Staging to Sell on a Dime

Staging to Sell on a Dime in Pine Mountain Lake

Pain Now or Later: Part 1
First Impressions and Outdoor Connections: Part 2
Appealing to Senses and Styles: Part 3
We Are Proud to Present Your House: Part 4

Home Staging: Pain Now or Later     Article in Pine Mountain Lake News February 2010   Part 1 of 4 articles

              It’s 2010 and you are getting ready for a blind date. You’ve heard she is pretty, witty and wealthy and you want to impress her. But you don’t want to spend money on new clothes, so you put on your maroon polyester pants with the white belt and match it with a colorfully printed nylon shirt that was popular in 1975. This outfit goes with your bushy sideburns and large-lensed glasses of the same era. If she has a good imagination, she should be able to see the delightful guy you are, and not be distracted by petty fashion.

              You also have a house for sale. A superbly built home on the best lot in the neighborhood, and you want “top dollar”. The walls have dark brown paneling and the windows are heavily draped in harvest gold brocade. Tall lamps with pale orange shades and avocado green glass bases dominate the side tables. Your aunt made the crocheted bedspreads. The patterned rust-colored carpet in the kitchen is soft on your feet. The huge grandfather clock in the entry takes up a lot of space, but you think it will wow them.

              Pictures of your house are displayed on multiple internet sites, where 85% of buyers start their search. These prospective buyers are underwhelmed by what these pictures reveal. This is not where they want to bring friends and family! And they perceive that it will cost a fortune to bring it up to current style standards. (Actually taking out the drapes, lamps, bedspreads, and clock will cost nothing. Painting the paneling, and putting in new kitchen floors would be a small, but worthwhile, investment for this seller).

              This house is branded a “fixer-upper”. And after the area Realtors tour the house, they bring few prospects to look at it. You turn down one “bargain hunter” who offers $70,000 less than the asking price. But months later, you have reluctantly dropped the price by that amount, and then go even lower. Why can’t buyers see what a great house it is and make their own changes after they buy it?

To view dark and dated rooms, Click Here- Nightmares: Photos of Homes that Need Updating to Sell- Groovin in the 70’s and Stuck in the 80’s

              Not every Groveland house sale in 2009 was a horror story of painful price reductions after years on the market. Here are three shining exceptions:

“June” House. Listed in May and sold 3 weeks later. Priced at $375,000, and sold for full price: $375,000. Immaculate, beautifully staged with soothing colors, inviting deck furniture, and a fire blazing in the hearth in the pictures.

“August” House. Listed in August, sold 8 days later with multiple offers. Sold over list price. A cheap house? NO-the price was $780,000! This house was built in 1974, but over the years the owners had updated the kitchen, painted the inside light and bright, created a delightful lake front setting, removed all the clutter, and staged it with stylish, but minimal, decor.

“October” House. Listed in June for $469,000, reduced price to $449,000, then sold in October for $440,000. This was 6.2% less than the original list price, after 15 weeks on the market. House was gorgeously furnished. When this SAME house was an empty “spec” house priced at $595,000, it languished on the 2007 market for over a year.

              To see pictures of these homes, go to Dreams: Photos of Three Groveland Staged Homes that Sold Quick in 2009 . You can also see pictures of Groveland houses that weren’t updated or staged, and see the difference.

              These are local examples that reinforce the findings of a National Association of Realtors survey: The longer a home stays on the market, the further below list price it drops. Nationally, homes that sold in the first 4 weeks averaged 1% more than the list price; 4 to 12 weeks averaged 5% less; 13 to 24 weeks averaged 6.4% less than original list price (this matches the results of the “October” PML house mentioned above); and 24 weeks averaged more than 10% less than list price.

