Getting Your Home Ready

Beginning with what is usually done near the end of the getting ready process, here are a couple of photos taken at dusk. This is the difference between five minutes around dusk. You could probably do better with your house if you were to put the ladder out front/back and do a series of photos every five minutes starting 25 minutes past sundown (there's apps for 'sundown') until it is obviously too dark. Shoot each without flash and with. The ladder will help you shoot from a higher angle and give the house less of a 'lean-back' effect. A real estate photographer can do much better with twilight photos, but it will cost you because they will have to return at another time just for that time of day. Over the time you own your house, with a few attempts, during different seasons, you could probably do better than these...and come up with adequate results. Begin with the end in mind.

With the recent changes in mortgage interest rates, financing is not as easy to obtain anymore, a situation likely to continue for awhile. Fewer will qualify. The pace of sales has declined. Sellers of luxury properties will be looking for cash buyers and everyone will be looking for the difference that will get their property sold. Solid preparation and property marketing can make a difference, both for sellers and agents, but only for those willing to go the extra mile.

The photos you'll see here

...are of our house, taken with a iPhone 13. Not the razzle-dazzle Pro/Max, just the basic phone's camera. You can see as you look through this section that they are not quite good enough for listing grade photos. But if you had a phone with a "pro" level camera, you just may be able to get by.

We will be talking about the photos for understanding aspects of preparation of a house for sale. Nope! we're not selling, but you might be. So they'll serve as examples. We'll make snide comments about some of the stuff you see that has no place in a house for sale so that you can get the idea at our expense. It'll be fun.

Get the house into Showtime photo-ready condition

Before you get to creating a web page like ours to tell the home's story, or even just listing the house, you'll need to make it visibly appealing for photography and in-person showings. Photos will be the first-impression entries into your buyer's imagination. So, everything has to look move-in-ready. Nothing else will do. You want it to be a home someone else can establish their memories in as soon as they walk in the front door. They'll want to see real space where their life will fit. That room up there with the TV on the wall is a really good example. It is furnished for comfort, not for show. For showtime that recliner at the fireplace and the swivel chair next to the divider need to go. Maybe instead get rid of the couch and move the two swivels into it's place. The cat apparatus needs to go too.

This might be a good time to hire a real estate stager to give you a consultation providing a list of action items for you to work on. We did this for our little farmhouse, shown below, and even though we were experienced Realtors® and Shelly was the stager for our house and listings, we still had a full-time career stager consult with us and she (Claudia Jacobs Designs) showed us a thing or two. So we did them too and you can read about the success we had. So what would they say about that kitchen? Make some space on that window sill with less plants, replacing all there with just one plant, and move that espresso machine setup down to the basement! And the coffee lover whines, but kitchen counters must be nearly clear so the buyer's stuff can be imagined there without the clutter.

The kitchen window photo above is a rookie shot, as it shows the wavy pattern the screen makes. Get that screen offa there and clean the window! Same for any other window with a view that will be photographed.

And then there's that kitchen fridge with all the kidart all over it. Sorry, that's all gotta go. Pack it up for the next house's fridge. Clean that thing shiny clean and oh so boring. It's a distraction that every buyer on tour will want to stop and appreciate because its the polite thing to do. And your kid does some really good stuff. A buyer looking at kidart is not looking at house, and if you want to sell...then those eyes must be focused on values, features, and benefits.


Plumbing fixtures, door hardware, all of that stuff that people touch frequently needs to look and feel move-in ready. Yeah, maybe you shoulda replaced some of that stuff already, but when a house is your home you can overlook that view as invisible because you already love the place so much. It happens and now you're a seller. Aaaarrrrggghhhh! You missed your chance! You could have enjoyed that new stuff for awhile before this move happened. (Remember the concept of enjoyment value when you're in you next home...) Just realize that the money for fundamental fixture updates is not going to break the bank, and will likely be returned at sale time.

Wall colors and worn surfaces

Wall colors will be quite visible and will be a buyer turn-off if they are dark. If, in a weak moment you allowed a child to paint their room black and apply black-light or day-glo stickers everywhere (because it's far out, man!), well you have some work ahead. That will not sell easily. Stickers have to come down and surfaces under them repaired (if necessary) before re-painting in a more neutral color. Darker colors will reduce your potential buyer pool as people say "next" and forget your house, and will need change. Put your eyes behind a wide-angle real-estate photographer's lens and use your imagination as though this was a house YOU were looking to buy. Make the changes necessary to make things desirable.

