In today's era of real estate marketing, the internet is the undisputed champ. Whether it's on social media, the local multiple listing service or real estate information sites, the key to making your house stand out from the competition is through the visuals presented by photographs and virtual tours.
For decades, curb appeal has been referred to as essential to creating a positive, lasting first impression. But today, buyers won't even get in their car to come see your home if they aren't excited by what they see on the internet. Just like Tinder, they're likely to swipe left in search of a better, more alluring option if they aren't excited by what they see.
But what really matters to you isn't that your house looks pretty, it's that you see the positive effect on your selling process. Chicago-based real estate and business photography company VHT Studios reports homes shown with professional photography sold 32 percent faster.
So what can you do to ensure those pictures tug at the heartstrings of potential buyers, get them to schedule a showing and make that offer as quickly as possible?
Hire a professional. Let's be honest, there is no bigger turnoff than scrolling through pictures of a house which were obviously taken from a cell-phone and do a great job of highlighting poor lighting, clutter everywhere and the obligatory agent-in-the-bathroom-mirror selfie. This collection of pictures would be more correctly titled "C'mon, Man," than "Welcome Home."
A professional photographer is unquestionably worth every penny. Adam Lowe, owner and lead photographer of Rockville, Maryland-based Adam Lowe Creative, says, "Consider that professional real estate photographers have specialized software and equipment that most people don't have with their simple point-and-click cameras."
For example: "Dark rooms that don't have enough natural light aren't a problem for professional real estate photographers as they're equipped with the proper lighting, advanced lenses, Photoshop proficiency and other equipment," he says.
When searching for a top-notch photographer, start by asking your real estate agent for a referral because it's likely he already has someone he works with regularly. In many cases, it's your agent who will hire the photographer, as it will be the crux of both the online and print marketing plan.
Should you be the one hiring the photographer, another tactic to employ is scanning other listings with pictures that really jump out at you. Contact the listing agent to get the contact info for the photographer they used.
Stage your house. What's the one day you were sent to school looking your absolute best, with your hair perfect and your clothes ironed so you'd leave that wonderful, lasting impression of cuteness? Picture day. And as annoying as it may have been for you to suffer through back then, the same rules apply for your house. This is the one day everything should be pristine.
The day the photographer comes, either you or your agent should accompany them to help move any unnecessary furniture, kid's toys, and other clutter that would take away from the model home image you are going for. While they aren't professional stagers, you are looking for a photographer who can take control and tell you what needs to go where to show off the space as optimally as possible.
Choose the right timing. When scheduling the photo shoot, be sure to point out the direction your house is facing as well as consider the upcoming weather forecast if at all possible. These factors should play into the day and time the pictures are shot.
Another type of shot to consider are dawn or dusk photos. While these may prove cost-prohibitive, they can also really help your house to stand out among the plethora of other standard daylight pictures your competition will employ. "Since twilight photography is really for property exteriors, it's the perfect time to show off landscapes and lighting features, as well as sneak in an amazing sunset backdrop," Lowe says.
Aerial photography. Drone and other aerial photography is really gaining steam to not only capture unique angles for pictures, but to create stunning video virtual tours. As in many aspects of our lives, drones are sure to have a major impact on the way we preview houses in the coming years.
While this may be a service your photographer offers, be sure you are located in an area in which it's allowed and the drone operator is properly licensed. If you are in an area where drones are prohibited, there are other options, like pole aerial photography, which "will not only get a camera high into the air, but can be precisely situated in areas where getting a clear and advantageous shot is difficult," Lowe says.
Location, location, location. Many times we're so focused on getting the perfect shots of the house we forget to include pictures of important neighborhood amenities. While this can be tricky considering a limited number of photos allowed in most MLS systems, it is important potential buyers learn about the area surrounding the house they're considering.
Be sure to highlight such amenities as pools, playgrounds, walking trails and more. You can also create a mental connection for the buyer with close commuter connections such as train stations as well as nearby shopping centers.
Ray Boss Jr. is a full-time, licensed Realtor for Re/Max Realty Group in Gaithersburg, Maryland, with over 11 years of experience working with clients ranging from first-time homebuyers to investors, sellers and renters. You can learn more about Ray by connecting with him on LinkedIn.