Property Preparation for Real Estate Photography
So you are selling your home, and you want everything to come off without a hitch. So do we. But this is a process you probably haven’t been through much, and it can be a little intimidating and scary. We want to help lessen the stress for you while you get your home ready. So here are some tips we have picked up over the years that we hope will help you sell your home.
First, know we are on your side, and we are on your team. I like to tell people if you don’t look good, we don’t look good. We are not here to cause you extra work, and we are not the enemy. We will help as much as we can. Please feel free to ask us questions- we want to work with you so we both look good! Most of the things you do with your property preparation for Real Estate Photography is common sense. But you may not think of some of these things. So here is a list to help you along with your property preparation. Also, here is a list AirBnB has prepared for making rentals look good– this is a great resource too!
General Tips for Property Preparation for Photography
De-Personalize…. and De Clutter
It is often said that when you are doing your property preparation for Real Estate Photography, you want to take all the personality out of the home. To an extent, thats true. Let the home’s personality- it’s light, its form and flow, it’s individualness- show through. What we don’t want to see is your personal imprint on the home. So family pictures, political statements, and personal items should all be removed.
Our goal here is to let your potential buyers picture themselves in your home. The more of you they see in the home, the harder it is for them to see themselves living there. A good mental image is to think about making your home present like a hotel. Make your home that clean blank slate.
That degree of decluttering may have an impact on you when you still live there, or if you have kids…. but it will also GREATLY benefit you in selling. You may want to consider moving in with a friend, relative or a hotel for the short term while selling your home. When we sold out home (admittedly, it was 20 years ago!) we rented a storage facility, and dumped EVERYTHING in there. Then we went on a mini-vacation out of town and gave the keys to our Realtor. She had 4-5 offers the first day…. and this was NOT the go-go 2020’s, it was 1999. The point is it helps to be away and to keep your personal influence away. We will continue to stress declutter…. because that is the single most important thing you can do!
Places to Hide Things
I generally don’t photograph the insides of closets, so that’s a great place to hide clutter, dog beds, etc. Consider coat closet, bedroom closets, utility closets, pantries. I also generally don’t photograph the garage or the laundry room, but check with your Realtor® whether or not they’ll be wanting me to photograph those because they’re also a great place to hide things like pets. Deep sinks and bathtubs are also a great place to hide things. The oven and microwave are also a good place to hide things so long as you remember to take them out before turning it on. Don’t ask me how I know this.
If you a lot of things to displace…. start with the garage. We don’t HAVE to shoot the garage. In fact, I will often just shoot an exterior of the door and call it good when the garage is full. But if you have even more to take out…. get a short term rental storage unit.
As I mentioned above, rent a storage facility for a month. You are going to move anyway, why not get a jump start on packing and move all your stuff to the storage facility. It IS a lot of work, but its work you will need to do anyway. If you get this done early, it will make the eventual move so much easier and faster. And less stressful!
Big Things vs. Little Things
Remember: these pictures are for the Internet and brochures. As such, a window smudge or some dog hair on the carpet or some dust on the fans are going to be mere pixels in size — if that — while the pile of paperwork on the kitchen counter is going to be fairly large. Spend your time working on the big things to get ready for photography and showings.
Does the house have to look for showings like it did in the photographs? Exactly? No. You can probably leave the paper towels on the counter, for example. But another huge pile of paperwork should be stashed in the microwave. If you can get us to shoot and go right into showings, you probably won’t have a whole lot of adjustments to make.
Things that Shouldn’t Be Shown
Here are a few things best left out of your home entirely.
- Kids pictures. These days, it’s just better to be safe than sorry. Unfortunate that it has gotten to this point, but I just do not feel good shooting images with kids pictures in them and putting them on the Internet. If you have a wall of pictures, and it’s just impossible to pull them all down…. then I can blur them. Best to just avoid it completely.
- Safes. Gun. Personal. Whatever. Let’s just not tempt people. We can avoid shooting them, and we can keep them off the Internet, but you really don’t want people going through your home and seeing these either. It just says, “Rob Me.”
- Drugs. Not so much for me- I do NOT open cabinets when I am shooting. But when you have people touring your home, make sure all your prescription drugs are in your car, purse or at a friends home.
This one can’t be emphasized too much. Remove clutter. Magazines, mail, paperwork, kids’ homework, the kids’ artwork on the walls, refrigerator magnets — everything. Hide the remote controls. If there’s a bottle of water on your nightstand, hide it. A few books on nightstands and end-tables are okay, but not like my stack that’s ten high.
