Melissa Dittmann Tracey is a contributing editor for REALTOR® Magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cold Weather, Warm Home
Even if the weather outside is frightful, your listing doesn’t have to be. Here are tips for getting a home in tip-top shape for photos and showings during the winter months.
January 11, 2013
How do you make a home look inviting in a photograph when the ground is frozen, the tree limbs are bare, and the sky is overcast? Even if your area doesn’t get much snow, many grasses go dormant in the winter months, turning a lifeless yellow or brown.
When selling a home, “you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, no matter what the season,” says Marilyn Urso, CRB, green, with Long Island Village Realty Inc. in Syosset, N.Y. Here, Urso and other real estate professionals and photographers offer tips to making your exterior listing photos pop during the winter.
- Follow the sun. Capture the home’s exterior when the sun is lighting the front of the house, usually between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., suggests Tony Calarco, owner of Jump Visual, a real estate photography company. You can use mobile apps—Sun Seeker (iPhone), Focalware (iPhone), or The Photographers Ephemeris (iPhone, Android, or desktops)—to tell you the sun’s direction by time of day.
- Add some color. Ask the owners to place hearty potted plants such as mums, poinsettias, or ornamental cabbages around the front entrance.
- Tidy up the landscaping. Even in the colder months, home owners need to make sure the lawn is well-manicured. Make sure to put away hoses and seasonal items and to remove fallen leaves. Pay careful attention to the front porch. too. Display minimal furniture or remove it completely, Calarco says.
- Use snow to your advantage. If your area gets snow, the best time to capture a home in the winter is following a fresh snow. A clean, fluffy white blanket of snow in the yard and on the trees can bring to mind a Norman Rockwell painting, Calarco says. Be sure to have walkways and driveways cleared so that the photograph leads the eye to the home’s front door.
Try a twilight photo. A specialty shot—like an image of a home glistening under an evening sky—can “look beautiful in the winter and mask some of the dead greenery,” Calarco says. But tread carefully: “Throwing on the lights and snapping a quick image of the house in the dark is going to yield poor results,” Calarco says. Real estate photographers suggest the following for shooting twilight images:
- Arrive at least an hour before sunset to set up and wait for the perfect light, which often is a few minutes following sunset.
- Turn on all interior and exterior lights in the home. “You should be able to see in and out of the house in a beautifully balanced way,” Calarco says.
- Hose down the driveway or cement areas around the home for an added glisten.
- Add extra lights to dark areas, if needed.
- Have your camera set to its manual mode and adjust the aperture and shutter speed as needed. Sometimes all the lights from the house will fool the light meter in your camera. Be prepared to adjust your camera accordingly.
If your photos are still suffering from the winter blahs, call in a pro, but don’t be tempted to pick a photo from a warmer season for your first image on the MLS. You want the main exterior photo in your marketing to reflect the current season, Urso says. That way, it’s clear the listing is new to the market.