Getting Your Home Ready for its Close-Up
So, you’ve decided to take that giant leap and put your home on the market. What next? Declutter? Call a realtor? These days there’s more to do than that.
You’ll need more than a good realtor on your team if you want to make the most of the sale of your home. Just as celebrities hire separate professionals for hair and makeup for their big moment, realtors often have a team in place to do the job right—often professional photographers and stagers to help their clients. Veteran realtor Holly Gross, of the Holly Gross Group, says “An amateur may not know how best to highlight a home.”
Why are these professionals necessary? Here’s what the experts have to say.
Do I need photos?
With everyone spending so much time looking at all kinds of photos on the web, potential buyers will have searched many—likely too many—photos of houses online before they even contact a realtor.
Suzanne Norris, a Phoenixville-area realtor for 35 years, says, “If potential buyers don’t see photos of a home or if they click on pictures and don’t like what they see, they won’t make an appointment. Someone selling their house in today’s market doesn’t just need pictures—they need stunning pictures.”
Not having photos will definitely not help get buyers in the door for a big reveal. Save the sense of mystery for that unusual closet/room/alcove you have.
Why not DIY?
When selling what’s likely your biggest asset, don’t take the bargain route. It’s unlikely your skills and the finished products from your smartphone are on par with professional work.
Professional photographers have some tricks, as well as some special equipment, up their sleeve. When photographing a home, experienced photographer Tim Vaughan from Timlyn Vaughan Photography, uses everything from tripods to wide-angle lenses to Photoshop to drones. Yes, even drones.
Drone photography captures the entire landscape of a property and gives photographs a unique perspective. But drones aren’t just for bird’s-eye-view shots of a large property. For example, Vaughan sometimes uses drones to get a picture that’s looking directly at a house rather than looking up—something your smartphone can’t do for your three-story Victorian.
Not only do photographers have the right (often expensive) gadgets to get that perfect shot, but they know how to get the right lighting better than amateurs.
For exterior shots Vaughan shoots late in the day as the sun is setting or early in the morning when shadows are long and dramatic. That’s the money shot.
Mid-day on a sunny day is best when shooting the interior of a home because as much natural light as possible works best to showcase the rooms. And you do want to get your house’s good side.
Although flash photography can help with lighting, the flash itself can be difficult to hide. If you thought blinking was the only downside of a camera flash, I have news for you. Those pesky flashes show up on your windows, mirrors, TVs and even in shiny surfaces, like silver pieces or ceramic vases.
Most DIY photographers don’t know how to hide the flash in their shots—another reason a pro comes in handy. Not only can they use different exposures to hide a flash, but they use other techniques, like tripods where no flash is needed.
Then there are all the tricks the pros know about Photoshop—editing out new stains on your carpet, editing in more green in your currently parched lawn, touching up the paint on your walls before you get to that project. A little help from Photoshop can give your house a subtle facelift without costly renovations.
What about more than photos?
If your home has unique qualities simple photos don’t adequately capture, you may want a video. Professional videos are hot in today’s home sales market and add an extra cachet to your online posting. Videos give viewers a 360-degree virtual experience of your home, demonstrating the flow and showing more detail than photos can.
Realtor Cindy Orr believes walk-through videos are great for marketing a home. Even with a published floor plan, it’s hard for most potential buyers to see, feel and understand the flow of the house. Videos can show what a photograph can’t. And watching a video puts the viewer inside the home, so they can imagine living there. Again, resist the urge to DIY on the video.
Photos and videos of homes are key to a buyer’s decision to tour a house. Bad pictures can make buyers move on to the next property with better images and marketing. For something as important as selling your home, it’s best to invest in the process and use professionals.
Who else can help?
Beyond helping with professional photos and videos, many realtors can also connect you with professional stagers as well. According to realtor Suzanne Norris, “We’ve all had to step up our game a little bit.”
A home stager can help clients present their home in the best way possible to potential buyers. And stagers offer a range of services, depending on what the homeowner wants and needs. Some call stagers masters of illusion.
For minimal help, there’s the Walk Through, where a stager gives tips and suggestions on what should be changed in the home. Next level, there’s Decorative Finessing, where a stager works with the homeowner’s current furniture, arranging it more attractively to prospective buyers. Properties that need more help may opt for a Large Scale Staging. For this, a stager makes dramatic changes, including changing wall colors and supplying new furniture and décor pieces to update the interior.
Professional stager Sue Alivio of Stagecoach Home Design says she usually starts by decluttering the house of excess furniture, wall décor and personal items. Even though we all love our homes, when its time to move, our home should be styled for broad appeal—so it could be anyone’s home.
That doesn’t mean you have to toss everything. Realtor Margot Teeter says having a minimal amount of furniture is best. While you don’t want an overstuffed house crammed with belongings, vacant houses can make it difficult for potential buyers to picture themselves living there. Buyers don’t always have vision. Sometimes they need a little help imagining where their sofa and bed would go.
Stagers may suggest painting the walls a new color. Realtor Holly Gross suggests steering clear of dark colors that absorb the light. Banish that lime green and turquoise and choose a trendy light gray—the “it” color in interior design. Stagers might even recommend using the neutral color everywhere because painting the whole house the same color creates a sense of flow.
Once again, it’s worth using a pro for staging. One of the biggest DIY mistakes homeowners make is to stage according to their own taste, which may be too narrow.
To successfully market a home, sellers need to change their mindset—their (beloved) home is now less a home and more a house they’re marketing to new owners.
Alivio says, “It’s a change in psychology and perspective that you’re marketing a product and not displaying your home.” It can be hard to put that emotional barrier between yourself and a home filled with memories. So, consider a professional.
When it’s time to put your house on the market professional help can make all the difference. Do yourself a favor and make sure your home gets a hair and makeup team. Ask if your realtor provides a photographer and stager and if not, consider hiring them yourself. Your home deserves it!
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