Check all lights. If there are bulbs burned out, replace them. It may not seem like much, but non-working lights tell potential buyers that even the simplest maintenance hasn’t been done and may make them wonder about bigger maintenance items. Lights you may not consider: range hood lights, bathroom vanity lights, ceiling fan lights you seldom use, that single light over the bathtub — pretty much if there can be a bulb in it there should be and it should be working. I am SERIOUSLY considering taking a variety of bulbs with me and charging to put in new bulbs for burnt out ones- I think this could be a MAJOR profit center!
This said, I generally shoot lights off…. except for decorative lights, or in rooms with no windows. No not bother going through your home turning on all the lights- I will turn most of them back off! And fans- specifically ceiling fans- ALWAYS off please.
Remove as much as you can from countertops, things like toothbrushes, soap dispensers, and tissue boxes. At the very least move them to the very end of the counter by the door. If the bathroom has a separate water closet, put things where they can’t be seen from the main door such as atop the toilet tank or in the bathtub. Check with your Realtor® on whether or not they want your throw rugs in the pictures or if it’s time to buy new ones. Remove shower items that can be seen, too, or at least put them where they can’t be seen in the bathtub.
Kitchens help sell homes. Remove anything from the counter that distracts such as rolls of paper towels, the dish drainer, or a bottle of dish soap. Some color such as cookbooks and small decorations are okay. We can move things around to hide them as needed, but you can’t do that during a showing. Remove any dish towels, dirty dishes, or other clutter. Make sure the hood lights all work. Your blender and mixer and toaster probably aren’t part of the home’s price, so those should be removed, too.
This room is often overlooked, but can be very powerful in your online presentation. Make sure to at least clear dining table; set it formally to really boost ohhs and ahhs. Consider having a vase of fresh flowers on the table. In fact, flowers around the whole house is a great idea… but the dining room more than anywhere. Straighten all chairs and space them evenly; make sure the table is centered under the main lights. Remove children’s chairs or high seats. Clean and polish the highboys, butlers tables, glass and mirrors.
Make the beds with freshly press bed linens and bed skirts. Work out all the wrinkles in bedding. Fluff the pillows with decorative pillow covers if possible. If you stash things under the bed, push them back so they can’t be seen, or are hidden by a dust ruffle. Remove personal belongings like clothing, personal pictures, chargers and other personal clutter. Close all closet doors. Closets DO NOT need to be shot, but straighten them if you want them shot. If you have a safe, LET ME KNOW, I will avoid shooting it.
Kids and Guest Bedrooms
General clean and straighten. Clean under the beds (at least to the extent that can be seen!) Put toys away, straighten books, games and boxes. PLEASE Remove personalized items like children’s names and pictures from walls.
Remove as much as you can from countertops; things like toothbrushes, soap dispensers, and tissue boxes should be 96ed. At the very least move them to the very end of the counter by the door. If the bathroom has a separate water closet, put things where they can’t be seen from the main door such as atop the toilet tank or in the bathtub- I do NOT shoot separate water closets generally. Check with your Realtor® on whether or not they want your throw rugs in the pictures or if it’s time to buy new ones. Remove shower items (Shampoos, body soaps, Lufas) that can be seen, too, or at least put them where they can’t be seen in the bathtub. Make the shower walls sparkle. If glass remove any soap scum you can see and make them transparent.
ALWAYS: Toilet seats DOWN!
Why risk it? Just move all your jewelry to your mother-in-laws home until your home is sold.
Kids pictures do NOT belong on the Internet. If you can’t move them, let me know, I will blur them. But as a matter of policy, I do NOT show kids images on the internet.
If it’s like my office, you may be tempted to just close the door. However, if that’s not an option, get a box and put all paperwork and desk items in it to move out of sight. Desktops should be clean and cleared. Try to cluster cables together neatly.
Have we mentioned this yet?
Not a big deal usually….we will move them into a hallway or around corners when we shoot. Probably should be the last thing you need to worry about, we will pick these up when we shoot a room.
Remove Anything Seasonal
We all want the property to sell fast. Just in case it doesn’t, let’s not advertise it. Having pumpkins in the pictures kinda advertises that we took them in October or November. Stockings hanging by the fireplace…well…you can figure it out. This even pertains to magazines you may think look good on the coffee table: they have covers that may be recognizable.
Remove Anything Overly Controversial
This may offend some folks — sorry. But I don’t think you care who buys your house. That being said, it may put off some buyers if they see overtly religious on the wall and they are of a different faith. For half of us, Trump is a no-no; for the other half AOC is a turn off. For some they may have a negative emotional response to a huge Dallas Cowboys banner in the bonus room… so it isn’t just strictly religious or political items. ANYTHING that may cause controversy- just loose it for pictures and showings. “Neutral” is what you’re going for here.
