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Folks, it's 2016 (nearly!). Contrary to what you might have heard, a buyer's first impression is no longer that special moment when they first pull up to check out your curb appeal. In fact, more often than not, they've already checked out your place from front to back online -- and for all you know, they may have decided to cruise right by.
Most buyers spend weeks stalking perusing online listings, making Pinterest dream boards, texting must-see homes to their agent, and, well, judging.
And what is the key difference between a home deemed a HILF (home I'd like to finance) and one doomed to be mocked on social media? Photos.
Photos are the curb appeal of the digital age, and those shots have to be good. Freaking out? Don't. Check out these pro secrets instead.
1. It doesn't matter how many megapixels your (or your agent's) smartphone has
To get a good photo, you need the right equipment, including a high-end camera and some full-featured editing software.
The bigger sensors of a professional-grade camera capture more information, which results in richer, more flattering photographs. Part of that is the technique: With HDR (high dynamic range mode), the camera takes multiple exposures to maximize the quality of the final photo. Yes, you can do HDR with your cell phone, but trust us -- it's not as good. And the right editing program such as Photoshop will make those photos look their very best.
Unless you already have the equipment -- and the know-how -- it might be more prudent to hire a pro.
2. Your knickknacks aren't photogenic
Hide yo' throw pillows and hide yo' ceramic pigs. All those knickknacks that make your house feel homey (to you, anyway) won't translate well online.
"Photos tend to look best with the least amount of stuff as possible," says Darryl Glade, CEO of IMOTO, a professional real estate photography company in New Orleans, LA.
Aim to store away everything personal (even wall art) before your photo shoot -- don't forget the small kitchen appliances and, yes, your shampoo. You want your house to convey a model home feel.
3. Dirt really shows
HDR photos are a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, the camera captures everything. On the other hand, the camera captures everything.
A missed stain on the kitchen floor, dust on the mantel, slight discoloration in the carpet -- it's all going to show in the photos. Happily, a pro can edit most of those things out, but your house needs to be as clean as possible before the shoot.
Seriously, we want to be able to eat off those floors, soldier.
4. It isn't just the weather on the big day that matters
You've had the foresight to check the weather: clear skies on the day of your shoot. But what about the day before?
"If your yard maintenance crew comes Monday, and there is a storm Monday night, maybe it is a good idea to reschedule your Tuesday photos so that the yard is in perfect condition for the shoot," Glade says.
5. Little things can make -- or break -- the photo
The ceramic pig is in the closet, the house is spotless, and there hasn't been a windy day in weeks, so you're ready to go, right?
Not so fast. The day of your shoot, do a final sweep and look for anything you might have missed.
"During your run-through, pay extra attention to blinds, curtains, bedspreads, and shower curtains, making sure they are in place and smooth," Glade says.
And don't forget the bathroom. "Make sure the toilet lids are closed. Refresh the toilet paper rolls," he says. "These little things can make a big difference!"