              A classic true story of losing equity over time is the “Jones” primary home, originally priced at $595,000 in 2004 and marketed by the owner. Lots of people dropped in on their open houses, but nobody wanted to pay $595,000. They listed with an agent in 2005 and asked $542,500. Then switched to a different agent at a price of $545,000, then dropped to $498,000. By 2007 they moved out and were trying a third agent with the price at $489,000. They rented to a tenant that left the house messy and had a big dog. Lowered price to $469,000. Got a different tenant with small dogs. Lowered price to $398,000. That tenant moved out, and the house was empty. Price put at $375,000, then $329,000. Finally they hired a fourth agent with the price at $299,000. They accepted $275,000 for their Pine Mountain Lake property in its “AS IS” condition. And it sold. Five years later, and 53% less than the original asking price!

              Homes don’t sell quickly for two main reasons: they’re overpriced and/or they don’t “show well”. Even in the overheated “sellers” market of 2002 to 2006, some drab, price-inflated houses didn’t sell. When you were a child and someone let you choose from several pieces of cake, didn’t you choose the biggest one with the most frosting? If given a choice, don’t you usually want the biggest and best you can afford, and at a price you know is reasonable?

               “Staging” is focusing in on the target market that will be attracted to your house and highlighting the property features that will appeal to them. You may think your house is already decorated. But “decorating” is making your home reflect your personal style and making it comfortable for you to live in. Staging helps buyers feel how wonderful it would be to live there. In each room they can envision their furniture, their decorations, their enjoyment. Entertaining their friends on the deck with their kids playing in the back yard. Them relaxing by the fire with a beverage, their boat stored in the garage, ready for good times on the lake. For the buyer to see this rosy future, the seller has to remove themselves, and their treasured stuff, from the picture.

              I hope to convince you in the next few articles how some level of staging can help you sell your home faster and for more money. I will explore:

How to draw them in the door instead of driving by

How to appeal to all five of their senses

How to “bring the outdoors to the inside”

What are typical Pine Mountain Lake buyers looking for?

What are their biggest turnoffs?

What are the two things buyers want most?

Why doesn’t your real estate agent tell you these things??

I will use several other analogies like the lazy blind date example above.

If you want to start applying home staging techniques to your property, learn from the specific links on >LINKS > Home Staging.

If you go through the “pain now” of Pricing Right, Cleaning and Deodorizing, Uncluttering and Depersonalizing, Repairing and Inspecting, then Staging and Dynamizing, you will “gain later” a quicker sale and a higher price when you (finally) present your property for sale to the world. Article written by Lauree Borup in 2010, all rights reserved©

Home Staging: First Impressions and Outdoor Connections        Article in Pine Mountain Lake News March 2010     Part 2 of 4 articles

At the top of most Groveland buyers lists are two things. First is enjoying the beautiful outdoors. We are lucky here to have a sunny climate, fresh air, and low humidity. You need to emphasize the outdoor connection in a way that makes a great first impression and entices the buyer into the house. Then you must appeal to all their senses so they really do “fall in love” with your house. Second on the list is a relaxed, informal, low-maintenance lifestyle. Even in this time of plummeting prices and foreclosure bargain hunting, buyers will still pay top dollar for a house that is “ready to move in” and needs no maintenance. You must impress on them that your house fits that category in the first 15 seconds after they get out of the car. Here’s how to do it.

Buyers here are actually turned off by a too-manicured yard. They are trying to escape lawn competitions, sidewalk hedging, and paying for a gardener. Try to make your forest yard look like it “takes care of itself”, even if you spent days raking, trimming, and burning. Add fresh cedar bark mulch to keep weeds down and present a more uniform appearance. Remove dead trees, ratty garbage cans, old hoses, overflowing debris in the gutters, and moss from the roof.

Refresh your exterior paint. Don’t repaint your house the same original color from 1985. Update it with something on-trend. Pick a rich and muted new color that blends well with our background of bright foliage greens and sky blues without competing with them. Colors that usually elicit negative response are: dark brown, barn red, mauve, or too-bright blue or green. If you can’t afford to paint your whole house, then do the front door and the trim. At the very least, use a pressure washer to clean off the grime and spider webs. Local tip: clean off the propane tank and paint it to match your home.

