7 Tips for Listing Photos That Won’t Give Buyers ‘The Ick’

When listing your house for sale, you want it to look perfect. First impressions are everything, and it all starts not with curb appeal—but with the listing photos. These snaps should be accurate and enticing, spotlighting your home’s best attributes.

“It’s a bit like online dating,” says Matt Dunbar, a senior vice president at Churchill Mortgage in Brentwood, TN. “Sooner or later, you’ll meet in person, so it’s best to save everyone’s time with a ‘profile’ that’s not far from the truth. ”

The dating comparison is apt considering the language buyers use during the homebuying process. For instance, house hunters won’t stop until they find The One.

So when it comes to your listing photos, don’t give buyers “the ick“—that feeling of disgust when you first notice a big turnoff. Here are seven tips to help your listing photos stand out—in the best way—and move buyers to take the next step and say, “I do.”

1. Avoid amateurish phone photos

a woman taking a photo of her dining room window with her phone

Anyone who has gone house hunting has come across listing photos that could be much better. You know, the ones where the images are so tiny and blurry that you don’t know what you’re looking at.

“First impressions matter,” says Brittany Heckenberg, real estate agent at The Heckenberg Group in Arvada, CO. Her pet peeve? “Agents who take their own photos—and usually include their finger in a shot.”

2. Don’t go overboard with filters

a modern kitchen photo with too much post processing added

At the other end of the spectrum are listing photos edited so much they no longer seem real.

“A touch of photo editing can help enhance the appeal of a listing,” says Brian Quigley, founder and lead broker at Beacon Lending. “However, when photos are manipulated to the point where they no longer reflect the true appearance of the property, it can lead to mistrust.”

It’s fine to turn up the brightness and decrease the shadows in a photo to help house hunters see the details of your home better. But applying filters that are too warm or too cool can work against you.

“Buyers don’t appreciate being misled,” adds Quigley.

3. Skip the wide angles

Photographing a small room in a way that doesn’t seem claustrophobic can be challenging, and hiring a pro to help can really pay off. Professional real estate photographers have special lenses, lighting tools, and techniques to make your small, dark rooms look bigger and brighter.

Amateur photographers might think they’re nailing the photo using a photo app. However, many apps only serve to create a distorted image.

“One technique that gets overused is the fish-eye lens technique,” says Martin Orefice, CEO of Rent To Own Labs. “It can make small rooms look bigger and give a good panoramic look at a whole room in a single frame, but they increasingly turn customers off.”

4. Turn up the light

The interior of a modern home showing the kitchen and dining area

Before the photo shoot, you want to clean all the windows in your house and open all the curtains and blinds. Some agents advise even removing window screens.

The idea is to get as much natural light coming in as possible.

“Poorly lit and dark photos give an uninviting, gloomy vibe,” says Ryan Carrigan, CEO and founder of moveBuddha. “Natural lighting is preferred, but use artificial lighting to brighten a space, too.”

5. Keep people out of the frame

Young black woman relaxing on sofa at her penthouse and reading a magazine.

Before you list your home, your real estate agent will advise you to remove all personal items and leave just enough furniture to suggest what each room can be used for. This sweep includes family photos and collectibles.

The reason? You want prospective buyers to picture themselves in the home.

And it should go without saying that you don’t want any people in your photos.

“Nothing is more cringy than seeing people sitting on furniture in listing photos,” says Heckenberg. “Do you inherit them with the house, too?”

Another thing in listing photos that gives everyone the ick: “When you see the photographer’s reflection in the shot,” says Lisa Gaffikin, loan specialist with Churchill Mortgage.

6. Clean the place up

a pile of unfolded laundry on top of a dresser

There’s simply no bigger turnoff in listing photos than to see a cluttered or unclean house.

“Photos should never be used of an extremely unkempt home,” says Owen Salkin, real estate agent with the Graham Salkin Group at Compass in West Hollywood, CA.

Pictures of unmade beds, multiple cars in the driveway, and messy kitchens are a big no-no.

Filth gives everyone the ick.

7. Put a lid on it

A small, modern bathroom showing the shower and toilet and sink

In that vein, be especially mindful of the state of the bathroom before taking any photos.

Homebuyers say dirty grout, broken tiles, peeling caulk, and rust or mineral stains universally give them the ick.

Your bathrooms should look like an oasis of calm, with fluffy towels and scented soaps.

Oh, and before you take a single photo, just one more thing: “My biggest pet peeve is when a listing includes a picture of a bathroom with the toilet seat up,” says Gaffikin. “It’s a small but important detail.”



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