Small family pictures aren’t usually a big deal; however, huge ones are. Do you really want that huge close-up of your daughter on the Internet? Stand back at the corner of the room and look: if you can identify people in the pictures, so can everyone else. Some agents will have the seller remove all personal pictures, and that’s fine, too.
I was at a listing one time and there was a series of huge nude portraits on the master bedroom’s walls. Tasteful and artistic, yes, but still obviously nude women. As I was about to leave I saw a woman with two young children arriving for a showing. I hung around to watch the reaction. Let’s just say it wasn’t pleasant what she said to the showing agent after walking into the master bedroom with her kids.
Keep these off your counters always…. and out of your home for all your showings.
If you’ve got pets, remove toys, beds, scratching posts, litter boxes, etc. And put the pets in an area where they won’t be wandering around and getting into the pictures. If I had a nickel for every time some dog photo-bombed my shot, I’d have a lot of nickels. Additionally, we don’t want them to escape as I’m opening doors.
Just not a good idea. Either pack and store, remove or completely hide any firearms and ammo as well as the safes you keep them in.
Speaking of safes…. nothing says “Rob Me” more than a safe. Hide, disguise or remove them entirely. If that’s not possible, make sure we know where they are so we can avoid shooting them.
Declutter, Declutter, Declutter
Go through your home and do it AGAIN. Be brutal.
Outdoor Property Preparation
Remove all vehicles from the outside of the property. This doesn’t just mean move them to the curb, but put them in such a place where they can’t be seen from inside either; don’t want to see your car outside the dining room window. (You’ll notice I’ll park far away, too.) If you’ve got neighbors parked where their cars can be seen from inside, perhaps ask them if they can move them for 20 minutes. Put all the trash bins in the garage- hiding them around the corner is not enough!
Does the grass need watering? Mowing? Raking? Then water, mow, or rake. If you’ve got a pet, clean up after them in the yard. Probably won’t show up in the picture, but I’ve got to traipse around out there, too. If your hedges look really uneven, consider hiring a landscaper or trimming them yourself. If you’ve got a security sign outside, I’ll move that and replace it… or you can just pull it out for the duration.
Remove dead foliage and empty planters. Trash cans should be in the garage, and the garage door shut. Toys, playground supplies and children’s bikes should all be out of sight. Tidy up outdoor tables, chairs and lounges and fluff and straighten cushions.
Hoses and Equipment
Hoses should be coiled/rolled up or, better yet, put away out of sight. Yard equipment should be stored out of sight. This includes garbage cans – in the garage or out of sight on the side of the house or behind a gate.
Remove and put away any pool toys, floats, and cleaning equipment. You can leave the sweep and chlorinator unless you really want to remove those and stash them away, but please do so at least an hour before I arrive so that the area around the pool can dry off. If you have umbrellas around the pool, put them up with any chairs or chaises underneath them. If there are a lot of leaves in the pool, skim it; a dozen leaves I can remove in processing.
If you have patio furniture, remove the covers and stash the covers out of sight. If you’ve got an outdoor dining area, wipe the table off and consider colorful placemats and dishes.
Barbecues are great, but they should be clean; if it’s stainless, give it a good wipe down. Tools should be out of sight — throw them into the barbecue if you can’t come up with anyplace else. Bags of charcoal and bottles of lighter fluid should be removed, too. If the grill isn’t very attractive, consider a cover.
Remove anything seasonal such as holiday lights, a blow-up Santa, pumpkins, 4th Of July decorations, a big banner welcoming spring, or that posable life-size skeleton with the cigar and Martini glass (now you know what my house looks like at Halloween).
If we’re doing a twilight/evening shots, make sure all outside lights are working. This includes any landscape lights, walkway lights, and pool lights.
Stand outside and look at the house. Are all the blinds open? In the same position? All horizontal? Cleaning the windows may help, but a small smudge isn’t really going to be seen.
What I WON’T Do
I do not move your furniture, big boxes or piles of clothes. I expect all this to be done in advance of my arrival. While I would love to help you, it is not part of my job, and not what I am here to do. Plus it takes up my time I should be shooting your home…. so it costs YOU.
Please have your home 100% photo-ready for our appointment time. If it is not, I will either shot it as-is… or reschedule for later when you are ready. And this will involve a reshoot fee. If you have any questions or need to reschedule, please contact us.