Most buyers want to avoid a “suburban” look: fences, buildings close together, rows of garages facing the street. Some homes are designed with the garage front and center, so that the private decks and views face the rear. If all you have in front is a big garage door, either paint it to match the house so it doesn’t stick out, or replace it with an upscale “carriage” door that is popular now. This is an expensive upgrade, but if the garage door is the main “first impression”, make it count. On your asphalt driveway put a fresh coat of black sealant, or, if it is gravel, put a fresh load of gravel to fill potholes and bare spots. On concrete, remove oil stains.

Get a very nice address number sign that includes the Unit and Lot number, but not your name. Don’t just go to the local hardware store and get what everybody else gets- go online and order some classy numbers. Get a classy new doormat while you are it. No coir that sheds, or rubber that cracks, or anything with a message.

It’s important to make people feel warm, welcome and safe as they approach the house.

The walkway and steps to the front door should be in perfect condition. Fix cracked stairs, uneven rocks, slippery mud, or any trip hazard. If you have room on your front porch, set up a bench or an inviting pair of chairs with fresh cushions. Put out one or three potted plants. Bright plants or flowers enhance the “cared for” impression. Don’t use plastic or silk plants- they look fake and fade in the sun. The front door should make a very positive impact. Consider adding a brass kick plate, a door knocker, or a new door knob or latch. The last thing you want is for the agent to struggle with a fussy lock, then push a sticking door in with their foot, and the hinges squeal loudly. Ugh!

What other common “entryway errors” do I see?

~Old dirty porch lights, leaky downspouts, scuffed thresholds, deteriorated screen doors, nails popping up, non-functioning doorbells, bird feeders, wind chimes, cheap plastic chairs, other clutter, dog droppings.

~Bat or bird guano littering the porch or the light fixtures. Don’t just sweep it off- get rid of the roosting bats and birds. You may need professional help.

~Woodpecker holes in siding or trim. Huge turn-off. Fix them now.

~Inside are hanging coats, keys and hats, shoes on the floor, piled newspapers or mail, family pictures, large tables or clocks “blocking” the sightline into the house, or, even worse, nothing but empty space.

              House sellers often ask if it is better to list the house with all their furniture in it, or no furniture. The answer is “partly furnished”. Too much furniture feels cluttered and cramped. No furniture is cold and lifeless, and makes it hard for buyers to visualize themselves in the rooms.

Hang your most beautiful art or mirror in the entry, or where it can be seen from there. Splurge on a new, lovely light fixture for the entry.

              Light and bright is what you want them to feel now. Turn on every light, or, if you’re not home, have a sign at the door asking the agent to first turn on the lights and open the curtains before they bring the buyers in. Remove heavy draperies, valances that cover part of the window, and wood blinds that even in their most open position cover several inches of window glass. Bare windows are better than windows with outdated, worn out or dirty window coverings. Trim back branches outside, or remove awnings to let light in. Clean the windows so they sparkle and consider removing the screens during the showing period. Take everything off the window sills. Increase the wattage of your light bulbs. Move all furniture, televisions, and large plants from in front of windows so buyers can look out at the trees, sky and deck.

To see a graphic example of this, see Before and After Staging: Photos of Five Rooms Staged in One House at No Cost

              Now they are looking out the windows and glass doors at that gorgeous outdoors. Make sure they can easily go out each door and experience every deck, patio and outdoor space. Each of these spaces should feel like a room that just happens to be outside. Decide on the function of the space- is it relaxing, sunning, eating, entertaining, or cooking? Then furnish and decorate it minimally to so they get the idea. If they can see the neighbor’s deck or driveway from the main deck, try to install a lattice or custom-made “screen” to block that image. It usually doesn’t have to be very large to direct their eye to the “good view”.

              Decks should be swept and coated with new sealant or stain. Decks that need work stop more sales (or complicate escrows) than anything else in Pine Mountain Lake. New decks are very expensive, but many buyers want them. Discuss this issue thoroughly with your agent.

We’ve posted a series of "Pictures to Bring the Outdoors In" and "Decks and Patios that Look Inviting" here.

