|An Effective "Money Shot"|
When you're selling, the single most important marketing tool you have is the "money shot" of the front of the house. It's the primary image that's used on MLS and the internet, and usually it's a buyer's first (or last) impression.
You Have Only 3-4 Seconds to Impress...
Over 95% of home buyers start by shopping on their computer, long before contacting a REALTOR to arrange to visit the houses they like. As they click through the search results from criteria they selected, the image of your house has only three to four seconds to capture their attention, and wow them. That immediate emotional response is crucial. If the money shot doesn't do its job, the buyer will dismiss your house from consideration and move on to the next one.
Staging Creates Curb Appeal (and Better Pictures)
In the example above, the sellers of this former rental understood the importance of cosmetic appeal and did a lot of things right. I could nit-pick a few details, like the accented white vent and downspouts, the white threshold and the scalloped bed lines, but on the whole they were receptive to my staging and color advice, and did a very good job implementing many of the recommendations, as their time and budget allowed. The result was dramatically increased curb appeal that photographed well. I liked this project very much because it illustrated that staging works for everybody, not just for people selling expensive homes, and that a little money and effort can go a long way.
How to Prepare For The Money Shot
- Analyze the house to determine if the paint is in good condition, the colors are attractive and that color is being used in the right way. That means you've accented only the things that deserve it, and camouflaged the rest, like downspouts, vents and utility boxes, by painting them in the wall color. The analysis should include decks, porches, etc.
- If the house needs painting, get professional color advice to be certain the colors you use will harmonize with the permanent elements, such as the roof and stonework. If your colors aren't pleasing and well-coordinated, it will be painfully apparent in pictures. Here's my guide to finding colors that work: Choosing Exterior Colors? Use This Questionnaire.
- Get the door colors right. The front door should be painted in an accent color used nowhere else. The garage door should be painted in the wall color, not the trim color. Some doors are better painted in the wall color to make them texture, instead of an accent. To learn more, read Choosing A Front Door Color - A Baker's Dozen Mistakes to Avoid
- Check the landscaping and prune judiciously. If the picture shows overgrown trees and shrubs, you've created the impression that maintenance is too difficult to keep up with.
- Be sure the colors in flowering container plants or in the landscape aren't clashing with the house color. If there are clashes, prune or relocate the offenders.
- Add fresh mulch to all the planting beds.
- If the house doesn't need painting but it's dirty, have it pressure-washed, including walkways, decks, patios and the driveway, as needed.
- Analyze the shape of the front planting beds. Are they the usual narrow rectangles
Curved Planting Beds
- What about the light fixtures? If they're old or in poor condition, they should be updated. Choose a design appropriate to the house and in the proper scale for each location. Keep things simple and don't mix styles.
- Remove small decorative accessories (wind chimes, elves, bird houses, dried wreaths, etc.) from the front of the house and the entryway. Outside clutter is as detrimental as inside clutter in photographs, and in person.
- If you do use container plants or accessories, be sure the style, color and scale are right and that they add to, not detract from, the features of the house. A busy look doesn't photograph well.
- Be sure no utilitarian items such as trash cans or hoses are visible when pictures are taken. Pick up any toys or bicycles. Move the boat, the RV and all the cars out of the driveway.
- On picture day, be sure the lawn is mowed, the edges are crisp and the walkways and driveway are swept. Sometimes you can get a better picture by hosing down the driveway and walkway just before the shot is taken to clean them and intensify the color of the materials.
When the pictures are taken, make sure you have several to choose from. Insist on having final approval of the money shot before it goes public on MLS or the internet. If it takes more than one try to get a great picture, it's worth the effort. Remember that this image is the bait that you're dangling in front of prospective buyers to attract their attention. The interest the picture generates (or doesn't) can be money in your pocket, or money forfeited. It's up to you.
By: Sandy LeRoy