10 Ways to Boost Your Home's Online Curb Appeal

Quality listing photos will attract Web-savvy homebuyers.

Most of us know how curb appeal, or a home's exterior appearance, can enhance the chances of selling a home and getting the best price. But not everyone is aware of how important it is to create an impression with buyers through "pix appeal," or the home's appearance in online listing photos. Follow these tips to make potential buyers want to take the trip from the computer to your front door.

#1: Pick the Right Time

Choosing the best hour of the day to shoot outdoor photographs of your home is crucial. In day shots of your property, you want the home to be well lit by the sun with a blue sky overhead. The last thing you want is a picture of your house with a foreboding or a depressingly dark sky overhead. Morning and late afternoons are best for getting beautiful, naturally lit photos, while high noon is the worst.

"When the sun is straight overhead, you'll get harsh shadows," explains Andrew Jay Mayon, owner of Triad Real Estate Photography in Greensboro, N.C. Make sure the sun is at your back when shooting to get the best light and to avoid shadows.

For homes with southern exposure, any time of day should be fine to get photos. Homes facing the east will be best shot in the morning, and homes with western exposure will be best lit in the afternoon, says Michael Colavita, a photographer with Kurfiss Sotheby's International Realty in the Philadelphia area. If a home is shaded and is never well lit by the sun, it's best to use a flash, even in day shots, he says.

#2: Shoot During the "Money Hour"

Take pictures about 45 minutes after sunset if your home has good landscape or architectural lighting. Andrew calls this photo the "money shot," adding that twilight is when "the sky is an orangey purple and is really pretty." When taking the photo, turn on all exterior lighting, as well as all interior lights that can be seen in the shot, for the best effect.

For evening photos, it's important to keep the camera as steady as possible. Mount the camera on a tripod or on the roof of a car or other stable object.

#3: Don't Date Your Photos

When taking photos of your home, you'll want to highlight your property, not a season or holiday. Remove seasonal decorations like holiday lights or scarecrows, and if you take a winter shot of the exterior of your home, be sure to update it with a fresh photo when spring comes.

It's nearly impossible not to show a season in exterior shots of a home, but having holiday or seasonal decorations in a shot really makes the photo time specific and gives away how long a home has been on the market, Michael says.

#4: Groom Your Home

The front exterior shot of your house is often the first one online house shoppers will see, so take care of details before getting the camera out. That means the front door should be clean and attractive, the lawn should be mowed, bushes trimmed, and the driveway and property should be clear of trash cans, cars and other non-essential objects.

Freshly mulch front garden beds or plant colorful flowers to give your photos a pop of color.

Clean the windows and, if you can, remove the screens to make the windows sparkle in the photos, Andrew suggests.

#5: Stay Level

Don't tilt the camera when taking photos of the front or the back of a home. "You want your house to look level in the photo," Andrew says. If you aren't careful to keep the camera level, your house will look slanted or askew in the shots.

Want to wow buyers before they even see your home in person? Follow these tips to take stunning photos for your home's online listing.

#6: Shoot Lots

Shots are cheap when shooting digital, so it pays to take plenty of photos. You'll want a straight-on shot of the front of the house for its real estate listing, but also shoot the home from different spots. "If you show the house from interesting angles, you can highlight specific features that may not stand out as prominently in photos as they do in person," says Briana Gray, director of photography for Flash It First, a San Diego-based photography and production company.

Michael will often shoot a home to get a lovely front porch in the shot or to feature a home's front entrance. Make the front door, which is usually a home's "focal point," stand out in shots, not the garage door, which can be "plain," he says. "Front porch shots are really important. People really like front porches," he says.

#7: Show Off the Property

Showcase a home's large, beautiful yard by taking photos from different angles and positions. Shoot the view of the backyard from the house, and take a shot from the back of the property to the house to show the entirety of the yard as well as pluses like a pool, deck or patio. Include three to five photos of the front and the back of the home, Andrew suggests.

Elevate the camera (on a tripod or ladder) to capture a home's best-selling points. Raising the camera will help to get more of the backyard in a photo, or more of the home itself in a frontal shot of the house. "You can use elevation to eliminate the street and sidewalk from lower portions of your shots," Briana adds.

#8: Create "Lifestyle"

Suggest a lifestyle or way of life when shooting photos of a home, Briana suggests. "Creating the proper mood puts the viewer at the home, which increases their ability to appreciate it," she says.

Try staging, or adding props to your photos, to create the mood. For example, if photographing a pool scene, set the table with glasses of lemonade, she says.

If your home has a front porch, stage it with a pretty chair and table, Michael says.

#9: Edit Your Photos

If you can't create the perfect shot with your camera, edit your photos with photo software like Adobe Photoshop or an online editing program like Picnik.com. With tools like these, you can green up a lawn or Photoshop in a blue sky.

Professionals agree, however, that it's not truthful or ethical to edit out permanent items like telephone poles or power lines. "If you aren't truthful in your photographic representation of the property, buyers won't go into the house [once they realize the deception]," Andrew says.

#10: Go Pro

If your shots don't show your home in its best light, hire a professional photographer to take the photos. A professional will know which angles to use, how to light the shots and how to use photo editing software to favorably present your home.

Sellers often pay for the photos up front (which can cost up to $500 or more). The cost can be deducted from the real estate agent's commission once a home sells, Andrew says.

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