can imagine how they might use the space. Kitchen appliances and most essentials, only distract buyers and often make the kitchen feel cluttered. Clean all surface areas, including the appliances, kitchen sink, and backsplash.
Items that can be left out might include: decorative canisters, a colorful fruit bowl or tray, no more than one countertop appliance. You want it to be uncluttered, but not sterile.
Items to remove or hide from view include: dish towels, pet dishes, mops, & trash cans. Remove everything (magnets, pictures, calendars, etc.) from the outside of the refrigerator.
Clean & Unclutter Bathroom Counters
Place all personal hygiene items into a tub that can fit under the bathroom sink. Personal hygiene items include: shampoo bottles, soaps, razors, face wash, wash cloths/loofahs, etc. Under the sink is a great place for the garbage can and unsightly soap dispensers (original store bought containers) to be hidden out of site as well.
Remove most of the items off the bathroom counters minus a few decorative items, such as: candle, decorative jewelry tray (remove jewelry first), plant, etc. Clean, neatly folded towels on towel racks are also acceptable to display.
Pro tip: Close the toilet lid.
Lighting - The more, the Better
Confirm all of the interior and exterior lights work and replace any burned out light bulbs.
Lighting is one of the most important aspects of photography. It is critical to have as much light as possible. Turn on all interior and exterior lights prior to your property session.
Pro tip: Make sure all light fixtures have uniform type of bulbs—do not mix fluorescent and incandescent bulbs.
Open Window Coverings & Clean Windows
Natural light from windows brings balance, character and elevates the emotion of a home. I recommend opening all of the window treatments throughout the entire house to let in as much light as possible. Window coverings include: Curtains, blinds, drapes, sheers, etc.
If the view from the window is unpleasant, leave it to your photographer to decide to close it.
Pro tip: Have your windows professionally cleaned or at least clean them inside & out yourself, before the session.
De-Clutter & De-Personalize
This is essential so that the potential buyers can imagine themselves in the home and how they would use the space to decorate with their own belongings. Be sure to remove personal items from EVERY room; including closets, porches (name signs), & garages.
If you have an entry way "Drop Zone" with hanging jackets, shoe racks, backpacks hanging, etc. I recommend removing these items. It will appear that your home does not have enough storage space as well as creating a cluttered look that is only distracting for potential buyers in person and in the photos.
Remove Unnecessary Furniture
This is probably the most difficult request for sellers, but it is such an important item on the list. Removing and storing multiple, heavy, bulky items can be a challenge but it opens up the floor space without feeling empty and stale.
It would be in your best interest to consult with a professional stager to determine which items should stay and which should be removed. This is a situation where less is more.
Remove Floor Mats & Runners
Floor mats and runners are a great addition to a space to introduce pops of color, update the look of a room and obviously minimize the dirt tracked through your home but they can also make a small room or space look even smaller. I recommend removing as many of the floor mats and runners as possible.
Photographers use a wide angle lens to capture as much of one room in a single shot as possible; the downside is that the floor mats often get disfigured in the process.
Make sure to stow away all of the floor mats in the bathrooms, kitchen, mud room & laundry areas. Consult a professional stager to determine whether or not any decorative rugs should remain. (If it is beautiful and it is a large room, I vote yes - it can stay.)
Turn off all Ceiling Fans
Most photographers use a technique called HDR images when shooting Real Estate. HDR images are a series of the same image taken with multiple light exposers at a slow shutter speed and combined or layered on top of one another for a single, final image. This allows the photographer to capture all of the light, contrast, and window textures in a single image. Any moving objects like ceiling fans will be distorted in HDR. For this reason, I recommend you turning off anything that moves to prevent motion blur and turning up that AC for your photographer.
Televisions & Computer Screens
If you have a smart TV (even a ROKU), consider searching for "Vintage Art TV" on YouTube. It is an hour loop of beautiful vintage photographs that transform the light reflecting black box into a timeless piece of art for your photos. Since it has a large time frame between switching pieces, it has never interfered with any of my HDR photographs for Real Estate Photography.
If you have one monitor in your office, then it may also give you an updated elegant look but, if you have multiple screens in your office, I recommend turning the computer monitors off instead of displaying "Vintage Art TV" on the computer monitors.
At your computer workstations, stow or unplug dangling cables/wires; clear papers. Straighten up and/or remove items from bookcases.
Make All of the Beds
This is an obvious but neglected request, especially in the secondary bedrooms. Be sure to make all beds neatly (avoiding wrinkles, lumps, etc.) and decorate with matching sheets, pillows & blankets.
Use bedding that covers the entire mattress and fits the bed correctly.