When a house has been lived in for a long time without changes, probably every surface will need to be accounted for. Dirt from hands accumulates unseen on doors and door and window frames. One workable (not the best, but...) solution is to clean the walls and paint the whole interior the same pale neutral color in satin texture. One that will serve as a primer color suitable for new owner repainting. Walls, flat ceilings, baseboards etc., all the same neutral color. This will greatly help photography and staging so that the house shows interest through the photos in spaces that, now-painted neutrally, appear to be larger because of the lighter color.

That is what we got with the house you are looking at now. They masked everything not to be painted and then came in with a sprayer and covered it all. Baseboards, walls, crown molding & ceilings, all in a lovely flat tan! But then we didn't suffer any heavy colors needing two coats of primer first. Perfect for us as we know how to paint and choose to make every surface in a house our colors.

While the neutral solution may eliminate some buyers looking for absolute move-in quality, others not afraid of doing their own color changes may welcome the neutral sub-surface to paint over. Either of these can be described in the story as a benefit/value/feature, although the move-in ready house will sell to a larger population of buyers and the one-color house will require seller patience to wait for the right one to make an offer.

Worn carpets are tough because they are probably like that everywhere. Hopefully cleaning will make them presentable, but replacing with inexpensive carpeting is possible and is similar to the neutral paint solution. It will get motivated buyers into the house with a livable solution until they paint and decide what to do with the floors.

If not you can offer a carpet replacement adjustment to the sale at the end, and try to avoid views of the worst spots in the photography...This would allow for a writable value proposition for the story on your site similar to the neutral paint solution, above.

Kitchens and Bathrooms

Kitchens and bathrooms can sell houses, or be the cause of non-sale. They can be expensive to re-do when very old. Countertops go a long way to smoothing some of this this over. If the cabinets use dark woods or old oak styles, they can be painted over. You can't do that with countertops, so you may need to replace them. This is where we would recommend hiring a real-estate stager to come for a consultation. They understand the costs involved and know all of the local suppliers so you should get some quality information from them, and you will get their idea of a plan for the rest of your house too. Ask lots of questions and take lots of notes.

Caution: the material suppliers will offer you a savings for doing all the countertops in the house with the same material. That will be one good way to weird out your potential buyers, so don't go for this... Unless you can find buyers like Shelly & David!

Yep, that happened here. The kitchen was a dudly doorite laminate oak cabinet job and we didn't get to see the original countertops as they were now brand new granite showpieces! Aaaaand, the primary bathroom you see here had the very same granite. Being former Realtors® we just laughed at it. Yeah...we were gonna do the countertops anyway.

Now, the problem with that bathroom photo is too much stuff on the countertop blocking the view in the mirror of the shower. One must allow their eyes to travel completely through the view to arrive at the highest value of the image. Travel your eyes all they way through a scene in your house and find opportunities for making space visible.


This could be one of the more difficult things to do while you're still in the house, but you must remove pictures and other items of a personal nature - everywhere. Not only on that refrigerator...but EVERYWHERE. Buyers have a difficult time imagining themselves in the home with unknown someones looking back at them in every photo and throughout the in-person showing. The photo below has a gallery of the ancients on the wall behind the antique desk in the corner. All that stuff hasta go.

As former Realtors® we are reminded of houses we toured over the years that were abject failures in this regard. Galleries of relatives occupying full walls. Hunting trophy taxidermy throughout the house or covering walls. And then... there was one enthused collector of erotic art, placed in strategically visible locations throughout the house in 360 degree arrangement on floors, tables, walls, window coverings and on and on. Don't be any of those guys.

You'll find nothing so exciting here, but all those photos on the antique desk in the bedroom's corner, entertaining as they are, have no place in a house for sale. David the longhair touring sound guy, Shelly in glamour, and the fierce faced relatives from yesteryear...Pack it all out, move-ready, to storage... and maybe put a plant there instead. And the first bedroom photo above has a problem you need to watch out for. That bedside cabinet is in NO way as wide as the photo shows. Zoom the camera in slightly to minimize that stretch effect. Keep your eyes open and be patient with yourself.

