Lessons From Listing Photos: Why This Modest Home Sold in 5 Days and Grew In Value

It doesn’t matter how perfect your home is—if your listing photos don’t stand out, potential buyers won’t come by to take a look. In our series “Lessons From Listing Photos,” we dissect the smart updates sellers have made to their homes, and how their listing pictures highlight the home’s best assets.

All over the country, housing markets go through boom and bust, even in normal times. But during a pandemic, you might expect that real estate would slow down, and that many buyers would hold their ground—and their cash, waiting for a moment with more economic stability.

However, last summer, when COVID-19 cases were surging and social restrictions made house hunting especially challenging in certain areas, home prices hit record highs.

In July 2020, the median home price hit a new all-time high of $349,000, according to realtor.com® data. Why? We chalk it up to a low inventory of homes, historically low mortgage interest rates, and people’s desire to own property in less crowded, less expensive locations.

In the suburban areas of Dallas, as in other suburbs around the country, home prices continued to grow as mortgage rates dropped, and city dwellers began to dream of the beauty of a little space.

That may help explain why this three-bedroom, two-bathroom home just outside the city was such a success when it hit the market in July 2020.

It took a mere five days for a buyer to come calling, and the sellers made a profit of nearly $200,000. They purchased the house in 2016 for $596,000, and just four years later, sold it for $779,000.

Of course, a popular housing market isn’t the only reason that this home sold so fast. We’re pretty sure the stylish home improvements, staging, and compelling listing photos had a lot to do with it, too.

Profits like that pique our interest, so we had to take a closer look at the interior changes that were made.

We asked our panel of design and real estate experts to pinpoint what you can glean for your own home projects from the updates the sellers made, as shown in these before and after photos.

Living room

“This room transformation is all about the magic of staging,” says Danny Davis, the owner/broker of San Diego Brokerage in Encinitas, CA.

“New shutters have been added to the windows, and the room has been painted, but beyond those smart upgrades, no major changes have been made to this lovely living room.”

Jonathan Spears, founder of Spears Group with Scenic Sotheby’s International Realty, says the new furniture makes a world of difference.

“The low-profile furniture upgrades are thoughtfully arranged to create a welcoming space,” he says, “allowing for a more comfortable atmosphere.”

As you can see, the color palette—seen in the wall paint, furniture, and accessories—has also been updated.

“They’ve used color in a really smart way,” says Nicole Michael, founder of the Los Angeles and Orange County-based interior design firm Nicole Michael Designs.

“These neutral colors, like the gray sofa, are far more in style than the colors used in the before photos, as are the pops of ginger-colored accents. Adding in pops of color to the bookcases makes them stand out as the great feature they are.”

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Watch: Point, Shoot, Sell? To Show Off Your Home, Avoid These Listing Photo Mistakes

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Kitchen

This kitchen update demonstrates that you don’t need to undergo a major renovation to make a strong impact.

“The cabinets, countertops, appliances, and even the under-cabinet lighting have all remained the same,” says Davis.

“Keeping the existing cabinets and appliances saved thousands of dollars,” says Michael.

“The use of aged brass finishes for the lighting, cabinet hardware, and faucet are right on trend. When you have the same color/material traveling through a room, it unifies a space and instantly elevates it.”

She adds that the new, lighter flooring makes the room feel much larger than it did before.

Davis also approves of the new banquette seating in the breakfast nook, which he says provides extra seating and storage.

“The result is a spacious, modern, light, bright kitchen that any home buyer could easily imagine themselves in,” he says.

Bathroom

Most of the home received merely cosmetic updates, and it’s likely that every penny saved was poured into the more substantial expansion of this bathroom.

“The bathroom has literally gone from eyesore to selling point,” says John Atamian, a Glendale-based real estate agent.

“And while this extensive renovation is somewhat costly, these upgrades will more than pay for themselves in value added.”

“So many elements in the before photo—the plastic laminate countertop, single-lever faucet, and molded sink—look like a rental apartment, not a single-family home. The after photo, on the other hand, has the spa feeling that home buyers absolutely love,” says Michael.

The experts agreed that the black and white color choices make the room feel crisp and clean, exactly the kind of vibe every bathroom needs.

Davis focused on the change he thinks made the biggest impact.

“Here is one absolute truth I have learned from my many years in real estate: Couples do not want to share a bathroom sink, and dual vanities are high on most home buyers’ lists for that reason,” he says.

Bedroom

While both iterations of this bedroom look cozy and comfortable, the after photo cultivates a more modern vibe, with boho-Scandinavian furnishings. The area rug, bench, and nightstands are all pieces we’d expect to see in current design magazines.