              To further emphasize the “outdoor connection”, hang art or photographs of wildlife, Yosemite, Sierra landscapes, or people enjoying Pine Mountain Lake. Decorate with bowls of pine cones or fragrant cedar sprays. Our local and abundant incense cedar will last for several weeks in a sturdy vase full of water, inside or outside.

              At this point, your house should be saying “Make yourself at home! No work here! Just relax and enjoy!”

If you are still resistant to staging your home, think of these “smart marketing” analogies:

~The car showroom with ultra-shiny new models on fancy floors that make you crave a test drive.

~The website home page with fast-loading graphics and mouse-grabbing headlines you just have to click on.

~Stores with entrancing front window displays of specially lighted jewelry on black backgrounds, or of stylish, accessorized clothing mannequins, or sumptuous furniture flanked by coordinating lamps and art.

So don’t assume your house will sell itself. First, make a great first impression to draw them in. Then create an atmosphere that encourages them to linger and find more things to love about your property. I’ll cover that in the April issue.   Article written by Lauree Borup in 2010, all rights reserved©

Home Staging: Appealing to Senses and Styles     Part 2 of 3

As you get your house ready to sell, do this exercise. Stand just inside the entry way and take several pictures. Approach each room in the house as if the door frame were a camera lens. Don’t try to frame the best “view”. Your Realtor will do that for the internet and flyer photos. Buyers who cross the threshold will see everything. Your goal is to grab them immediately with favorable impressions. As you experience the house through the eyes of the buyer, what you see should be light, spacious, inviting, impersonal, yet intriguing. While sight is the first and most important sense to appeal to, the buyers will “fall in love” with the house, or reject it, through their nose, ears, and fingers, too.

  Analyze the photos you took, preferably with the help of someone objective. Is the view of the room’s focal point, such as the fireplace or the picture window, blocked? Do you see the back of a couch or media center? Does clutter distract from the room’s architectural features? Are there any doors that are better left open or closed? (a bathroom at the end of the hall should always be closed). Is there a big, dated lamp in the middle of the pictures?

  The tallest or largest item in the room should be in the far corner. Re-arrange your art in surprising ways: higher or lower, in a vertical line, in triangles instead of rows, etc. When it comes to eye-pleasing accessorizing, odd numbers are preferable, especially threes. Stagers recommend that the items be “small, medium, and large”, not all the same size.

Large accessories are better than lots of small ones. They give the room the perception of space as there is less “visual clutter” to slow the eye down. This will actually make the space seem larger as the brain does not have to take time identifying the variety of objects in the room. When staging, you are selling the perception of space. For example, when they open the coat closet, it should be half empty, with garments arranged by color or length on wooden hangars, and a few matching wooden hangars ready for guests. The unused hats, golf clubs, games etc, have been packed up, donated, discarded, handed down, or sold. Do this with every room and storage space in the house, including the garage. The subject of “de-cluttering” has volumes written on it, and now numerous TV shows dedicated to it, so I won’t go into lengthy detail on it. But it is very important to do it!

  One of the biggest mistakes home sellers make is having too much furniture. Consider arranging a few core pieces in your space and see the difference. Float furniture by pulling furniture away from the walls to create groups within a room and to help with the traffic flow in and through the room. Sometimes just moving one piece of furniture can make a big difference. Never make it difficult for buyers to maneuver around furniture to get into a room, or hard to see a feature that should be highlighted. Let them see how a room is used and what will fit in it. Dining rooms should have a dining table with the leaves removed, and only 4 to 6 chairs, a stylish chandelier, a hutch or buffet, and tasteful art. That’s it- nothing more! Except set the table with plates, candles, and centerpiece.  

