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Judge a home by its pictures

beautiful homesvia Flickr

The author of a design blog I love – Small Chic Home – is selling her condo in Charlottesville, VA. She has posted some pictures of her beautifully-staged home and wondered whether the quality and quantity of pictures on MLS listings affect number of potential buyers who then visit the house in person.

As a big fan of HGTV, a search-the-real-estate-listings-for-fun looker, and a frequent apartment switcher, I’ve seen my fair share of badly-staged homes and ugly pictures. I know pictures aren’t everything and I will still go see a poorly-photographed unit that fits most of my other criteria. But it’s so much easier to decide to go see a bright, beautifully-photographed place. My last apartment in California had horrible Craigslist pictures – the only reason CB and I went to see it was because it offered two parking spaces for a one-bedroom, a relatively rare occurrence in our neighborhood. The reason we were one of the few applicants, I believe, was because the dark and dingy pictures scared other folks away.

As a potential buyer/renter, here is what I like when I look at pictures on a listing or in person:

  • No clutter – I want to see the house, not a collection of tchotchkes
  • Neutral paint colors
  • Bright light (ideally photos are taken in natural light)
  • A floor plan

When you were looking at apartments or houses, did the MLS or Craigslist pictures affect which places you decided to visit?

  • MakingSenseofCents - Pictures definitely affected us. If the home was ugly on the inside, it was VERY hard for us to imagine ourselves there. ReplyCancel

  • moneybeagle - One of the things that drives me crazy about those HGTV shows where they're searching for homes is when they focus on not liking the paint colors as a reason to mark a home down. Paint is one of those things that can be changed so easily that it should be looked past. When we did our home searching, I kept this perspective in mind, never really focusing on paint. I also was able to look at picturs for what they were, a first representation of the house, but I did not let a poorly taken picture turn me off from at least taking a look at houses that met our criteria otherwise. ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - Paint is an easy thing to change, but it's also much nicer if they paint is already a nice neutral tone and did not require repainting. Some buyers are looking for a turn-key operation! ReplyCancel

  • Kendal - I think a properly staged and photographed property has a huge impact on how quickly it sells, not to mention the asking price! It kills me when I walk into a place that has cereal boxes on the countertops and walls cluttered with personal photos. I appreciate that someone is still living there but sellers need to help buyers envision themselves in the space. Same goes with photographs — dark photos make rooms look smaller and less inviting, and I once saw a room photographed in total disarray, complete with unmade bed and clothes strewn about. Really?ReplyCancel

  • plantingourpennies - When we're looking at properties (to buy!) the fewer the pictures and the worse they are, the better. Cosmetic challenges (and really – many of them are the equivalent of what flossing and wearing sunscreen does for your face), keep the casual competition away. Fixing those cosmetic issues takes a little work, but by doing it yourself you get the house at a price that's a relative steal. ReplyCancel

  • SavvyFinancialLatina - To us is going to be about price and location. As long as there are no structural issues, we can fix cosmetic issues. ReplyCancel

  • JW_Umbrella Treasury - Once we're in a position to buy a home, I think we'll look for places that need a little renovation. Just cosmetic, nothing structural. I But I didn't really want to invest a significant amount of time or money into fixing up an apartment, so I was looking for something move-in ready.

    When I was searching for my current apartment, the pictures definitely sold me and convinced me to arrange a showing. I loved the original features and charm that was shown in the photos — hardwood floors with mahogany inlay, a built-in china cabinet, and glass doorknobs. Plus, I could tell from the pictures that the unit received a lot of natural sunlight. This was important to me because I had been living in a basement apartment that was quite dark (and ended up flooding during Hurricane Irene…hence the need to move..uggh).ReplyCancel

    • Well Heeled Blog - I\’ve been looking at pictures of houses in the area that we may want to buy – and what has struck me was how beautiful and updated everything is! It is nicer looking at brighter pictures than not. 😉 ReplyCancel

  • studentdebtsurvivor - Totally did, and the good news (the photos of our, now condo, were terrible). I think this helped us snag our place, because people probably thought the place was dark and not very nice. When we walked it we were stunned (in a good way) and immediately put in an offer. ReplyCancel

  • spiffi - When I was looking, pictures were fun to see, but honestly, the majority of the properties i went to look at, looked NOTHING like their pictures. Realtors know ALL the tricks to make a room look better/bigger than it is in real life.

    A lot of the houses I looked at had really intense wall colors. One that I put an offer in on, we called the "bloo house" because EVERYTHING was blue – the tile in the kitchen, the livingroom carpet, the living room walls AND ceiling – were all blue – it was like walking into an aquarium or something. Then upstairs, one room was like walking into the inside of a peach – all pinky orange, on the walls and ceiling and carpet. I had to keep telling myself that paint is easy, but it's not easy to visualize what it might look like without the crazy paint.

    The house I bought has a livingroom with 3 yellow walls and a bright red wall – certainly NOT neutrals. But I love it :)

    The worst thing to me on the HGTV shows is when people walk into a house and make comments on how they hate the house because of the furniture or fake plants or the kinds of canned food they have in the cupboards. (seriously).


  • @NewlywedsBudget - The craigslist ad for the place we rented that we now live had only one photo of the outside and it looked really bad but it met all of our criteria so I emailed the owner and we were able to secure it , at a steal too! ReplyCancel

  • Ben - We found our current rental on craigslist as well…. It is a good deal, somewhat under market. The landlord is an older babyboomer and not an expert on computer usage, so there were no photos in the ad. I think this reduced the competition – other places we looked at had a lot more potential renters. So use reverse psychology and look for the bad or non-photos! ReplyCancel

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