Michael got into more details, explaining the the new gray walls appeal to more buyers. She also says the headboard—which is now the same color as the walls—blends into the room to make the space feel larger.

The sellers pulled a similar trick by changing the fan from wood-toned to white.

“Home buyers want the functionality of ceiling fans, but they don’t necessarily like the look of them,” she says.

So why do all these changes—both big and small—draw in so many more potential buyers? Davis summed it up best.

“A home buyer needs to imagine themselves living in a home when they view it, and ultimately, they want to believe their life will be better if they buy this home,” he says. “Adding glamour, light, and modern flair to a room will have a potential home buyer swooning.”

Source: realtor.com

Lessons From Listings Photos: See the Power of Staging in This Pennsylvania Carriage House

It doesn’t matter how perfect your home is—if your listing photos don’t stand out, potential buyers won’t come by to take a look. In our series “Lessons From Listing Photos,” we dissect the smart updates sellers have made to their homes, and how their listing pictures highlight the home’s best assets.

These days, staging a home—redecorating it with furnishings and decor selected to appeal to buyers—is an important step that nearly every homeowner should think about when it’s time to sell their house.

When potential buyers view a home—whether online or in person—you want them to be able to picture themselves in your space. But it’s hard to do that when your personal stuff is everywhere. That’s where staging comes in. It’s a tool to highlight the strengths of each room and eliminate anything that could give potential buyers pause—be that clutter, personal belongings, or design decisions that just aren’t for everyone.

If you’ve ever doubted the power of staging a home before listing it, this Pennsylvania home will make you see the light.

Built in 1925, it has many great features and tons of character, but it still didn’t sell when it was listed for $810,000 in August 2019. In June 2020, it was relisted with brand-new photos of fully staged interiors. We’re talking streamlined furniture and rugs in clean, neutral colors. No more mismatched wooden furniture! And just two months later it was sold for $820,000, a little more than the initial asking price.

Since home staging costs around $2,000 to $2,400 a month (the furnishings are rented), that seems like money well-spent, especially when you consider the money lost on extra mortgage payments while the home sits on the market.

We went right to our experts to find out why the staging of this house attracted a buyer—and how you can have the same success in your home. Here’s what they had to say.

Living room

The living room in this house had a lot of great features, but the original setup didn’t allow them to stand out.

“When you have a feature wall, such as the stone wall shown here, it’s best to showcase that instead of covering it up with bulky furniture,” says Dawn Gerali, a real estate agent with West USA. “The modern, lighter-colored furniture and minimalist artwork works well to make this a comfortable, inviting space.”

“By simplifying the color of all the furnishings, it is less distracting to the eye,” explains Lisa Vail, designer with Vesta. “A potential buyer can easily find themselves stepping into the space and making it their own.

Vail adds that swapping out the furniture is a quick and easy move that gives the perception that the entire house has been updated.

Kitchen

There was nothing really wrong with the original kitchen in this house, but it had a mismatched vibe that made it hard to present a functional, uncluttered space. Yet the magic of staging changed all of that with just a few simple swaps.

“The kitchen island has been staged with bigger stools and place settings, and the shelves have been cleared as well,” says Will Rodgers, a real estate consultant with KW Realty McLean. “This gives the buyer the idea that the kitchen can be a good area for meals, and makes it appear less cluttered.”

Jill Valeri, a home stager and owner of Welcome Home: Interior Design Solutions, says the staged version of the room just feels better to potential buyers.

“The matching stools, place settings, and small vases by the stove create a visually appealing rhythm in the space, while emptying the built-in shelves makes them less distracting,” she says. “The overall effect is that the buyer can now focus on the beautiful marble and vast counter spaces.”

Dining room

Obviously the selling point in this dining room is the gorgeous ceiling beams, but unless the room is staged right, they may look more like a hindrance than anything.

“The ornate furniture in the before photo competes with the wood-beamed ceilings and windows. It detracts from the room’s architectural features,” explains Gerali. “The sleek, modern furniture in the after photo draws attention to the beautiful ceiling and the natural light coming in through the windows.”

Marla Perez, account executive with Vesta, agrees.

“Staging this dining room made it feel larger and more grand,” she says. “Changing the orientation of the dining room table elongated the dining room, and adding a neutral rug brightened the space. The updated furniture and upholstered dining chairs created a more formal dining [area] for entertaining.”

Bedroom

Very little has changed in the bedroom of this home, save for the new furniture and decor, but it feels like a totally different space.

“They have elevated this room simply by adding the appropriate-scale bed and neutralizing the color palette,” says Vail. “The original bed was way too high for the room and drew attention to the odd nook it was set in. But now it looks like the nook was built intentionally for the bed.”

Rodgers emphasizes the impact of the cosmetic changes.

