How to stage your home for real estate photography

March 01, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

There is no question 2016 will be a different year with respect to selling and buying real estate in Canada, and particularly in Alberta.

It is a buyer's market, which is tough if you're in a market where there is lots of competition for the sale. Calgary is one of those markets presently.

So how can you maximize exposure for your for-sale home? Details. Take care of the details. Make your home attractive to potential buyers.

START HERE: Narrow your view

An easy way to see better what a potential buyer will see when they view your for-sale home is to photograph each room, and view the images on a computer screen. Pay attention to what items in those images jump out, or draw your eye, and make notes for each room. Note clutter, burnt-out or different colour light bulbs, crooked lamp shades, damaged or dirty walls, items showing above cabinets or below beds. Take one shot from the door of each bedroom, and from two angles of your living room, kitchen and basement.

Main Floor

De-clutter and make space. You may be very comfortable in your space, but if you intend to sell and sell quickly, your goal is to make buyers comfortable in that space. Give potential buyers every opportunity to see themselves and their stuff in that space.

  • Remove personal items - knick-knacks, personal photos, magazines, newspapers, anything you don't use at least on a weekly basis.
  • Hide your TV/stereo remotes in a drawer.
  • Edit your furniture; make your rooms look larger by removing anything that doesn't need to be there.
  • Vacuum/sweep floors, including under rugs and throws.
  • De-clutter your kitchen, and be ruthless about it. Remove anything you don't use every day. Scrub and shine the sink and counter tops, and wipe down cabinets.
  • Hide dishcloths, dish scrubs, dish washing soap; if these items are out, your potential buyer instantly thinks, "needs cleaning." Out of view and your buyer thinks, "Already very clean."
  • Clean off the fridge. There should be nothing on top of or attached to the fridge.
  • Remove items from bulletin boards.
  • Hide the garbage bins - and fire your photographer if they photograph garbage bins inside the house. Nobody wants to buy trash.

Bedrooms

  • Make the beds. Make, not pull up the sheets; make them and dress them up a bit. If your box spring is exposed, get a bed skirt. This will instantly make the room look cleaner, and gives you extra under-bed, invisible storage.
  • Remove laundry hampers and hang up/store all clothing; your buyer wants to step into their potential bedroom, not to feel like they're invading your private space.
  • If you're having showings, wash the sheets; you may not be able to smell yourself, but anyone viewing the home will. Clean sheets make a huge difference.
  • Deodorize carpets with baking soda: buy large boxes of baking soda, perforate the box top with a sturdy skewer to make 10 - 15 large-ish holes, and sprinkle the baking soda over your carpets. Let it sit for 30 - 45 minutes, then vacuum.
  • Store extra blankets and bedding.

Basement

  • If your basement is finished, treat it as you would your main floor living areas: de-clutter, remove personal items, sweep/vacuum and deodorize. On the point of deodorize, take care with spray scents and incense; those can leave bitter smells, and some people are sensitive to strong odours. Wash anything washable - blankets and throws, and throw pillows if they're washable. Most throws and pillows can spend 10 minutes in a warm dryer, with a dryer sheet, to freshen up.
  • If your basement is unfinished, the more you can contain items in one area, the larger the space will look and the easier it will be for potential buyers to imagine themselves and their stuff there.
  • Use clean sheets to "wall off" your storage area; by hiding your boxes you instantly make the basement clean!


Bathrooms

  • Of all the rooms in your home, the bathrooms must be spotless. Clean the floors and super-clean mirrors; spend money on a set of good, white or off-white towels - and only have those up for photos and showings
  • Hang a white shower curtain; remove old bathroom/shower rugs; make sure the area around the sink(s), shower and tub are free of mould and discolouration. Beach if necessary, or remove and replace old caulking/silcone
  • De-clutter your personal care items. Box up everything you don't use daily. Items you use often - every couple days or weekly at least - can be stored in drawers or under the sink. During photography and showings, your shower and bath should be empty of personal care items
  • Remove branded items and clear counters around the sink; these areas should be free of soaps, toothbrushes, hair brushes, and personal items.
  • Some personal items should be removed all together. Although they should not, potential buyers will open cupboards and drawers, so certain personal items should disappear entirely during showings.

Exteriors

  • Curb-appeal also matters: store garden tools, hoses, shovels, toys and lawn/yard-care implements; hide trash bins; cut the lawn, or shovel; make sure all pathways are clear and free from debris and ice. 
  • Spray gate hinges and locks with WD-40 and tighten up any loose gate screws. Make sure your lawn/common areas are free of dog and cat 'dirt.'

Photography

After the amount of work you will do to prepare your home for sale, you should expect excellent photography. A gorgeous home can look used and dark when poorly photographed.