  Bedrooms should have the bed as the star focal point, with supporting roles from a comfy sitting area, your most beautiful mirror, a view out the window, or the deck outside. Don’t allow a desk, hobby displays, musical instruments, ironing board, or exercise equipment on the set. You want the buyer to feel that the master bedroom is the scene for a luxurious sanctuary for two to unwind in. Hang sexy art, not clowns or kittens or landscapes. So that hard surfaces aren’t the first thing they see, put dressers on the same wall as the entrance door, or possibly fit them in the closet. Think “soft”, but don’t mound pillows of every shape and size on the bed- men are turned off by this (I am too- when you want to sleep the only place to throw them usually is on the floor). Lighting should be soft and romantic, but still bright, and come from three sources roughly placed like points in a triangle. The worst lighting is one harsh, cheap ceiling fixture in the center of the room.

  Now, are the buyers enjoying fragrances, or detecting odors? The most commonly offensive are cigarette smoke and cat urine. Next on the nose-holding list are old garbage, sewer gas from seldom used plumbing, and strong cleansers like ammonia or Lysol. Their suspicions will be aroused by musty mildew smells- is there a drainage or ventilation problem under the house? A gas smell may be coming from an almost-empty propane tank. All bad smells must be eliminated. The cat litter box goes outside until the house is sold. Scrub the garbage pails and trash compactor. Clean the carpets, drapes, and upholstery, then completely air out the house. Use Febreze, or an ozonating air purifier. Re-paint inside and put scent packets or vanilla in the paint. Fill the house with pine and cedar sprays in water. Aaaahhh…much better.

  What do they hear? Cars going by? Use soft instrumental music in the background to mask it. Is there a faucet dripping? A ceiling fan wobbling audibly? Stairs that squeak? All sounds of “poor maintenance”, so fix them. You want them to hear mainly silence, with overtones of wind in the trees and birds singing. Always turn off the television.

  What are the buyers feeling? Freezing cold in an unheated house, or sweltering in summer? You don’t want them to remember your house because they sweat in it, or got goose bumps. That’s the sense of “touch”. In July, when it is 100 degrees outside, the house feels comfortable at 80 degrees. In January when it is 40 degrees outside, the house feels comfortable at 60 degrees. Set the thermostat for the season.

  When you buy carpet, you run your hands over it, right? You try on clothes to feel the fabric, drape and fit. You sit on a couch to test the firmness. In your house, the stair banister should be smooth and sturdy. The front door should close solidly and have a fresh, thick coat of paint. Sliding doors should slide easily. As they go through the house, buyers touch very few things, but surfaces should “look” touchable. Sparkling clean appliances and countertops. Plump deck chair cushions not covered in pollen or leaves. Wood trim that is sanded and satiny, not rough. Soft bedspreads. Plush towels.

  You can even get their taste buds to imagining familiar flavors. Put out a bowl of juicy grapes or apples. Display a bottle of high quality champagne. Set the breakfast bar with mugs, a bag of Starbucks, and the usual fixings of a coffee break.

Set out an empty box of See’s candy, preferably a 3-pounder. After that tease, put some real wrapped Dove or Ghirardelli chocolates in a bowl next to the property flyer with a “have one” sign.

  Staging to sell includes removing items that only appeal to certain genders, age groups, or hobbyists. Neutralize themed rooms like the “Mickey Mouse bedroom”. A guy will be uncomfortable in a feminine fantasy full of pink frou-frous. A lady may not be enthralled with elk heads, a muscle car photo collection, or the largest selection of beer-themed ball caps every assembled. You may be a 90-year old spinster, but a 30 year old firefighter may buy your house. Usually sellers are older than their buyers. What makes a home seem like it belongs to a different generation? Grandfather clocks, pianos, lace curtains, chenille bedspreads, wallpaper, blue toilets, macramé, old books and magazines. I listed a house built in 1972 that had a stack of Time magazines dated 1974 on the coffee table! Set out a 2010 Architectural Digest instead!

  Some houses just shout their decade: Butcher block Formica + dark brown birch cabinets + round gold cracked glass swag lights = 70’s! Light counter tile with wide dark grout + medium oak cabinets + large fluorescent light boxes with opaque plastic covers = 80’s! Do whatever you can to put an updated spin on an old style, even if you can’t spend much money. Most buyers don’t like dark wood wall paneling, but you don’t have to replace it with expensive textured sheetrock- just paint it. Use lamps and light fixtures, area rugs, towels, accessories, and trendy colors. There are two reasons to be “on-trend”. If your decorating is up-to-date, people will assume the mechanics of the home are also up-to-date. And if the decorating message is fresh, buyers will associate it with good taste and increased status.