“This bedroom feels more airy and natural after the old chests and dressers were replaced with plants, neutral-colored linens, and a serene piece of art over the bed,” he says. “This gives buyers a relaxing feel upon entering the room, which is perfect for a bedroom.”

Source: realtor.com

How This 1920s California Bohemian Sold Over Asking—and Helped Set a Record

It doesn’t matter how perfect your home is—if your listing photos don’t stand out, potential buyers won’t come by to take a look. In our series “Lessons From Listing Photos,” we dissect the smart updates sellers have made to their homes, and how their listing pictures highlight the home’s best assets.

In 2020, nothing is for certain—and in many places, that includes the real estate market. That’s not true for Berkeley, though. This Northern California city, located on the east side of the San Francisco Bay, is experiencing an upswing in an already booming real estate market. In fact, October 2020 racked up the most single-family home sales for the city in nearly two decades.

High demand is likely to have been part of the reason the former owners of this two-bedroom, one-bathroom bungalow in Berkeley were able to sell their home for $161,000 over the listing price of $1,189,000. They purchased their home in April 2014 for $1,020,000 and sold it in November, for $1.35 million. But, looking at the before and after photos, we also chalk this successful sale up to smart home staging.

If you’re getting ready to put your home on the market, there are plenty of lessons to learn from this particular sale. From clever design decisions to the little details that made all the difference, here are the moves that made this cozy home appealing to buyers.

Living room

This living room may feel completely different in the before and after photos, but if you look closely, you’ll notice there weren’t any major changes. Instead, the owners made a few smart cosmetic updates and did a great job of staging the room.

“The ‘before’ of this room felt small, dark, and choppy, due to the use of multiple paint colors breaking up the visual flow of the space,” explains designer Gabrielle Aker, of Aker Interiors. “The fresh coat of white paint instantly brightens the room.”

Danny Davis, owner and broker of San Diego Brokerage in Encinitas, CA, agrees that color was a key factor in the living room.

“In my decades of experience in real estate, no one has ever told me that they were looking for a dark and gloomy home. Everyone wants light and bright,” he says. “Incorporating stylish, minimalist furniture and light paint and stain colors often make a smaller space feel larger and more livable.”

Real estate agent Natasha Wood of Balaj Realty Group says making the floors more visible also made a big impact.

“Hardwood flooring can increase a home’s value by up to 5%, so showing that off is key,” she explains.

Kitchen

“Choosing the right professional photographer and staging company is very important when selling your home,” says Davis.

He explains that each listing must attract a buyer in the first few photos, or they’ll just keep scrolling. In the case of this kitchen, he says the listing photos showed exactly what buyers want to see.

“This kitchen, where families tend to spend most of their time, is so much more inviting in the ‘after’ photo,” he says.

“That warm wood island makes such a difference in this space,” adds Susan Covell Sands, owner of Susan Covell Designs. “The floor-to-ceiling white tile, new textured stone floor—all of it looks much cozier and workable than the ‘before’ photo, with its gray walls and old, orange-toned wood floors.

Nook

Before the overhaul, this nook just off of the kitchen was a strange bit of wasted space, a real shame in a small home.

“What a difference it makes to give a space a specific function,” says Covell Sands. “Showing the shelves with a laptop, lamp, and stool gives the potential buyer the understanding that this space could be more than just extra storage shelves.”

Davis explained that thanks to COVID-19, most of us are now doing many things at home that we used to do elsewhere, from working, to exercising, to school.

“It’s more important than ever to showcase an area where people can have a private space to work and take Zoom calls away from the rest of the family, pets, and mess that a home must accommodate in today’s lifestyle,” he says.

“Creating a useful space that has a dedicated function, especially in a small home, will invite buyers to imagine themselves in that space, instead of wondering what to do with it.”

Dining room

Even in the before image, this unique dining room was a showstopper, but after a few tweaks, it’s a home buyer’s heaven.

According to Davis, staging was a huge factor in this room.

“As for staging, it’s imperative that you stay away from bulky furniture in small areas and finish off a room with accents like window shades,” he explains, which is exactly what happened in this space.

Kendall Severson, co-owner of Interior Design Partnership, LLC, agreed.

“I love this transformation!” she says. “The ‘before’ picture makes the space feel heavy and small. They toned down the color and focused on white and natural elements. … They really hit the nail on the head when it came to scale and proportion in this space.”

Wood noticed that the stairs are also visible from this room.

“The updated stairway follows the natural movement throughout the home and creates a cohesive feel,” she says.

Bedroom

Having an extra bedroom that doubles as both a guest room and an office may sound like a great way to utilize a space, but our experts say that often sends buyers running.

“Defining a space with a specific purpose definitely helps a buyer envision themselves and their belongings in a home. That’s why staging is so valuable to home sellers,” says Davis.

