After the decision to sell comes the next question for homeowners: Is the house camera-ready? More than 90 percent of home shoppers rely on the Web as their primary search tool, according to the National Association of Realtors. And the No. 1 thing shoppers want to see online? Photos.

After the decision to sell comes the next question for homeowners: Is the house camera-ready?

More than 90 percent of home shoppers rely on the Web as their primary search tool, according to the National Association of Realtors.

And the No. 1 thing shoppers want to see online?


“Buyers are looking first on the Internet,” said Michelle Kidd, owner of Michelle Kidd Design, a Columbus home staging company. “If the house doesn’t look good in pictures, you won’t get people to the house.”

Kidd is so convinced of the importance of photos that she walks through a house snapping pictures after she has finished designing the rooms.

If a photo doesn’t look right, she changes the room.

Not only must the photos exhibit proper technique — be in focus, well-lighted and so forth — but the room must also be appealing.

Below are 10 ways to make that happen. The advice also holds up just as well for making the home shine in person.

Declutter it

This is rule No.1 from real-estate agents and professional stagers.

“Clutter gives the impression that there’s not enough room in the house, so it’s all about overcoming that objection,” said Susanne Casey, a RE/MAX Impact agent who often hires professional stagers for her listings.

Remove extra pieces of furniture to make a room seem larger, but also tidy everything from side tables to closets.

“People have more of what they need of everything, from the tchotchkes to furniture,” said Linda Ayers, a partner with Nancy Edwards in First Impression Home Stagers in Columbus.

“Pack up the little things. Have no more than one to three items on a surface and eliminate the furniture so people can see the house, not the stuff.”

Paint it

There’s no magic wall color that makes homes sell, but sellers should avoid the two extremes that can help it not sell: too bland and too bold.

Homeowners should aim for something “between a crayon box and a tan box,” quipped Suzanne Byrd, owner of Columbus Home Staging.

“You need a variety of color. When buyers are looking online, they might remember the house with the green kitchen or red dining room or blue bedroom.

“It’s fine if it’s mostly a neutral shade, but I like to see at least two or three rooms a different color, ideally a decorator color like a soft blue or green.”

Depersonalize it

Buyers want to see themselves in the home — not you.

“A few family pictures are OK, but if every room is a shrine to your children, it’s time to rethink that,” Casey said.

“Buyers ... need to take ownership of that home in their mind.”

Potentially off-putting accessories, such as political or religious items, should be set aside. Sellers should also consider eliminating children’s names in decals or paint, Kidd advises.

Size it right

Just as important as the right amount of furniture is the right size of furniture.

A few small chairs in the corner of a massive great room could make buyers worry that the room will be hard to furnish. An enormous sectional in a tight living room suggests that the home is too small.

“Furniture should be scaled to the room,” Byrd said.

It also should apply to the room, Ayers noted.

“Sometimes, people don’t have a definition of a room,” she said. “They might have a desk in their bedroom or toys in the living room. We even had a pool table in a living room once.”

Clean it up

This may be the easiest but most often overlooked part of preparing a home for sale.

“It’s a great opportunity and often missed by sellers to clean the home in a very, very detailed level — not just running a vacuum,” Kidd said. “Bathrooms and kitchens in particular should be clean. Remember, buyers will look in your cupboards and even your refrigerator. Is the molding clean? Is the caulking clean?”

Although cleaning mostly benefits home tours, it can also make a difference in photos.

“Remember to put the toilet seat down when taking a photo,” Kidd said. “Or the trash can — get rid of it or get one with a lid at least.”

Get artsy

This may be the biggest challenge for many homeowners.

Like furniture in rooms, art on walls should be rich without being cluttered. The right art can make a home seem modern and tasteful without detracting from the architecture.

“The most common issue is not having enough or the right kind of art or accessories,” Byrd said. “You can make a big impact with art.”

Fix it up

Selling a home means it’s time to finally get to all those repair projects. A tilted kitchen cabinet or missing cabinet pull can jump out of an online photo. And even those items that can’t be seen in a picture will be noticed in person.

“Do a maintenance checklist,” Kidd said. “Go through your house and replace burned-out light bulbs, make sure where you have handles that aren’t working or other minor repairs, get those fixed. Buyers will think, ‘If they didn’t keep care of that, what else didn’t they take care of?'"

Mow and trim

The outside of a house is just as important as the inside. Pack up bikes and toys, and get out the mower and hedge trimmers.

“This is especially important for those who might look on the Internet and then drive by the house,” Kidd said. “That’s their first impression.

“Keep your lawn neat and cut; trim the bushes, especially if you can’t see the front of the house; make the mulch fresh.”

Lay out the welcome mat

Although most homeowners enter through the back or garage door, visitors enter through the front.

“The front door is the most overlooked part of the house for the homeowners,” Casey said. “ Make sure it’s freshly painted; maybe put a potted plant next to it. Create a nice welcoming entrance.”

Hire a pro

Good real-estate agents can help homeowners prepare a home for photos and show.

Those who want to take the extra step can hire a stager. Most stagers charge for an initial consultation that might take an hour or two and cost $150 to $250. For that, they will walk the homeowner through advice on decluttering, furniture placement, window treatments, wall hangings, paint and floor coverings and anything else that catches their eye.

Homeowners can then hire a stager to remedy the problems or tackle them on their own.