The home buying process has changed dramatically over the past few decades. In the past, it began with taking a look at the Sunday paper, driving by homes for sale and going to open houses. Now, according to a study by the National Association of Realtors, nearly half of prospective home buyers' first step in the process is to look for listings online.
While 88 percent of home buyers used websites during their search, 94 percent of millennials took advantage of online information. This could tell real estate agents that future trends indicate online listings will become increasingly more important.
Why photos are important
Photos in an online listing were important to 83 percent of buyers. When looking at a home online, people like to see what the home looks like. Without photos, they aren't able to determine if it's a home worth considering. They are so important that Forbes suggests not listing a home at all if quality pictures aren't taken. If poor photos are taken, many buyers will dismiss the listing and probably never look back.
If low-quality photos are bad, lack of photos altogether is worse. CBS News warns that a listing without photos could be a sign of larger problems. Buyers will be skeptical of a listing without photos.
If there are no interior photos, there's something wrong with the house," said Deb Tomaro, a real estate agent in Indiana. "A seller should be yelling at their Realtor if there are not any pictures [in the listing] and the house is show-ready."
Since photographs are so important, some agents will hire a professional photographer to take care of this task, HGTV explained. When hiring a real estate agent, it's a good idea to review past client photos on the website and ask how the photos will be taken. If the agent plans to use a smartphone, it might behoove a buyer to request a different method or find another agent.
How to take quality photos
For those selling their home without an agent, or with an agent that won't hire a photographer, there are ways to get quality photos on your own. HGTV says a regular digital camera with five or more megapixels would do the trick, though a digital single-lens reflex camera will produce higher quality images with more options for lenses.
Once the camera is ready, the two most important things are staging and lighting.
The photos need to reflect what the house could be to the next owner - not what it is now. So, before taking the pictures, make sure the rooms being photographed are clean and clutter-free. Local Agent Finder advises moving living room furniture around or taking it out completely, depending on the effect you want. The kitchen should be stain-free. The bedroom should feature a nicely made bed and no clothes or personal items in sight.
Dim photos won't convey how nice your home looks. They will look dark and uninviting. Take indoor photos on a nice day at the time when your home gets the best natural light. HGTV suggested turning on all the lights as well, to ensure the most light possible. Finally, try not to use the flash, as it will create heavy shadows in the pictures.
When photographing the exterior of the house, try to choose a slightly cloudy day to avoid harsh shadows. Take the photos from an angle to show all dimensions of the home.
Once the photos are taken, upload them to your computer and touch them up. Picasa is a free photo editing software that can help improve the images. Inmann explains that most computers also have a built-in software for basic editing needs. Make sure there aren't any odd or dark shadows, messes or reflections of yourself or another person in the photos.
Once your photos are edited and chosen, you are ready to add them to your listing!