Tuesday, February 12, 2013

How To Prepare Your Home for a Real Estate Virtual Tour

Professional photography with a virtual tour can be a great way to achieve online "curb appeal" for your home.  Whether you are selling or renting, chances are your potential buyer or renter will be viewing the property on the web before they ever step foot inside. 

I've been shooting high end virtual tours for a few years now and I can definitely create online curb appeal for a property. But, with the help of the homeowner or Realtor, I can do even better. If the homeowner or Realtor prepares the home properly, I can make sure online viewers see their future living space at it's best.  

Below is a list of actions that homeowners can take to properly prepare for a virtual tour photo shoot  in order the get the most out of my services.

Most Important
  • Make sure ALL light bulbs are working in and outside of the home. This is my biggest problem that is very hard to deal with. When I shoot a home, I turn on every single light switch and fixture. I carefully balance interior light with the light from my flash to get a well lit room with "glowing" light bulbs. When one light bulb is out in a room, people can see it in the photos. If it was me viewing the photos, I'd wonder what else is wrong with the house, even though the problem might be easily corrected with a $2 bulb. And if a bulb is out on the exterior of a home, it makes "glowing" dusk shots a whole lot less cool looking. If you are having electrical problems with a light here in Tahoe, I recommend Mountain Sun Electric to help fix it.
  • Make sure all the glass and mirrors in the home are spotless. When there is dust, dirt, or water residue on glass, it shows up in the photos and photoshop isn't going to help. It can create a hazy glare on glass that looks bad and makes it difficult to see the view out the window. If you can't wash the glass yourself, please hire someone to do so like High Sierra Window Washers. Also, I usually open all blinds so please make sure they are in good working order. If you have a broken one that is going to explode on me when I try to open it, please warn me ahead of time.
  • Remove all clutter from counter tops, desks, dressers, and tables. Items I often see out that shouldn't be are pencils, notepads, soaps, sponges, personal mail, paper towel rolls, TV remotes, glasses, and "junk" bowls. Really, anything that can be put away out of sight, should be put away out of site. Nice coffee table books and magazines are fine as long as there aren't big stacks of them.
  • Entryways and foyers should be cleaned as well. Extra shoes, snow boots, jackets, hats, sports equipment, and snow removal tools are common items that end up in photos.
  • Bad smells aren't a problem for photography, but the overflowing trash, dishes, and kitty litter boxes that cause them are. Please clean these items so they are out of sight.
  • Make sure bathrooms are spotless.  Due to the smaller size of the room, dirt and spots show up more in the photos. Mildew and mold, spots on the mirrors and shiny faucets, soaps, shampoos, toothbrushes, hairdryers, q-tips, get rid of them all. Also, please make sure towels are in good condition, clean, and nicely folded or hanging from the racks. If you're in Tahoe and you don't have time to clean, please consider hiring Alpenglow Cleaning to help you out.
  • Make sure beds are nicely made. I'll occasionally fluff a decorative pillow or straighten the edge of a blanket, but I don't have the time to make the beds. Also, If you just throw the bedspread over bunched up sheets, the lumps will show up in the photos. Clothes should also be out of site as well as reading glasses, used tissues, and personal items. Make sure kid's rooms are spotless as well, I've had to skip over many kid's rooms in the past because the mess takes away from the home's appeal instead of adding to it.
  • Walkways and driveways should be swept spotless and clear of snow in the winter. Pine needles are a big problem here in Tahoe. I can photoshop a few of them out but if your driveway is covered, there is nothing I can do and your home is going to look like it hasn't been maintained, even if they just fell the night before. I would also recommend raking the pine needles off of all grassy areas.  And if you can't see the walkway or driveway due to snow, the home is going to look very difficult to access, even if it's only an inch deep. 
  • Remove all vehicles from the property and out of the garage. Especially RVs, boats, and "project" cars.  If it's there and you're not home to move it, I'm going to shoot the home regardless. Yes, I will try not to include them in the shot but that often means I won't be able to shoot a full wide angle shot showing the full structure. And if it's parked right in front of the home or garage, it's going to be in the shot.
  • Remove all yard tools and toys from the yard. Deck and patio furniture is great but shovels, wheelbarrows, hoses, snow blowers, and big colorful plastic toys aren't.
Very Important
  • Stage empty homes. Empty homes lack life and can feel less inviting in photos. You don't need to go all out, but a few items like tables, couches, and art can really help lose the "abandoned home" feel. I recommend DiNallo Designs if you need help, Elisa DiNallo is Tahoe based but will travel. Also, broken, ugly, or excess furniture should be removed from the home.
  • Do not put out seasonal items like Christmas trees or pumpkins. If someone views your listing in July but they see a Christmas tree in a photo, they are going to know the home has been on the market a while.
  • Make sure the home's paint job is looking good inside and out. This is another issue that photoshop can't really do much for. Sure I can fix a little spot on a wall but faded or peeling paint and exterior stains show up in the photos. I recommend Easterbrook Painting here in Tahoe for interior and exterior help. 
  • Make sure nice garages are spotless. I often skip shooting the inside of garages due to clutter but some garages are finished off with nice cabinetry and floor coatings. These are definitely selling points and if the garage looks good, I will shoot it. If you want to make your garage look great here in Tahoe, I recommend Evolution Garage Cabinets, they can also do floor coating that cover up oil stains or concrete damage.
  • Remove all evidence of pets.  Hide water and food bowls, crates, dog houses, litter boxes, and leashes. And of course, clean up after the dog in the yard.
  • Please turn off sprinkler systems if you know I'm scheduled to shoot your home that day. Not only do I not like getting surprise showers, sprinklers can leave wet spots and puddles on walkways and driveways that will show up in photos.
  • If you have a nice fireplace and want it lit for the photo, the homeowner or realtor Must be there for the photo shoot. I can handle gas fireplaces that have a simple switch on the wall but I won't open panels and press buttons while turning knobs. And I definitely won't light a wood fire unless someone is there to watch it. 
  • Nude fine art photos on walls should be removed. I've seen many of them and I'm not offended by them, but some people are more easily offended than others. Also, if you don't want your family photos in your online virtual tour, remove them from the walls.
Other Advice
  • Let me or your Realtor know the time of day that the sunlight is on the front of the house. I can get a decent exterior photo in any light but some light is better than others. Morning shoots or afternoon shoots are also usually best. 
  • Don't be afraid to request a reschedule if it is raining or snowing. Actually, I'll probably be contacting you or your Realtor if weather is poor as I want to get the best photos possible for you. I do not charge for rescheduled or cancelled shoots. 

I hope you find this information useful. If you have any questions about the above, please comment below or contact me. Thank you.

-Scott Thompson

For more information on Scott Thompson's Real Estate Virtual Tour Services in the Tahoe area, please Click Here