If one of your secondary bedrooms has your child's name spelled out on the wall, you may wish to remove it. If removal isn't feasible, alert me and depending on the wall texture/color, I will attempt to remove it for the final images.
Clear Night Stands & Dressers
Night stands & dressers commonly accumulate items. Conceal everything but a lamp and a decorative item or two depending on the size of your night stand or dresser. Some decorative items that can remain are: pretty book, floral arrangement, candle & room accent color feature.
Remove All Pet Items & Pets
There is a reason that landlords charge extra for pets: pet damages and odors. It is essential that your house shows no signs of pets, especially pet odors. It is important to have the fury family members removed before the photographer arrives as well of any evidence of them living in the home for the listing photos. It can be a huge part in how many potential buyers view and have interest in your home.
Freshen up the Yard & Landscaping
First impressions are pivotal, so make it count by ensuring the front yard is looking sharp. The whole exterior landscaping needs to be trimmed back and tidy. If it is really out of hand, I recommend going with a professional company. You have to spend money to make money.
The first picture that people will see of your home is the exterior front yard shot. This photo needs to be presented in the best condition possible to grab the interest of potential buyers immediately before scrolling on.
After this has been completed, be sure to hide ALL of the yard maintenance equipment in the garage or at least hidden from the front of the house during exterior photos. This includes garden tools, hoses connected to the house/in the yard, sprinklers, lawn mowers, weed-whackers and all other yard tools.
One of the greatest fears of homebuyers is having to pour money into a house after closing, a well-kept yard screams "lovingly maintained".
Keep the lawn free of any children's toys and pet items. Play structures and trampolines are ok to stay.
Sweep + Pressure Wash the Porch/Patio/Deck & Concrete Areas
Sweep and/or pressure wash the entire front and back porches and remove any items that are unnecessary for presentation.
Pressure washing is especially important if there are oil stains, chalk, and any other spills or stains on the driveway/concrete walkways.
If possible, create an inviting entrance by staging with flowers and decorative items.
Remove all vehicles from Street, Driveway & Side of the House
On the day of the photoshoot, ensure that all vehicles are removed from the driveway, it is important for buyers to see the available parking space and an unobstructed view of the home.
In addition to removing vehicles from the driveway, it is also imperative to remove all vehicles types from parking on the street in front of your home, as well as the side of your home. It is fairly common to have an RV, Trailer, Jet Skis etc. parked on the side of the house but it is crucial to remove these items for the photos and buyer showings.
Hide all Garbage & Recycling Cans
Large garbage cans are a necessity but are really just such an eyesore and distracting from the overall image being conveyed in the exterior photos.
If the shoot is between garbage/recycling days be sure to have any overflow removed from the property beforehand.
Remove Outdoor Patio & Grill Covers
It is time to show off how to use that outdoor living space! Remove covers from BBQ's, Grills, Patio Furniture and open any umbrellas.
These are items that photograph really well and really show off a great use of outdoor space. This will give the buyer a welcoming feeling and daydreaming of all the entertaining that they can do when they move in. If you have old, rusted or unsightly outdoor furniture and grills than it is better to remove them from the property for the photos.
Be Prepared to Reschedule
Most photographers work around the weather because it has a substantial impact on the final marketing product. If there are clouds or sprinkles, this is probably not an issue, most photographers can guarantee a blue sky, and a twilight photo regardless of cloud coverage.
This is primarily a concern if you hired a photographer to capture drone images of your home and property. It will be impossible to capture decent footage from a drone if it is too windy or raining.
Be Prepared to Leave the House for Several Hours
As mentioned above, most photographers are going to use HDR - a series of images taken at different exposures to create a single image. This is not only time consuming, but people or pets walking in and out of a space will be distracting and cause further delays to avoid motion blur.
For real estate photography 3D walk-throughs and video tours are usually offered as well. If a pet or person is occupying the house, they will most likely be visible in these features, which is not great for marketing.
It is in your best interest to leave the home and give the photographer a non-occupied space to work with. You will get the most out of the process if the home is vacant.
Be Prepared to Leave A Key for the Photographer to Lock Up
Since you have been advised to leave the home to let the photographer work their magic, leave a key and lock up instructions with your preferred method of securing the home before they vacate.
"Stopping advertising to save money is like stopping your watch to save time." - Henry Ford
Your property's marketing is preeminent in the selling process. It begins and ends with your preparation - partnered with a great Real Estate Company and Photographer. Having the items on this checklist completed before your photographer arrives will prove victorious by fully utilizing their time and expertise.
Great marketing leads to substantial offers!