You'll see we have curio cabinets full of collections. If you're not so afflicted with collectionitus as we are, good for you. But you may have some other version of these items that distract attention away from the house at showtime. Take the opportunity to move this stuff away from the eyes of your buyers. When it is sell-time, before the photography and then the showings, wrap carefully, pack for the move, and put it into storage. This stuff takes time to pack well, and you'll be glad you did after you sell and have to really get a move-on.

The Home Office...

has become a modern necessity, so many of you have at least one. There are few ways to stage one of these while continuing to maintain productivity over the entire time the home is being prepared and then on the market. So what is there to do? The best thing for showings would be to de-personalize, and de-corporatize the space. And then apolgize and ask forgivness... Can't just take a vacation because you're selling your house. We have two of these here at WordsEye. One you will see a piece of in the photos is stationary and the other is in portable stealth mode. Shelly is editor, admin, legal affairs, horticulture and cat herding. David is writer, photographer, web stuff, driver, and works on whatever surface is available. Lap, coffee table, kitchen table, deck...tripod, phone.

Curb appeal

First impressions last the longest. Guess where those are found? Yep, outdoors - the gaze cast on the entrance, before anyone even walks through the front door. Please make any blemishes disappear. You don't need to go nuts doing this, just be looking with the same eye you will be using with properties you are looking for as your next home. Negatives that attract the eye can be focused on as buyers approach the door and can calibrate the eye toward criticism you don't need before they even walk in.

Dead lawns and plants can be improved relatively inexpensively. New plants and mulch can clean things up nicely, and if the lawn is dead there are services you can subscribe to that won't break the bank. If you've allowed things to go too far you can provide a years worth of the service as part of the package, allowing you to escape town on your move, leaving a happy buyer. Those services always stick a small sign in the yard, so you'll want to have the service leave a couple extra in case the wind blows one away. They advertise your commitment to care and can soften the effect of a yard in less than top shape.

Powerwashing visible surfaces like curbs, sidewalks, driveways, porches and siding will make everything outside look sparkle-new. You can see the difference in the sidewalk above.

Torn window screens or peeling window and porch coatings need to be fixed. There's gotta be a guy in town who can replace the screens. And paint? You can do this.

It must be said during this part of the conversation that you may be selling an old house that has not been painted in years. Could have lead paint and can no longer be sold without remediation that will pass a valid inspection. Peeling paint will be questioned for when the buyer's inspector goes through the house, so best get that checked before trying to sell.

If buyers can touch it it, needs to be in decent condition, so when door hardware looks dead, replace it.

The back yard should look like a place where friends can be entertained, so use that perspective to update things adequately enough that the buyers are able to do this at move-in to celebrate with family and friends without embarrassing anyone. Update to the point of having a simple arrangement on clean decks and patios that can show potential.

Staging the house for photography

This is where you'll probably do as your stager advised and move some furniture out of the house into the garage, or pack it up for the move and put it into temporary storage. The rooms need to be opened up and space allowed to exist for light staging so that buyers can use their imaginations and see their things there in the space instead. Think spare.

You have no idea who is going to like the house, where in life they've come from, what their desires are so you want a relatively neutral house that speaks evenly to as many as possible. Remember your house is a product to sell and not a home even though you still live there. Remove hunting trophy heads, family photos, religious items. It's only for a little while and you can return to them with your new life in the new home of your future.

When staging for photography you can borrow smaller furniture for a day from friends and relatives. Move the big stuff out into the garage or have a crew of family/friends who can shuffle things between rooms while the photography is going on. A couple of fresh flower arrangements and a bowl of fruit will make an artistic difference, but don't reuse them in other rooms as that will have a comic effect when looking at all of the photos together.

You may be inside the search for your next home, so maybe you can feel some of what your buyers-to-be will be going through. A home is definitely something a person falls in love with. Their life, with their friends, new and former neighbors and loved ones, will be inside their new home from the beginning, so there is an emotional component to 'home' for this.

Buyers looking for a home will want to imagine and dream on these things. Your expertly created presentation of space, and repairs to places and features where the eyes fall, will come through in your WordsEyeTour of the home to help them imagine and dream on their new life there. Depending on present market conditions, multiple buyers may see what you've done and compete with offers. One good buyer is enough, but more would be so much better.

Maybe your new job insists you move before you sell and you have to empty the house. Your website can pick up the slack and showings continue with an empty house. Or you can rent some furnishing items from your stager so that the house is not completely empty for showings.

That's a good start, but we will return to this for more...

We're Shelly&David, Contact Us!