  Everyone wants an easy, carefree home. Buyers know that homes require work, but don’t remind them of it with cleaning and maintenance supplies everywhere they turn. Hide reminders of housework, such as dish drainers, laundry baskets, mops, and dirty sponges. Don’t display the mouse bait, ant spray, and weed eater. And if the dog has scratched the door, or the cat has shredded the screens, don’t leave the evidence-fix it.

  You don’t want the buyers to remember your house with any negative label, like “the pumpkin-colored one”, the “scary driveway one” where the tires slipped on the pine needles, or the “one with the slimy hot tub”.

The potential buyer is looking for a dream…the dream of a perfect life that a new home may bring them. It’s not realistic, but it is a human longing.

In summary, immediately impress the buyer, draw them in, appeal to their senses, refresh the style and colors, and make the house look like it cleans itself.          Article written by Lauree Borup in 2010, all rights reserved©

Home Staging: We are Proud to Present…Your House!  Article in Pine Mountain Lake News May 2010          Part 4 of 4 articles

  You know your home’s secrets. You know that the roof leaks in the closet, or that the self-cleaning cycle on the oven doesn’t work right. And when you sell it, you will fill out many pages of disclosure forms detailing everything you know about defects, insurance claims, last time you painted, if you have drainage problems, or if your neighborhood is noisy.

  You also know the secret delights of your home, and it is your agent’s job, and yours, to reveal them. The buyer may only be in your home for a short time. They are going to miss a lot! I wrote in the last three staging articles how to make a good impression and encourage them to linger. Another “persuasive tool” is the detailed color flyer that they can pick up in your house and take with them. Besides a description of the square footage, number of bathrooms and acreage, it should be filled with the best pictures of the property. Every house in PML has a view, even if it is just the specimen manzanita in the front yard. That view should be highlighted, too.

  The flyer should also mention the appealing things you love and appreciate- the things you will reluctantly leave behind. So share the answers to the questions below with your Realtor, so they can write them in the flyer:

Why did you buy this home?

What did you love about living here?

Are there good features a buyer might not see in a ten minute tour?

What did you replace, or improve, or add on that increases the value or enjoyment?  

What should be emphasized in the advertising descriptions?

  The features could be practical: the shade on the deck in July, the sophisticated lighting system, the extra big oven for cooking a turkey, the insulated garage that makes it comfortable to work in, the “whole house” fan in the attic, the good garden soil. Or for pleasure: the porch swing on a summer day, the owl family in the tall oak tree, the daffodils that come up in spring, closeness to the hiking trail or the beach, the brilliant sunsets or  moonrises. Or big ticket items that you have replaced: new roof, new heating system, new tile shower.

  The flyer should also list the personal property included with the “real estate”. This is like putting the big FREE! word in an ad. You’ll let them have the cord of firewood, the pool table, the fancy barbecue, or the swing set, maybe the new flat screen television, if they buy the house. First-time home buyers of mine once chose a house because the seller was including a lovely new dining table with matching buffet and chairs. The set was nicer than any furniture they owned, and they were thrilled to get it “free”. Many second home sellers leave all the furniture. If you don’t want to give it away, then list what is available for sale at reasonable prices.

  Whenever possible, the floor plan should be copied in the flyer. The buyer can refer to this if they are trying to remember where the laundry room was, or which floor the second bathroom was on, or if there’s space to add another closet in the master bedroom. Even a large, faded building blueprint can be reduced and touched up and labeled. Sometimes I have a copy of an appraisal, which always has a rough floor plan that can be reproduced.

  A plot plan showing where the house, driveway, septic system and building setbacks are located can clarify whether there is room to add on to the house, or enlarge the parking area. Also useful to the buyer and their Realtor is a map showing adjoining lots. Over 500 lots have been merged in PML, and it may be a selling feature to the buyer if they know a new house can’t be built on the open area next door.  

