Preparing Your Seller for a Photo Shoot – Part Three


In Part Two of this series on preparing your seller clients for photographing their home, I wrote about the issue of clutter. To simply tell a client to “de-clutter” does not provide enough information to set expectations. If you missed that post, click here for some tips to help ensure that you and your client are on the same page when discussing how to prepare for the all-important photo shoot.

Depersonalizing a Home

Part Three of this series takes things one step further – “depersonalizing” a home. You have had the necessary conversations with your clients about decluttering. You have been specific with your clients, but they still have personal items that didn’t make the “clutter cut.” You might have to have one more conversation about depersonalizing the home.

Disconnect Emotionally

The first step to depersonalize, or neutralize, a home is to help your clients to remove themselves emotionally from their home. Selling a home is often a monumental and overwhelming step. However, if your clients can disconnect themselves from the house by neutralizing it, buyers will be  more able to connect emotionally with it.

Think Like a Buyer

Secondly, help your clients understand that it is time to think like a buyer! Create a clean, neutral background that will appeal to all buyers so that they feel like they could fit right in and be comfortable. A neutralized home is more welcoming to buyers. Explain to your clients that buyers will not be able to picture themselves in their home if it screams “you”! Instead, aim for transforming the home to look like a model home, free of anything that would connect the sellers to the house.

Personal photos remind buyers that someone lives here!
Personal photos remind buyers that someone lives here!

Here are some pointers for putting those final touches on a home in preparation for the photo shoot and viewings.

  • Remove all family photos – replace them with generic photos or pieces of art with neutral subject matter.
  • Memorabilia should be packed up and stored. Memorabilia are objects valued for their connection with historical events, culture, or entertainment. 

    Movie Memorabilia
    Movie Memorabilia
  • Identifiers, items that represent any type of affiliations (such as memberships, religious objects, or anything political in nature), should be packed up and stored. The home should be free from any type of bias to avoid offending or turning off buyers.
  • If there are children in the house, your clients should pack up and store toys, stuffed animals, children’s artwork, trophies and photos.
  • Craft and hobby items, including sewing items, should be removed.
  • Bedrooms should look more like hotel rooms – clean, neat, uncluttered and neutral. Imagine a beautiful hotel room and remove anything from the bedrooms that you wouldn’t find in one.
  • If your client has a home office, clear the walls and desk of all personal items. Make sure what is left is clean and organized.

Final Tips 

Finally, these are some additional tips to help your clients present their home in the best possible light.

  • Pack up early! As they go about decluttering and neutralizing their home, clients should be packing all non-essential items and storing them. When it comes time to move, they will be way ahead of the game!
  • Invest in small plastic bins that can fit under countertops. Store personal care items that they use daily in bins and tuck them out of sight for showings.
  • Make sure all lamps and lights are in working order. Replace lightbulbs as needed.
  • Enhance curb appeal – blow/rake leaves, mulch, weed, tidy porches, decks and play areas.
  • Too much furniture makes rooms look smaller. Put unnecessary items in storage.

Preparing Your Seller for a Photo Shoot – Part Two

Decluttering – the Eye of the Beholder

Even the smallest bathrooms need to be decluttered and staged.

At a recent photo shoot, I asked for a quick tour before I unloaded my gear. The agent was running late, so the sellers were happy to oblige. I knew at once that I was going to be there for a while. There were knick knacks everywhere, holiday decorations (which, of course, would date the photos), multiple pairs of shoes under an end table in the living room, personal care products covering the bathroom vanity – just a lot of stuff everywhere. When the agent arrived, he was shocked. He took me aside to apologize and said, “I told them to declutter!” So, what went wrong? How did the communication break down between this agent and his clients?

What constitutes clutter varies from individual to individual. To simply tell a client to “de-clutter” does not provide enough information to set expectations. Here are some tips to help ensure that you and your client are on the same page when discussing how to prepare for the all-important photo shoot.

What is clutter?

Do not assume that your client sees clutter like a real estate agent does. Clutter, or stuff, is subjective. Therefore, it is up to you to help your client understand what you mean when you talk about “clutter.”

