A Mid Century Modern home in Bellevue, WA.

A Mid Century Modern home in Bellevue, WA.

 

I don’t know what the rest of the country is like but the real estate market here in the Pacific Northwest is HOT! No doubt, we’re back to the same feverish buying and selling frenzy we saw in the mid 00s. Short supply has fueled bidding wars and most properties are selling for well over the asking price. But despite this surge there are a number of properties being ignored by desperate buyers. And the main reason I’ve seen to be the cause of this is the photography.  

Like I’ve said in many previous posts it’s all about first impression, especially in the real estate market. As an example, I was recently checking out listings and came across a home selling for $980,000. A few minutes later I saw a condo priced at $155,000. From the written descriptions both were correctly priced for their neighborhoods and the current market. But the pictures? You’d swear they had been swapped between the two properties. A few days later the condo had an offer. A month later, when multiple comparable listings had come and gone, the near million dollar home was still sitting. What went so wrong?

The images of the $980,000 home were out of focus and poorly lit. Some photos had motion blur, obviously hand held in low light when a tripod should have been used. It was the $150,000 condo that looked like a million bucks. Great lighting, the rooms looked spacious, and the photography led your eyes to each room’s best features.

If you’re getting ready to sell a property or having trouble attracting attention to a current listing here are some valuable tips you and your agent should follow when planning photography for your listing.

Select the Right Photographer: Most agents will tell you they have a photographer ready to go. Sometimes it’s a pro, other times it’s themselves. Regardless, you should always ask to see some samples of the photographer’s work, either in a portfolio or a previous listing to make sure you approve of their work. What should you look for? Keep reading!

Lighting: There are a couple of ways to create great lighting for real estate photos. Some photographers will setup strobe lights throughout each room while others will use the HDR (high dynamic range) method by capturing several images at different exposure levels and then putting them together for a single, evenly exposed image. Neither way is better than the other. But what’s most important is that the images look natural. Avoid photographers who overdo the HDR effect by producing unnatural looking images. And, if using strobes, make sure the photographer is able to control the light so there are no overly bright or dark areas.

 
The lighting in this room looks very natural. Details in both the lighter and darker areas of the interior are all easily visible.

The lighting in this room looks very natural. Details in both the lighter and darker areas of the interior are all easily visible.

 

Avoid “Dead Ends”: In other words, you want potential buyers to see a way out of the room, whether it’s through a doorway or a window. Doorways and windows pique curiosity and give a room or area a much larger feel. In most photos without windows or doors the viewer feels claustrophobic. The exception to this rule? Bathrooms. They don’t always have conveniently placed windows or are just too small for great composition.  

 
Unlike most bathrooms, this one has a nice sized window avoiding the "dead end" look. Mirrors can also serve as a window to another room using carefully placed reflections.

Unlike most bathrooms, this one has a nice sized window avoiding the “dead end” look. Mirrors can also serve as a window to another room using carefully placed reflections.

 

Leading Lines: How does your eye travel through a photograph? Are you left looking at a static image or is there something about it that guides you through a door or to a great feature? 

 
The path, accentuated by the rocks, leads your eyes right to the home's front door.

The path, accentuated by the rocks, leads your eyes right to the home’s front door.

 

Media Rooms: If you’ve got a nice media room or home theater don’t leave a blank screen or you’ll have the “dead end” scenario I mentioned above. By showing an active display you’re letting potential buyers imagine what it would be like to watch their favorite show in what will probably be their favorite room. 

 
Media rooms are an attractive feature to any buyer. 

Media rooms are an attractive feature to any buyer. 

 

Prepare Your House As If It’s Going On A Date: Don’t you want to look your best before spending a nice night out with your spouse or significant other? Well make sure your house is “dressed to impress” for its big photo day. Make sure you remove as many non-essential items from each room before they are photographed. That even includes some pieces of furniture. You want every space to have just enough of the items one would expect to see in it without it looking sparse.  

 
Spotless counters, no dish soap bottles, or utensils. This gives the illusion of a bigger space, just what buyers want to see.

Spotless counters, no dish soap bottles, or utensils. This gives the illusion of a bigger space, just what buyers want to see.

 

Windows: Should you be able to see the view out of each window? Or is it okay to leave them “blown out” – bright without detail? It really comes down to the individual tastes of you and your agent. My approach is this; Unless there is something outside that will enhance the appeal of the home, don’t worry about it unless the client has a preference. Some views can actually turn off potential buyers if they’re of a neighboring property. But if you’ve got a nice landscape, shoreline, or a desirable outdoor feature you’ll want to be able to see those selling points from the interior.  

 
A view of the pool from inside the kitchen through the glass walls.

A view of the pool from inside the kitchen through the glass walls.

 

Following these seven guidelines your property’s photographs will by much more attractive to potential buyers. And you may even have an offer before a single visitor tours your home!

You can see more of my real estate photography by clicking here.

Charlie Cotugno is the owner of Charles Cotugno Photography in Woodinville, WA specializing in fine art portraiture and commercial photography. He is also the founder and board president of the non-profit organization Stories of Autism, a network of over 150 photographers from around the U.S. whose mission is to increase awareness, acceptance, and inclusion of people with autism spectrum disorders. For more information about Charlie and Stories of Autism please visit www.cotugnophoto.com.