Having great real estate photos is a must these days. Let's face it—much like in online dating, the pictures are where house hunters' eyes go first. But what type of photo, exactly, persuades home buyers to delve deeper into a listing, propelling them out of their comfy window-shopping cocoon to check out a property in person?
To find out, we asked some home buyers to share the real estate listing photo that piqued their interest and led them down the path to make an offer. Check 'em out, as well as the lessons learned that could help other home sellers create fetching photos for their own home.
After two months of house hunting, Theresa Bauer fell for the exterior shot of a Lincolnton, NC, house.
"We loved the fact that the house didn’t look like a cookie-cutter house," she says. "It looked original, with the brick porch and the big trees. It reminded me of home!"
So she called her real estate agent to see the house the next day. Initially, she was worried that the pictures were too good.
"We were afraid that it wouldn’t live up to the photos online," Bauer admits. "Many of the other houses we saw didn't look like the pictures at all."
Yet once they pulled up to the house, Bauer recalls, "the reality was betterthan the picture because it all came together! Houses were going quick so we knew we had to jump.
"We did get it, and we love it."
Lesson learned: Your curbside photo—what buyers see from the street—is often what reels buyers in, says Casi Rotolo, a photographer with Vista Estate Imaging in Cleveland. This is why it should typically be the first photo buyers see of your listing. And make it count! Freshen up the exterior paint, and update your old garage door (deemed to be the most valuable renovation of 2018), or paint the door an intense hue for a pop of color. And wait until the light is just right—as in not too dark but not too bright and washed out—to make your home look like a welcoming sight.
When Sarah Kolakowski and her fiancé went looking for a new home in the Thornton, CO, area, having a nice kitchen was a top priority.
"On our first dates, we cooked every meal together," she explains. "So we needed a kitchen with space. We wanted to be proud and have a space to have family over."
And most kitchen photos they saw left a lot to be desired.
"Most homes in our budget were so disappointing," she says. Many were outdated, Kolakowski says, and "we didn't have a renovation budget and couldn't build our dream kitchen, so we had to find it."
After perusing hundreds of listings, the couple finally found a photo of a home that delivered—with its up-to-date kitchen with stainless-steel appliances that looked brand-new and countertops that shined. They arranged to visit the home with their agent, and they were not disappointed.
"The old owners took great care of the house," Kolakowski says. "So we wrote a letter discussing how we looked forward to cooking holiday meals in the kitchen and appreciate how much they cared for the home. We moved in a few weeks later!"
Lesson learned: While the front exterior of a home is the most important, Rotolo says, the kitchen is also a high priority, because it's not only the heart of the home, but also an area that can quickly look outdated. So if yours is current and eye-catching, it's well worth highlighting this area with the perfect photo—which also means cleaning every surface until it gleams to suggest that everything is as good as new.
Kristi Pahr bought the very first house she looked at in Columbia, SC—thanks to the photos of the spacious backyard.
"I entered my search parameters, and it was the first one I clicked on to see details about," she recalls. "I fell in love with it immediately—especially those stone-paved walkways and a screened-in porch. I showed it to my husband, and he agreed that it was close to what we wanted."
The couple called their agent and visited the home. They learned it had been on the market for just nine days.
"We talked about putting an offer in immediately, but decided to look around a bit more since it was the first one we looked at," Pahr says. But that backyard drew her back. "Ultimately, I couldn't find anything I liked more for the price, so a week later we made our offer."
Lesson learned: A big backyard is a dream for many home buyers, so don't forget to show it off! Make sure it's mowed and raked to perfection, and add flowers and plants to make it look lush. To go the extra mile, add a fire pit or other hot amenities. Here are some landscaping trends to consider.
'It reminded me of home'