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Advantages of Property Prep vs Digital Decluttering

Why are you here?


Are you selling a property or responsible for the sale? You'll need photos. The most attractive pictures will be of a clean space that potential buyers could see themselves (and their stuff) in. What exactly does that mean to your photographer, though? Do they need you to dust the top of your ceiling fans? Jam the couch in the garage? Empty your fridge? What if you don't have time or forget something? What can be done, then? Let's discuss.


Did you know real estate photographers don't work for free? Of course! But did you know editors need to get paid also? Oooo you're on a roll! Any time someone needs to use their skills to edit photos in post production, we have to pay them -- which means you'll be asked to pay us. So, how do you avoid the simplest mistakes that add up to big money? I'll show you here.


Let's play a game to illustrate. Can you spot the difference in these pictures?


before and after living room photo. an explanation of what we see versus what we want to see
before and after. an explanation of what we see versus what we want to see

Image by macrovector on Freepik


I hope so! There's dirty windows, wall art so crooked it should make you gag, a book on top of the lamp (fire hazard??!!), and dishes left out. Just... why...? Regardless, anyone with an editing team is going to tell you they can fix these problems -- for a price.


"Digital Decluttering" is the paid answer


At Studio Vos we call this "digital decluttering," and yes, we perform said computer magic for $30 an image. Here's an example of a typical backyard patio we see while on site:


an unattractive but organized backyard patio transformed with digital decluttering to a perfect patio
an unattractive but organized backyard patio transformed with digital decluttering to a perfect patio

Image by Studio Vos


Impressive, right? No difference in siding texture, brick pattern, lighting. Just a backyard patio exactly as it should be. Here's another one for funzies:


a "clutter room" where the seller shoved everything extra from the house to get ready for photos / showing that we transformed with digital decluttering to a perfectly empty room
a "clutter room" where the seller shoved everything extra from the house to get ready for photos / showing that we transformed with digital decluttering to a perfectly empty room

Image by Studio Vos


Ah yes, beautiful empty spaces. This is exactly the image you want to post on MLS sites like HAR.com instead of something with a booklampfirehazard. Bonus, once a room has been decluttered we can add an entire realistic luxury furniture set -- but that's a blog post for another day 😏


Prep work is the "free" answer


Now that you know exactly what we're talking about let's get to the good stuff! How do you ensure the perfect photo ready space so you, the photographer, and your wallet leave happy? Here's the check list we follow:


Property Photography Cleaning Checklist


General

  • Turn ON all overhead lights and lamps

  • Wipe down all countertops and tables

  • Mop/Vacuum floors (remove any stains)

  • Clean all windows inside and outside

  • Replace all burned out light bulbs

  • Turn all ceiling fans to slowest speed or off

  • Turn all TVs OFF

  • Turn all computer screens OFF

  • Halfway open all blinds/window treatments

  • Make all beds

  • Place all shoes/jackets in closets

Front Exterior

  • Close garage doors

  • Remove cars from driveway and front of home

  • Clean grease stains from driveway

  • Clean up landscaping (mow, trim shrubs, clear leaves)

  • Remove empty planters

  • Use broom to remove cobwebs from eaves and door frames

  • Remove visible water hoses

  • Remove toys, sports balls, basketball goals, soccer goals, etc.

Backyard

  • Clean porch

  • Tidy up outdoor tables/chairs/cushions

  • Clean Pillows/cushions (should be fresh, not faded, and free of mold/mildew)

  • Clear out kid’s toys, balls, frisbees, etc.

  • Remove any toy items in pool

  • Remove pool vacuum/cleaner hose

  • Hide pool cleaning supplies

  • Turn on pool fountains/water features

  • Remove visible water hoses

  • Remove trash cans

Kitchen

  • Clear countertops completely (No knife blocks, baking supplies, mail, etc.)

  • Leave out max of one small appliance (ex. coffee maker) per counter/table

  • Clear outside of refrigerator of magnets, papers, photos, etc.

  • Hide garbage cans in pantry or closet

  • Remove dishes from sink and breakfast area

Bathrooms

  • Clear countertops completely (No soap, toothbrushes, medications, deodorant, etc.)

  • Put toilet seats down

  • Close closet doors

  • Remove shampoo, soap, loofahs, etc. from showers and tubs

  • Remove dirty towels – leave out only clean, unused towels

  • Remove floor mats

Dining Room

  • Clear and wipe table, dust and polish the table top if necessary

  • Straighten all chairs and space them evenly

  • Remove child seats/booster chairs

Living / Family Room

  • Remove stacks of magazines, mail, etc.

  • Fluff and arrange furniture pillows

  • Remove kid’s toys

Master Bedroom

  • Make bed, including decorative pillows/shams if available

  • Press bed linens and bed skirts

  • Clear nightstands of all personal items(chargers, remotes, etc.)

  • Plug in and turn nightstand lights ON

  • Remove all clutter from top of dressers

  • Clean under bed, removing items that may show in the photos

Kid Bedrooms

  • Remove diaper genies, trash cans, etc.

  • Clean under bed, removing items that may show in the photos

  • Straighten up clutter/toys as much as possible

Pets

  • Hide food and water bowls

  • Hide pet beds/toys

  • Contain pets in hidden crate or outside

  • Clear back yard of pet waste/toys

Extra Pro Tips

  • Make sure each room has a clear purpose (Dining room looks like dining room, Game room, etc.)

  • Broken items should be repaired (if a fireplace is boarded up, unboard it and clean it out)

  • Unused/Neglected areas should be addressed (if a pool is brown and has trash in it, drain/clean it out)

  • Oversized items should be stored/replaced for photos and possibly for duration of listing process (if your couch takes up the entire living room or desk the entire office, you may consider trading with a friend for a while or renting from a staging company)


Prep work is the "free" answer


Phew, even old St. Nick would have something to say about that long list! Does this look like tons of work? Yeah, I feel that. Maybe consider having a small house cleaning party with your family. Pizza makes a great prize. Or, if you know you're going to sell for a chonky profit then it might be worth giving this list to a paid cleaning person. I'm sure your agent has a referral 😏


What if you are the agent?! This list could be invaluable for your open house prep. Tell the selling family that following as many of these steps as possible will result in higher quality buyers asking for fewer concessions. Just remember, the key takeaway is that if you want to save money on real estate photography then have your home photo ready before we arrive.


Pro tips, props, problems?


Found a typo? Want to make this post more helpful? Add your pro tips and props to the comments 🙏


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