  • Insist your realtor use a skilled, professional real estate photographer.
  • Check out potential realtors' listings on MLS.ca to see the quality of their listing photography.
  • More than 95 percent of potential buyers start their search on line.
  • Of that 95 percent, more than 90 percent skip listings with poor photography.

As a point of reference, on average, realtors sell 10 - 15 homes per year. The cost of professional photography for 15 listings is approximately equal to HALF the commission of ONE listing, and that cost is a tax write-off business expense. Professional photography should be part of your realtor's marketing package.

Staging
Selling a home is a lot of work, the goal being a quick sale. A staged home will always photograph better and sell more quickly than a comparable lived-in home. If it's all too much, or you don't have time to prepare, there are excellent organisation and staging companies in YYC; definitely worth contacting, if you don't have time, or need assistance preparing your home for sale.

Save Time and Reduce Stress Prior to Moving:
As you edit the furnishings and clutter in your home, begin packing away (in labelled boxes) all non-essential items. Anything you don't use on a regular basis should be boxed and labelled. As a bonus, you'll be able to start your "donate" and "toss" boxes. When it comes time to move, you may find you have 50 percent of the job done - a huge stress reducer prior to a move.

Need some specific help?

Want professional photography?
Email me! info@julievincentphotography


Paris: A Travel Blog

November 05, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

We're just back from our week-long trip to Paris, where we - my colleague, Chris Tait of www.christait.ca - and I made the work for our upcoming exhibition. We're four years in to a project we thought was going to be a one-off, but now looks not to really have an end date.

Chris had been to Paris previously, as a kid, with his parents. I had not, despite my ancestors coming from Montbeliard, which is near the France, Switzerland border;

Paris is a beautiful city. The Seine sweeps through the centre of the arrondisments like a shimmering ribbon bordered by gorgeous and stately architecture. The city is immensely walkable, as it isn't large in terms of area. One can become happily lost with not a worry, as there are metros everywhere by which one can quickly orient themselves and return to their starting point.

Otherwise, Paris is a stately city. The pace of life is peaceful, owing in some part to the reality of two-hour lunches and late dinners; it's usual for people to have their evening meal around 8 p.m. That said, Chris and I were both a little surprised at just how laid back things were. Unlike London, where the communities around any given tube stop have very much their own character, and where there is a certain electric vibrancy, and also unlike Mexico City that is a riot of colour and noise, or New York, where there is endless bustle, Paris was calm; endlessly calm. We walked some 85 kilometres over our five days in the city and found there was little difference from community to community.

The upswing is there are cafes on every corner, where one can go, have a coffee or wine or a little meal totally undisturbed, particularly by the wait staff, who are generally expert at leaving patrons alone. The idea the waiter would barge in on a conversation is unheard of. I LOVED that.

There are pastry shops and sandwich shops and street-side fish shops all over the place and the quality is excellent no matter where one ends up. The baseline food quality is beyond compare - even the late-night kabab shop we ate at (for so cheap!) was excellent. Of all the yum we consumed, Du Pain et des Idees was utterly brilliant. Thanks to Anthony Bourdaine for the recommendation via The Stopover.

We both understood why Paris is a top-shelf choice for honeymooners. Peaceful and lovely and not taxing, even in crowded places - assuming the crowds were Parisians rather than tourists. It was challenging, however, to find the soul of the city. Because we were working, we avoided tourist spots for the most part. We did indulge ourselves in a couple gorgeous installations at Musee d'Orsey, which is, frankly, a MUST-SEE if just for the delicious building. It was a train station set for demolition until some smart, forward-thinking person decided it should be a museum. Fantastic.

You're hereby invited to our exhibition, Tripping the Streets Fantastic: Paris. It goes up February 1st in the lower-level gallery of 209 - 8th Ave SW, Calgary. We'll post more information closer to the date, and you'll find our listing in the 2016 edition of Exposure Photography Festival's program, which should be out in mid-January. http://www.exposurephotofestival.com otherwise.

Tips for Travel to Paris:

Transportation from Orly (ORY): take the ORLYVAL train to metro Anthony, and take the metro to your hotel, or taxi from here. It's fun, inexpensive and fast. That said, if there are more than two travelling, and your hotel is down town, taxi right from Orly is your least expensive option if you're ready to try out Parisian traffic. The Orlyval train and metro combination is fast and safe though, and filled with people who live in the city.

