David Reed Images

Real Estate Photography -- Curb Appeal for the Digital Age

Property Preparation

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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Indoors

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 ten high.
Lights
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 kids.
Pets
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.
Bathrooms
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.
Kitchen
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.
Offices
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.
Bedrooms
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.)

Outdoors

Vehicles
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.
Landscaping
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 sight.  Yard 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.
Furniture
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
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).
Lights
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.
Windows
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.

General Tips

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 showings.
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.

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 stuff.