Simply put, clutter can be categorized in two ways:

  1. Stuff piled on top of stuff, or too much stuff in one place. Examples are paperwork, magazines, makeup, clothes, shoes, personal care products, etc.
  2. Valuable stuff – collections things (dolls, glassware, baskets, knick knacks, books, etc.)

How does clutter affect people?

Clutter can be very distracting, whether it is in a photograph or visible during a showing. Perspective buyers’ attention is taken away from the house itself when they have to “overlook it” to see and evaluate the house.

Too much stuff can have a negative affect on people in a psychological way. Our brains need empty spaces to help us make sense of what we are seeing. When you look around a room, your eye needs a resting place. Clutter does not allow the eye to rest anywhere. In fact, it causes stress in a subconscious way and makes people uncomfortable.

Kitchens, Closets and Bathrooms

There are certain areas of a house that are clutter culprits. Here are some tips that will help:

  • The Kitchen – It should be simple and clean. Counters should be cleared of most appliances. This might be inconvenient, but it is necessary. Remove area rugs and kitchen knick knacks/gadgets.
    This might sound obvious, but trust me, it bears saying: remove all dishes, cleaning supplies, and dish drainer. Remove all magnets and stuff from the refrigerator.
  • Closets – Buyers will open closet doors and dresser drawers. If a closet is considered a feature of the house, clean it out and arrange clothing and shoes neatly.

    Staged Master Bath
    Staged Master Bath
  • Bathrooms – Clear off all personal care items from the bathroom counter. They gather dust and are too personal to appear in photos or during a showing. Remove all items from the shower, including shampoo, soap, and anything else that is distracting. Put away area rugs. They make the room appear smaller.

Do not forget the outdoor areas. Remind your clients to pick up dog toys and children’s items. To enhance curb appeal, blow the leaves off the driveway and walks (especially important for photographs). Tidy up the porch and/or deck. Remove all unnecessary, “cluttery” items. Put trash cans out of sight.

Readiness is Everything

Your seller clients’ attitude toward preparing their house to photograph and show can affect the process. If you can help your clients understand the “why’s” and the “how’s” of staging their home to sell, everyone will benefit!

Stay tuned for Part Three of this series – Depersonalizing a home!

Preparing Your Seller for a Photo Shoot – Part One

Setting Expectations With Your Seller Clients

Clients do not always understand that the way that they actually live in their home versus they way it should be presented to potential buyers are two very different things. Help your seller understand that the preparation for a photo shoot and future showings is not a criticism of their personal taste or design style.

First Impressions Count!

I like this analogy, and I use it when consulting with my staging clients. Feel free to use it with yours. Imagine you are shopping for a used car and you have narrowed your search to two cars. Both have similar features, are close in price, and have low mileage.

Car #1 hasn’t seen the inside of a carwash in 10,000 miles. The outside is dirty and the windows are smeary and have questionable droppings on them. The interior of the car looks like someone has been living in it. Fast food wrappers tossed in the back seat, maps and papers jammed between the seats. Then you open the trunk, only to find some kid’s old gym shoes and a collection of sweat shirts, gym shorts, umbrellas and a pile of text books.

Car #2 is clean and shiny. You can see your reflection in the windows. What a beautiful color! You open the door and the interior is pristine. No dust, no smeary windshield, no evidence that someone else has been in the car. The trunk is empty, except for the items that came with the car.

Think about the assumptions you would make about each car. Which car has been cared for? Which car has been maintained properly? First impressions count, regardless of the facts! Home buyers make assumptions of a house based on their initial impressions. If a house doesn’t look cared for, there is a good chance that potential buyers could make some assumptions (correct or not) about the upkeep and overall condition of the house.

Before and After Examples

This is a “before” photo of a house that I worked on as both stager and photographer. (This photo was taken with my iPhone and has not been professionally processed.) The clutter was overwhelming! I provided my client with recommendations and she did all the work. I was very specific about what needed to be done to get top dollar for this house.

staging before

Voila! This is the dining room today. It doesn’t even look like the same room!

Readiness is Everything

Your seller clients’ attitude toward preparing their house to photograph and show can affect the process. If you can help your clients understand the “why’s” and the “how’s” of staging their home to sell, everyone will benefit!

Stay tuned for Part Two of this series – Clutter!