While in Paris, if you intend to use the metro more than twice a day during your stay, get a metro pass. It's called a Navigo Pass and you can purchase them in most metro stations, including Anthony. You will need a 1" x 1" photo of yourself for this pass, so bring one, or you'll be stuck paying 5 Euros for photos in a photo booth. The pass is, as Chris put it, an arts and crafts project involving sticking things together and then fitting the two-part card into its plastic holder, in the correct manner so the numbers line up and your photo and signature are stuck down correctly. The metro police are in full swing on weekends, so a properly created Navigo pass is de rigeur.

Walk. Just do it. The city is really beautiful and there are cafes and parks everywhere. Like I say, we walked 85 Kms in five days and it was zero effort.

Eat. Because you will walk a lot of kilometres and the food is gorgeous. I lost about 5 lbs the week we were there and ate lovely cheese and meats, pain au chocolat, brioche, and eggs for breakfast - washed down with also-lovely coffee.

Watch your wallet; an inside, zipped pocket is a really, really good idea. Also watch your phone, which should also be in an inside, zipped pocket. Otherwise, you may discover your phone being hawked on a side walk near a metro in an out-lying community...

Learn to say No several times in succession: in Montmartre and at the Tour Eiffel, and various other tourist spots, there are groups of men selling all sorts of crap, including bracelets made of embroidery floss - read: worth about 3 cents - which they will make and attach to your wrist before you know what has hit you, and then demand money. Say NO and also "Do Not Touch Me." English is fine. Also say NO to groups of young women who approach you to sign a "petition" and give money to the deaf. They're not deaf and they're pocketing your money - and your wallet if you're not paying attention. Hold on to your wallet and your cash. Same goes for busy metro cars and cafes; don't leave your phone or wallet on a table at a cafe, as occasionally people will pass by and hook your belongings, and make a run for it.

The cafe at the Grand Mosque of Paris is well worth going to. They serve lovely sweets and savouries and a delicious, sweet mint tea. There's a restaurant there as well if you want a meal. You may enter the mosque itself if your head is covered (women).

Go to Le Bouillon Chartier. This bistro is a very authentic, turn of the century restaurant that offers homey traditional food served up by severe and very efficient waiters. Fantastic. 7 Rue du Faubourg Montmartre. Nearest metro is just two blocks away: Bonne Nouvelle. 

Also go to Du Pain et Des Idees. Just go. Seriously. You will thank us. Fantastic, world-class pastries, particularly the "escargot" made of pistachios or coffee and noisette. There's a coffee shop facing. You'll need that coffee. Address is

Going back?
Mais certs!

 


Professional Photography; Real Costs

September 29, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Professional photography is too expensive. I hear this a few times a month. Is this true? 

Consider these details:

Most importantly, real estate is a referral-driven business: your reputation - which absolutely depends on the quality of your work and your marketing - is everything. 

MLS for Calgary and area shows a distinct move to professional photography over just a few years ago. This means listings with poor photography stick out, and not in a good way.

Nearly 100 percent (98 percent, to be accurate) of potential buyers use MLS as the starting point for their home search - and for a realtor, if they don't already have a dedicated professional.

When a buyer clicks on a digital listing, they spend 60 percent of their time there looking at the photos. They spend only 20 percent of their time reading the listing description. 

Of that 98 percent, more than 90 percent of those potential buyers skip listings with poor photography. This potentially means your listing is NOT being seen or only briefly seen by a very large number of possible buyers. I'm not sure about you, but I sure can't afford to lose that many eyes.... 

So what are the real costs?
Some details: in Calgary, single family detached homes are selling at an average price of $525,000; single family attached homes average $400,000 and condo apartments are averaging $275,000.

Shared commissions respectively (rounded) are $9800, $8000, and $6500. Non-shared is double. 

The cost of professional photography is $325 for single family detached (non-estate homes); $275, single family attached, and $200 for apartment/condo. 

What does all this mean? This: Half of the commission for ONE single family detached home sale is slightly more than the cost of professional photography for 15 homes (the average number of sales per year in the Calgary market for most realtors).

With HALF the commission from the sale of ONE single family home, you have financed professional photography for 15 single family detached listings. If you take those dollars, put them in a TFSA (tax-free savings account), not only are you going to get a tax write-off at the end of the year, you're making interest on those funds. Win Win!

Photography is a business expense.

So now that you know the real costs of professional photography, add in photography fees are a cost of doing business, and now you have an excellent write off. 

There is very little downside to excellent photography, and there are undeniable benefits: happy clients, faster sales, more eyes, enhanced reputation, and a business write-off in addition. 

Now you know! 
Call me today to book photography for your next listing
 


Upgrading and going live

August 25, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Recently, our sister company, J&J Lawrence Photography, joined Zenfolio and is successfully using it as a gallery and sales site. Not to be left in the digital dust, I'm migrating over here too.

Watch this space for new galleries, updates, tips, tricks, links to articles.

J.


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