  If a home has been occupied full-time and is energy-efficient, it is helpful to list the history of propane and electricity costs for each year that you have records. When we sold our solar home, we gave the buyer records of eighteen years of low monthly PG&E costs and kilowatt usage. If the woodstove heats up the whole cold house in an hour, mention that too.

  The flyer should be available in your house, given to all the area agents, and be clickable online. Our MLS allows flyers to be uploaded so that all agents can print them at any time. Here are two flyer examples: Cresthaven 2 Page Flyer     Buttercup 4 Page Flyer

  When a buyer tours your house and likes it, one of the first things they ask the showing agent is “where are the property lines?” An important part of “presenting your property” is to clearly and colorfully “stake and flag” the corners. Agents know that the front dividing lines can usually be figured out because the power poles, water meters, and fire hydrants are placed there. Make it easy for the buyer to either see the flagged back corners from the deck, or to walk to them. Then they can mentally start “taking ownership” of their new domain.

 Just twenty years ago a buyer who came to your property had only seen a small black and white exterior photo of it beforehand.  But with the advent of Multiple Listing Service instant feeds to international internet sites, virtual “video”  tours, and automatic emails to buyers from Realtors, that has drastically changed. You want your on-line photos to stand out from the competition! Over 85% of buyers are searching for homes online first. The buyer may never come near your house if the photographs are bad, or interior shots are missing. It is absolutely critical that your agent take lots of enticing pictures that make the buyer want to see the house “in person”.

  Here are the most common picture mistakes:

Not enough pictures. Our local MLS allows 24 photos to be put in. If the agent can’t get 24 nice photos, then the property is not staged properly yet. In addition to the front of the house, the living room and the kitchen, also photograph every room, every outside space, every angle of the house, the view, the street scene, the nice bench, the fireplace, the whirlpool tub, a close-up of the real wood floors, a special tree. Then add a few photos of  the PML lake and golf course.

The wrong time of day. Harsh shadows hide the front of the house, or the glare of mid-day washes out the color of the sky. An hour or two after the sun rises and before it sets is when the light is it’s softest, warmest and most flattering. You will get the best selection by taking photographs at different times of day of different sides of the house. A “twilight” photo, when the sky is dark periwinkle blue, with ALL the lights on inside and out and the windows uncovered, is a romantic peek.

Not framing the shot. Usually this means the photographer is too close to the house and gets the garage and house, but not the surrounding vegetation or view. The best shots are usually taken from across the street then zoomed in, or slightly above the house so it is framed by the pine trees

Not trying different vantage points. A shot of the great room looking down from the loft above will draw a buyer’s eye, and show the volume of space. Shooting the dining room or deck from the level of the seating makes it more intimate. Shooting the view framed by the window has more impact than just the view from the back yard. Vertical shots of bathrooms make them look bigger.

Blurred photos, either from shaking the camera, or a digital resolution that is too low.

Dark interiors, or photos with the window coverings closed. Shooting into a bright window so the window turns white and the interior turns dark.

  Your Realtor has access to many programs to touch up the pictures. Pictures can be lightened, cropped, color saturated, sharpened, and if done skillfully, will not look fake.

  To see some of the worst and best examples of pictures of local houses, go to

Best and Worst Examples: Pictures of Local Homes For Sale

  Now your house is ready to present. It has been de-cluttered, de-personalized, cleaned, staged, photographed, priced to the market, and described in detail in materials the buyer has ready access to. It shows to its best advantage, both on-line and in-person. You keep it “show ready” at all times, because you never know which day the right buyer will be coming. And you leave the house during showings. Buyers will stay longer if you are gone, and feel less like they are intruding. They will be more comfortable inspecting thoroughly, and discussing the pros and cons with each other, and their agent. The only question left to ask should be “when can we move in?”  If you want to start applying home staging techniques to your property, learn from the specific links on >LINKS > Home Staging.   Article written by Lauree Borup in 2010, all rights reserved©