A picture is worth a thousand words. What about 10 pictures, 10,000 words? The San Diego Board of Realtors only allows agents 512 characters to describe their listings but allows 25 pictures.  Needless to say, the pictures are a powerful tool and usually not fully taken advantage of by most real estate agents.  As a real estate investor and San Diego house flipper with 15 years experience, it’s my business to know how to market our properties as good as or better than the average agent.

Oh, we’ve seen some awful photos taken by agents in MLS, I sometime wonder if the sellers had a clue as to what poor representation they were really getting. I commonly see top producing agents putting new listings in MLS with no remarks or photos until days and weeks later. More often than not agents are not even using the maximum quantity allowable. I just can’t imagine this rationale but then again it doesn’t even take a high school diploma to be a Realtor.

If your agent seems less than excited about the importance of your newfound love for house photos you might want to consider shooting them yourself and working together with your agent to make sure you are getting what you want from your MLS entry. One of the most important tools you have when selling your home is MLS. It’s the line of first offense when a prospective buyer views your product. Agents email listings across the country daily and the only thing buyers have to get the “feel” of your home are the pictures and wording. The wording is a whole other subject and just as important, I’ll have to address that at another time.

The pictures should be a main point of focus and you should use them to your best ability to showcase your home’s assets and downplay its flaws.  Turn on all lights and open all window coverings for all photos! We take generally 100-200 photos to find the perfect 25 that our local MLS Sandicor allows. Taking these photos is a job within itself and should be done over a few days time. Shoot your pics at different times of the day to get sunlight coming in the windows hitting your hardwood floors. Shoot the main front shot in the morning while the sun is directly on your house. Shooting digital pics is free and how badly do you need to sell your house?

Buyers don’t want to buy dark and gloomy homes.  Make sure your pics are all bright and crisp. Use a good digital camera. These days any camera over 6 mega pixels is good. Don’t use your phone to take them!

The first picture you see in MLS is called the primary photo. This is the main picture of the front of your house. It should be shot on a sunny day, with the sun hitting the front of your house if possible. We start taking photos days before the home is ready just to have them for backup in case it’s raining on the day we finish and we need those sunny shots.  In some cases we’ve had to use a dark photo but have gone back on the next sunny day to re-shoot a new one.

This primary photo should frame your house perfectly but allow a bit more foreground for lawn. The top of the pic should show the complete roofline and some blue sky for contrast. The borders on the left and right should also just perfectly frame your house. Step closer to the target until the roof gable fills the frame with just a tad on each side.  What you don’t want to do is show any of the neighbor’s house or cars if possible. The foreground should go as low as the sidewalk, capturing all the lawn (if it looks desirable) and possibly the sidewalk.  Never stand across the street to take the photo as you’ll capture too much space around the house and you are not selling the city curb.  Another fun trick to do is to wet down the driveway and sidewalk with the hose before you take the picture.  I learned this from local builders who do this for new construction.

The sequence photos need to make sense also. I commonly see agents bouncing all over the place from front to backyard and back to kitchen. I arrange my photos so they allow the buyer to be taking a virtual tour through the house, stepping into each room and taking a photo as you walk through the home.  After the primary photo I use a front up close shot.  This shows the detail around the entrance and gives the buyer a good luck at the front door, which should be detailed like no other.

Once inside I use pictures of the first room I get to. Make the best use of your angles to showcase windows or other nice architectural features. Depending on how many pictures your local MLS allows, sometimes I even do 2 different angles of the living room. The next room I shoot is the kitchen.  If you have an open floor plan with dramatic lighting then first shoot a kitchen long shot. This shows the kitchen in relation to the rest of the house. You should be able to see everything including the appliances but not close enough to make out the brand. The second kitchen photo is what we call Kitchen up close. Shoot the appliances (or other positive features) as close as you can for a more detailed view. You should be able to step into the shot a bit and capture range, DW, sink and fridge all in one shot. Since the kitchen is such an important part of your sale its good to give this detailed up-close look.

The bathroom photos should show the best features you are offering such as dual vanity or spa tub. Sometimes it’s hard to get a good bathroom pic if the room is on the smaller side. Try standing in all corners and hold the camera to the wall kneeling down if you have to. I’ve even stood on tubs to get a wider angle if needed.  Make sure the toilet seat is shut for the pictures!

Shooting the bedrooms is less technical. Make sure closets and windows make it into the shot.  Try and shoot these at a time of the day when the sun is cascading in. If you have a ceiling fan in the bedroom, try and get it into the shot.  Usually a balance of showing ceiling and floor works well. In very small rooms don’t show the ceiling in your photos, this will make the room appear larger.

I usually show the backyard/detached garage last. If there’s nothing special back there don’t feel like you have to show it, however, with today’s needs for outdoor living people want to see what kind of space you have back there to work with.  Where can their dog run or where can their kids play or is there grass? Pick a good angle either from the house looking to the rear of the lot (if the yard is big and the back of your home is not that special) or from the rear fence looking at the back of the house (if it’s attractive). I can’t say enough how important sun is, do you want to buy a house with a sunny backyard or a  flat lit, gloomy yard?

All these are general guidelines.  Each property is different and you’ll have to use your common sense and adjust your angles accordingly.  We are not trying to fool anyone here or fake him or her out. It’s not deceiving someone or misrepresenting our house by taking advantage of a few camera angles.   We are only trying to drive more traffic into our house from potential home buyers in San Diego who have thousands of homes on the Internet to choose from.  Redfin and Zillow are the first place buyers start shopping so the real estate photos you have are your first impression to get buyers through your home. The more bodies we get into our homes, the better chance of us getting an offer. Good luck and have fun shooting and carefully choosing your photos!

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