Monday, July 29, 2013

Home Sellers: Prepare For The "Money Shot"

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

Here's how you can make sure your house is ready for its money shot when the photographer arrives.

  • 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
    along the front of the house? If so, using a half moon edger, re-draw the beds into sweeping curves to create a more gracious, custom and photogenic look. It's a cheap fix with big impact.  
  • 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

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Color to Avoid Using With Wood

I wish I didn't see it so often, because pure white walls in a room with natural wood trim and cabinets are a mis-matched pair in an unhappy marriage. 

Why Pure White Doesn't Work With Wood

Pure white and wood don't work well together because pure white has no earth tone component to marry it to the earth tones in the wood. With no color relationship, neither brings out the best in the other, and the combination looks like a mistake, instead of being warm, harmonious, inviting and flattering to both parties. The photo on the right from tells the story.  It's cold, bland, and boring, and nobody is happy.

Sellers Beware

When people don't know what color to use, or they plan to sell the house and want a neutral color, pure white often is the default choice, probably because they think it's safe and they can't make a mistake. Wrong! White walls do not produce attractive pictures for MLS and the internet, and you could be unwittingly sabotaging your marketing plan by making your house less appealing to buyers. If the house is vacant, the problem of mis-matched wall and wood colors becomes even more obvious. 

When you're selling, put color to work for you. Avoid pure white walls. Instead, choose a palette of coordinated colors throughout the house that works with all the permanent elements, like cabinets, flooring, tile, counter tops, etc. 

Wood Color Families

If your house has wood floors, cabinets or trim, you must consider those color(s) in every design decision you make, especially when you're looking for interior paint colors. 

The crucial thing to determine is the wood's color family because this information will point you in the right color direction. The most common color families are red, yellow, orange, brown, purple and gray. 

Basic Color Wheel
Once you know the wood's color family, you must decide if you want to showcase the wood or have it blend with the other elements in the room. If you want the wood to be the star, call attention to it by painting the walls in an earth tone version of the family's complementary color, that is, the color opposite on the basic color wheel. 

Let's say you have red mahogany cabinets. Green is the opposite of red on the color wheel, so you could choose a green or blue earth tone, in a light, medium or dark color for the walls. If you wanted the mahogany to blend with the walls, you could choose a mid range color in the red family. 

Other Colors That Aren't Good Choices

In addition to pure white, tint colors, that is colors that are one or more hues plus white, also aren't good companions for wood. For every hue there are variations mixed with white, and variations mixed with pure gray or black, so if you like green, use green. Just make sure it's the right green.  In the green family, imagine lime green (tint) vs. sage green (earth tone). When looking for the color to flatter your wood, always choose the earth tone version. Here's an earlier post that explains the difference in more detail:  Mixing Tint Colors with Shade Colors

Bewildered by Color?

If you need a little help, call me at 828-692-4355 to schedule a color consultation. Whether you're selling or updating, we'll find the colors that are just right for your project.

By:  Sandy LeRoy