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Today’s consumers are highly visual, especially when it comes to online property searches. Since 90% of home buyers start their search online (NAR), a well-stocked arsenal of listing photos can quickly attract attention. While the right listing photos can draw in potential buyers, the wrong ones can scare them away. According to NAR, “98% of home buyers who searched for a home on the internet found photos to be among the most useful features.” Here are five best practices to keep in mind when preparing your listing photos.

1. If it fits in to your budget, hire a professional. Professional photographers have the skills, training, and equipment to make each shot look its best. At the same time, a photographer may not know the house as well as you do. If you’re going to be hiring a professional, make a list of the top selling points of the house so the photographer will know what to focus on.

2. If you are unable to hire a professional, invest in some decent equipment. While most smart phones boast an 8 to 16 megapixel resolution, digital cameras are usually better for capturing quality images. In fact, 90% of REALTORS® prefer a digital camera to a smart phone when taking their listing photos (NAR). Also, a good flash and a tripod can turn an adequate photo into a great one. When you’re taking the pictures, open all the curtains and upgrade light bulbs to a higher wattage — the more light, the better. Remember that taking pictures from the corners can make a room look more spacious. Finally, avoid snapping your own image in mirrors or reflecting windows. Potential buyers should be left thinking about your listing, not your outfit.

3. Remember to take both interior and exterior shots. Your initial exterior picture is likely the most important one you will take. Show off the home’s curb appeal! Be sure trash cans are put away, the landscape is manicured, leaves are cleared off the lawn and driveway, and the for sale sign has been removed. Try to take multiple photos from different angles to give viewers an idea of the different perspectives. For the interior shots, focus on the property’s selling points. Interesting architecture, walk-in closets, washer-dryer units, pre-wired entertainment rooms, etc. should all be included in interior pictures. Also, be sure that you are including spaces that are of the most interest to potential buyers, such as bathrooms, spacious closets, and kitchens. Lastly, remember to capture any unique selling points in the back exterior of the home.

4. Another important aspect of preparing a home for photographing is decluttering and depersonalizing. Advise the current homeowners to remove items that could distract buyers from imagining what living in the house would be like. Newspapers, mail, children’s toys, dishes, and that collection of Star Wars figurines all have a place, and it’s not in your pictures. Decluttering includes cleaning and organizing the bathrooms, clearing off tables and counters, making the beds, and removing knick-knacks from bookshelves, tables, and counters. Take down family photos and other personal touches so buyers can imagine themselves in their new home, not the current owner’s old one.

5. Finally, stage each room. Again, if you can hire a professional, it could be worth the investment. If it’s not in your budget, consider meeting with a stager for a consultation to hear some of their tips and ideas. The goal of staging is to help buyers picture their lives in the home. Add a vase of fresh flowers in the kitchen or new throw pillows on the couch to create the right kind of atmosphere. When organizing the bathroom, remember to put the toilet seats down, and consider adding some elegant hand towels. Staging doesn’t have to break the bank, but a little can go a long way. Also, unless you’re marketing exclusively to pet lovers, keep fido and his toys out of the pictures. Potential buyers who aren’t animal-friendly can associate pets with damage, bad smells, and allergens.

Remember, the more pictures of the property, the better. Listing photos present a first impression to potential clients. Great pictures should make a strong first impression and invite buyers to make an appointment to view the home. Give your pictures an even better chance of being seen by potential customers by signing up for Listing Enhancements. Preferred Listings get 300% more views than basic listings on