Everyone wants the property to look its best. I want it to look
good to have an easy and quick session, and the Realtor® and
seller both want it to look good to sell fast. So here are some
general suggestions for getting the property ready for photography.
Some of these points relate to getting ready for showings, too.
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- Declutter, Declutter, Declutter
- 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
- 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. Some photographers shoot with
lights off, some with lights on -- I'm in the latter camp.
- 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 Religious
- 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 a gigantic cross on the wall and they're of a
different faith. For some they may have a negative emotional
response to a huge
Dallas Cowboys banner in the bonus room. "Neutral" is what
you're going for here.
- Huge Pictures
- 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.
- Questionable Art
- 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. 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
- If you've got pets, remove toys, beds, scratching posts, litter
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.
- 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
- 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
- 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. Try to
cluster cables together neatly.
- Make the beds. Fluff the pillows. Check the dust
ruffle. If you stash things under the bed, push them back so
they can't be seen. Close all closet doors. (Hint:
closets are a great place to stash things.)
- 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.
- 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.
- Hoses and Equipment
- Hoses should be coiled/rolled up or, better yet, put away out of
equipment should be stored out of sight.
- Swimming Pools
- 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
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.
- Seasonal Items
- 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.
- 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, untility 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.
- Temperature Controls
- You want buyers to be comfortable. For showings, turn on
the air conditioning or the heat, whichever is needed to make the
house a comfortable temperature. You don't want potential
buyers to come in and want to run back to the car because it's too
hot. Photographers like it to be comfortable, too. I
don't want ceiling fans on for photography, but on at low or medium
is great for showings.
- 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
- 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.
These are the things I thought of right now. This list will
probably grow and change, but I've tried to cover the highlights.
If you're a Realtor® feel free to share
these with your sellers and make me the bad guy for asking for all this