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Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Thousand Words

We have all heard the adage, "a picture is worth a thousand words", but when it comes to the sale of your home a picture can also be worth a ton of cash. Ninety-two percent of home buyers use the internet to aid in the home buying process. That means a home's first impression comes from its online presentation - the photographs used to tell the home's story. Combine this with the volume of information available: the number of homes, the amount of information per home; a potential home buyer can quickly become overwhelmed and impatient - and an overwhelmed home buyer will look for ways to reduce the number of homes they need to sort through... starting with the quality of the photos available.

The MLS and portal sites such as Zillow and Trulia allow searchers to prioritize listings by photographs (either by providing in the search menu an 'on/off' switch for listings with or without photos or by allowing viewers to search listings where the size or number of photographs are prominently displayed) resulting in listings with few or no pictures to never be displayed or be displayed at the end of a search list. It is critical to the sale of a home for the home owner to allow for the best possible images to be made available for the listing's presentation.


The first step to taking quality photos is getting your hands on the right equipment. As far as they have come, cell phones are still not a replacement for SLR/DSLR (Single Lens Reflex/Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras. Modern DSLR cameras are complex machines, but most cameras come with an instructional DvD and comprehensive manual. Beyond that there are likely to be photography classes available at local colleges. This equipment can be very expensive. A low-end DSLR camera starts around $400. Extras such as memory cards, a tripod, and a protective carrying case can cost an additional $100. Photography classes can bring the total well over a $1000.


Beyond just cleaning up, staging requires cooperation between the homeowner and the listing agent. The agent needs to work with the homeowner to create the 'ideal' version of the home for sale. Staging includes: the removal of clutter, (temporarily) replacing energy efficient light bulbs with brighter bulbs, the removal of pets (as well as any evidence of their existence), and the landscaping and repairs that go beyond those changes that the homeowner handles prior to putting the home on the market.


Coloring and spacial layout. Light colored paint, complementary furniture, and the proper allocation of accessories can make any room feel larger and more inviting. These are the qualities that a photographer seeks to capture. Vacant homes can pose additional complications. Most homeowners don't have a second set of appealing furniture laying around to stage an empty home. It may be worth contacting a staging company to 'create a space'.

Finding The Shot 

This is where those classes come in handy, but baring some measure of expertise there are a few things that one can keep in mind when taking photos. The photo should be clear, vibrant, and dynamic.


Automatic zoom and focus can be very handy, but it can be hard to tell exactly what the camera is focusing on. This is particularly true with phones and similar devices that don't have the option of manual focus. This is further complicated when a camera adjusts light balance reflexively. Don't be afraid to use the manual focus on your camera.


Avoid closed curtains or blinds, energy efficient bulbs, and the camera's on board flash. Open the drapes to let the sun in to give the scene a more natural feel. Enhance the amount of available light with hooded (such as with lamp shades) or encased (such as the glass globe or 'bells' housing the bulb(s) of a ceiling fan) high wattage light bulbs. Turn off the camera's flash to avoid creating unplanned shadows or highlighting unseen, unwanted textures such as those that tend to appear in bare walls that were poorly painted or repaired.


Angles, perspective, and motion. Virtual representations of scenes illicit the same emotional response as actually being there. So it is important to capture a moment and not just the room. A roaring fire in a fire place can make the viewer feel warm and cozy. A candlelit dinner can trigger romantic feelings. A slowly rotating ceiling fan can make the viewer think they feel a pleasant breeze. It may even be worth hiring actors to draw attention to less obvious qualities such as touch screen panels, or concealed charcoal grills. Take the time to focus. Use as much natural lighting as possible; eschew the use of a flash. Capture a moment, not a room. The longer one views an image the more invested they may become. Clearer images are more appealing to potential home buyers so it literally pays to invest in quality photographs, either by purchasing a camera and taking lessons to do it yourself or by hiring a professional.


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