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When it comes to selling your Waterloo Region home, the old adage that first impressions counts most still holds true in almost every case, but how that first impression is made on potential buyers has changed a lot.
In the ‘old days’ real estate brokers printed out flyers that would have just a handful of pictures on them (if any at all) to give to homebuyers ahead of a home showing and the first time they would get a really good look at the place was when their real estate showed it to them.
These days, 90% of buyers – and that figure rises to 99% for Millennials – actually begin their home search online, and so it is the photographs that accompany an online listing that offer that first impression now, and today’s home buyers expect those images – and even videos – to be plentiful and to be good – as in Instagram good – in order for them to consider even taking the time to contact an agent about seeing it in person.
How important are those images? A survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors found that 85% of those surveyed admitted basing their choices of which homes to see in person based on the images they were offered online. So, in other words, bad photography can lose you a possible sale that you never even knew was a possibility, and you would never want to risk that.
Getting Your Home For Sale Instagram Worthy
No matter who it is that actually takes the photographs it is up to you, as the homeowner, to ensure that your home is ready and properly staged for its close up. If you are still living in your home, staging it all can seem like an uphill battle, let alone staging it in order to help it appear that the home could make the pages of Home and Garden Magazine next week (which is what buyers are looking for)
Here then is a room by room, step-by-step guide to the very basics of ensuring that your home stands out online (in a good way)
General Whole House Occupied Staging for Photography – A Basic Checklist
- Even in the daytime, turn all overhead lights and lamps ON and replace burned out bulbs before the photographer arrives.
- Use bulbs that are all the same temperature. That means all incandescent or all CFL.
- Turn TVs, computer screens and ceiling fans off to avoid strange shadowing in the final shots.
- Open blinds/drapes to let in outside light.
- Ensure that there is no clutter anywhere.
The Front Exterior of Your Home
- Close your garage doors
- Remove any cars or trucks from driveway and front of the home (unless you own a Porsche. That can maybe stay)
- Remove visible water hoses, kids toys, outdoor sports equipment etc.
The Rear Exterior of Your Home
- Clean up the porch, tidy up outdoor tables/chairs/cushions. If you have an outdoor dining set accessorize it with a place setting or two.
- Pillows/cushions should be fresh, not faded. If yours have seen better days replace them before the photo shoot.
- If you have one, clean your pool and remove all pool toys etc.
- If you have a garden water feature (fountain etc) turn it on.
- Hide all the garbage cans!
- Clear your countertops completely. That means no knife blocks, baking supplies, mail, etc. You can leave out one appliance to add interest, a good-looking coffee maker perhaps.
- Remove everything from the refrigerator door, including any old stickers. (WD-40 can help get them off.)
- Make sure there are no dishes in the sink.
- Hide kitchen garbage cans.
- Straighten all the chairs around your dining table and remove any high chairs or booster seats.
- Stage a couple of place settings, based around a nice centrepiece (seasonal FRESH flowers are always a great touch.)
- Make sure that everything, especially the dining table is dusted and polished.
- Remove stacks of magazines, papers, mail and other ‘clutter’.
- Hide as many wires as you can (TV wires, game system wires etc.)
- De-clutter your fireplace mantel and hearth and make sure the visible fireplace interior is clean.
- Only leave out throws and pillows if they are clean and fluffed.
- Make bed, and ‘dress’ it in the best linens you have.
- Clear nightstands of all personal items
- Remove all clutter from top of dressers
- Don’t forget to clean under the bed, you never know what might show up in a photo.
- Clean off the walls. That means posters, wall stickers and especially personalized name items (which is more about safety than anything else)
- Make everything as tidy as possible. Toy boxes look better in photos than toys scattered all over the floor and can even be good staging tools.
- Again, don’t forget to clean under the bed (just be prepared for what you might find if it’s been a while. This is a kid’s room after all.)
- Clean and clear all countertops completely. No soap, toothbrushes, medications, deodorant, etc. One single flower vase? Maybe, if it seems to fit.
- Make sure toilet seats are down and cleaning tools are hidden out of sight.
- Close all closet doors
- Remove all the shampoos, soap, loofahs, etc. from the shower or tub.
- Towels are OK to leave out, but invest in some new ones (they only have to look good, so they can be small)
- Change themed shower curtains and rugs for something a little more neutral.
These tips however, are really just the basics. For an occupied Waterloo Region home to really stand out, it truly will benefit from professional occupied home staging. An increasing number of people are making that investment, but not always doing so at the right time.
Ideally, an occupied home should be staged PRIOR to it going on the market. The goal of occupied home staging is to make the home appeal to as many people as possible, and that can be a challenge when someone still lives there.
A professional home stager has many talents though – or they should if they are good one – and those include being a great problem solver. They can help homeowners present their home in the best possible way even while they are still in residence.
The best time to execute this staging however is before the photographer arrives to take those all important pictures, not a few weeks afterward when, as it will help ensure that those 85% of folks who are going to be swayed in their house hunting decisions by online images are wowed by yours. Not sure who to call? As your real estate agent, who is sure to know who does a great job (we do!)