The adage reminds us that "a picture is worth a thousand words," but when it comes to selling your home, it can be worth a lot more than that.
According to a recent National Association of Realtors survey, 80 percent of home buyers used the Internet to search for a home last year, and 25 percent reported that the Internet is where they first found the home they purchased.
"Good photos can be the difference between drawing a buyer in or turning them away," says Misti Kehoe, a Realtor with Re/Max Metro in downtown St. Petersburg.
It used to be that curb appeal was the gateway to selling a home, but now online appeal is much more effective.
"I'd say that 50 to 75 percent of our prospective buyers first look at a property online," says Kehoe. "If a house doesn't show well on the Net these days, it often doesn't show well at all."
With that in mind, there are a few simple rules to follow — and some common mistakes to avoid — when photographing your home for an online listing.
RULE: CORRAL THE CLUTTER
When it comes to the content of your photos, think minimalist.
Most importantly, avoid clutter.
When photographing your exterior, your landscaping should be well manicured and clean.
Inside, you'll want to follow the same rules as if staging a home for sale. Home buyers want to imagine themselves in their own space, so it's best to remove family photos, toys, pets, dishes and even some furniture and throw rugs, if possible.
RULE: LIGHT IT RIGHT
Good lighting is the key to any good photo, and the same is true when it comes to showcasing your home.
When photographing the exterior of a home, avoid shooting at noon. The bright light can often overexpose or wash out your photos.
Usually, your best bet is at twilight. The softer light at sunset often brings out the beauty of an exterior — and can mask some defects, as well.
When photographing the interior of a home, turn on most or all interior lights and open drapes or shades to allow sunlight in. Use a flash and/or filter if necessary, and avoid posting photos with too much shadow or reflection. If you get a photo that doesn't measure up, try shooting at a different time of day or from a different angle. Every home is different, so let the light be your guide.
RULE: MORE IS BETTER
Take advantage of the digital age (and your digital camera) and shoot lots of photos from different angles and at different times of the day. Your chances of capturing that perfect image are much better if you have a lot to choose from.
RULE: SHOWCASE THE GOOD STUFF
You know your home better than anyone does, so show prospective buyers the things that set your house apart from the others.
If your home has a great pool, beautiful high ceilings, a fantastic deck or a recent kitchen or bath remodel, be sure that comes across in your photography.
RULE: HIRE A PRO
If you don't think you're up to the task, or, if your budget allows for it, think about hiring a real estate photographer.
"We have a local photographer we use and, really, the expense usually pays for itself in the long run," says Kehoe, the St. Petersburg Realtor.
Most real estate photographers charge from $200 to $300 for a basic shoot; the cost increases depending on what's desired.
RULE: EDIT YOUR WORK
Most digital cameras come with photo-editing software, so whether you hire a pro or do it yourself, always edit and crop your photos appropriately. It's a good idea to have your real estate agent or, at the least, an objective third party, look over the photos.
Most multiple listing services allow multiple photos, as do online classified sites. The online version of HomeLink (tampabay.com/homelink) allows sellers to post up to eight photos. Some sites also allow links to more photos.