When it comes to preparing one’s home for sale, most people generally understand that getting their home as clean and organized as possible is more or less a requirement. Rarely, however do homeowners put too much thought into preparing their homes adequately for the photographer. This can, and is a grave oversight. Great photography can bring in significantly more potential home buyers than simply marginal photos that do not stand out. But with so much on their mind, it is completely understandable that homeowners are going to overlook at least a few items that can significantly improve the appearance of their home as they prepare for their professional real estate photographer to arrive. As a photographer myself, I am all too happy to share these 20 tips with you, REALTORS®, and homeowners so that you can feel prepared when your professional real estate photographer does arrive! As a bonus, I will include a link to this in a PDF checklist format so you can print it out and provide it to your clients or use to better prepare your home!

  1. The first item on preparing one’s home for photography is more of a general rule of thumb than an actual to-do item, and it influences all of the remaining items: to the best of your abilities, TRY TO MAKE YOUR HOME LOOK LIKE A MODEL HOME AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE!
  2. Clean up and organize coffee tables and bookshelves. Trinkets, remotes, magazines, dishes, etc. should be kept to an absolute minimum. If you can’t bear the thought of not having something on display, consider placing it temporarily in a box in a closet for the photography session, and then putting it back on display after the photographer leaves.
  3. Clean off all counter tops in both bathrooms and kitchens. Bathrooms often go overlooked because they’re proportionally smaller, but often have some of the best finishes in a home, so it is worth taking a few extra minutes to make sure that they’re clean and free of clutter such as toothbrushes, cups, makeup and whatever else one might have on them. Remember, we’re aiming for model home presentation here! Minimalism is your friend! If in doubt, remove it!
  4. Put away all pet and kid’s toys, including pet dishes. Rarely is there anything more eye-catching than a brightly colored dog bowl or toy arbitrarily poking into a photo.
  5. Make your beds. Actually making your bed may seem daunting, but beds make up a significant portion of bedroom presentation, and a well-made bed implies that a home is well-cared for.
  6. Fold all towels and washcloths neatly. It only takes a few extra seconds, but it can make a huge difference in photos!
  7. Put away all laundry. You’d think this one would be self-explanatory, but I have photographed more homes than I care to mention that have had laundry on the floors, piled up in a washroom, or otherwise placed somewhere other than neatly folded or hung in a closet or dresser.
  8. Roll up or remove all hoses from yards. Once again, it only takes a moment, and can totally change the presentation of a home!
  9. Remove pool cleaning equipment and make sure that pool lights work. Pools, especially lit-up ones at down or dusk can make for some spectacular home photography! It takes 10 minutes, and may cause a buyer to stop and check out your listing instead of overlooking it.
  10. Clean up the patios, entry ways and decks. The presentation of a home’s exteriors in photography can tell a potential buyer a lot more than a clean inside.
  11. Clean all windows. Make sure they are as clean as possible. If it seems daunting, hire a professional window cleaner–especially if your home has views you want to showcase.
  12. Open up all drapes, blinds and window coverings. Remove stickers from windows. Showcase your home’s location!
  13. Turn on ALL lights. All of them. Yes, that one, too. Nobody remembers their range/stove lights, but it adds significantly to the warmth and ambiance of a kitchen’s photography. Make sure to replace any burned-out light bulbs.
  14. Turn off all fans. Most real estate photos are longer exposures. If they’re on they’ll come out as a big blur.
  15. Use a Chromecast to cast a beautiful scenic photo to all TVs, or if they’re small or don’t accept HDMI input, just turn them off. Chromecasts are regularly on sale for only $25.
  16. Turn on any and all water features such as fountains, cascading pools or spas, and accompanying lighting.
  17. Remove all garbage cans from sight by placing them in a garage or shed, if possible.
  18. Straighten and fluff up all the pillows around the home.
  19. Take Fido for a walk. I can’t even count the number of times a homeowner has told me that their pet would stay put while I try to photograph their home, but it keeps walking into my photos. “Oh gosh! I am so sorry! I don’t know what his/her deal is!” is not acceptable. Animals, cats included, get extremely curious by new individuals entering their territory. Tripods and other camera equipment just pique that curiosity. You won’t be able to hold onto your pet’s leash for the duration of a photo shoot. Want to know how I know that? I’ll give you three guesses, but you’ll only need one! 😉
  20. The last one, as absurd as it sounds, is all too common: make sure that your homeowner has adequate time to prepare! Just because you want to list in MLS on morning X, does not mean that the homeowner is going to be ready in time. Give your photographer adequate time to process photos as well. I have a mantra that I use often: “a delay on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on mine!” Thanks, Mom, for that one! =)

Click here to download this article as a simplified checklist you can print out or forward to your clients: How To Prepare Your Home For Real Estate Photography by Harrison Koch