He explains that the previous owners, once again, pulled off a major win in this room.

“Oftentimes, multipurpose rooms—such as a guest room/office—only point out to the buyer that the home doesn’t have room for both purposes, and that can have a negative effect on buyer perception,” he says.

Staging this room as a cozy bedroom makes the whole house feel more inviting and livable, he argues.

Source: realtor.com

See the Small but Pivotal Repairs That Helped This Southwestern Home Grab a Profit

It doesn’t matter how perfect your home is—if your listing photos don’t stand out, potential buyers won’t come by to take a look. In our series “Lessons From Listing Photos,” we dissect the smart updates sellers have made to their homes, and how their listing pictures highlight the home’s best assets.

Living in Santa Fe, NM, is all about taking advantage of the gorgeous landscape, mild climate, art culture, and a city with just enough activity to keep you busy but not overwhelmed. And the suburbs outside of Santa Fe give you access to all that, plus the ability to own a sizable chunk of land.

Those reasons help explain why this four-bedroom, 3.5-bath house, just 20 minutes from the city center, was purchased in 2014 for $435,000 despite it being a textbook fixer-upper.

The 3,000-square-foot-house is on a 1.17-acre lot in a gated community. It comes with a private pond and walking trails, making it the perfect purchase for a buyer looking to enjoy the culture of the area while still keeping to themselves. Sure the home’s interior was in desperate need of an update, but the buyers saw the potential.

After six years and some stylish yet strategic renovations, the buyers sold the home for about $200,000 more than what they paid. There weren’t many big changes—just cosmetic updates and some nicely staged listing photos. So how did they make a profit? We went straight to our experts to find out what home improvements brought in the buyers.

Living room

The setup in this living room is a little different thanks to an adobe fireplace in the center of the room. In the before photos, it’s easy to see how a potential buyer would be confused by what to do with the main living room space as well as the space behind the fireplace. But a quick cleanup and careful staging helped to illustrate the best use of the space, according to designer Lori Bitter, of Dalia Staging & Design.

“The formal living space feels inviting for entertaining, while the second space feels more intimate for family and TV time,” Bitter says.

Careful design does a lot more than make a room look pretty, though. Bitter points out that the details help to accentuate some of room’s best features.

“The blue accents are a perfect balance for the dark floors and wood on the ceiling,” she says.

“Not a lot changed in this room, but it shows what a big difference a few details can make,” adds designer Mark Cutler, of  Mark Cutler Design. “The new ceiling fan, uncovered windows, and brighter white paint all contribute to a more modern take on Southwestern design.”

Kitchen

An updated, functional kitchen is pretty high on the must-have list for many home buyers, which is why the sellers put a lot of time and effort into this space.

“The new kitchen feels fresh, open, and modern,” says Cutler. He adds that moving the wing wall on the peninsula substantially opens up the space.

“The combination of white tile with the gray cabinetry and updated lighting is so fresh,” she says. “Bringing the backsplash to ceiling with the modern hood is a dramatic touch.”

And while everyone loves a kitchen island, the sellers made the right move in removing the old island; the pine wood was channeling outdated ’90s vibes.

“Replacing the old island with a rustic furniture piece carries the warmth of the wood from the living space into the kitchen and keeps this kitchen feeling cozy,” says Bitter.

Bedroom

When a potential buyer visits a home, there are a few different things they might be looking for in a bedroom space. They might want a room that’s relaxing, maybe even luxurious—but they’re definitely not looking for a bedroom that looks old and dingy. Before the overhaul, this bedroom was full of clunky fixtures like that light fixture and ceiling fan.

But the sellers knew just what to do to lighten this space up.

“A white color palette will always create a room that feels larger and cleaner,” says Cutler. “And removing the window shades allows for more light and expands the view.”

“What a great example of how staging can make a room feel more impressive and larger,” adds Bitter.

Bathroom

Nothing dates a home like a bathroom in major need of an update, so our experts were pleased to see what happened in this space.

“Two main areas changed for the better: the shower tile and the bathroom vanity,” says Cutler. The brown palette of the old shower and the stained-wood details dated the room.

“The bright, white color scheme with bronze accents feels fresh and makes the room, especially the shower, seem larger.” he adds.

“This is a ‘wow’ moment for this home,” says Bitter. “Like the kitchen, the footprint hasn’t changed, but the finish choices [like the new light fixture and sink vanity] open this space up.”

Back patio

The back patio of this home is a terrific example of the power of a good listing photo.

“Outdoor living spaces are coveted today,” says Bitter. “Staging an outdoor dining area shows buyers the possibilities for this valuable additional square footage.”

“Once again it’s about small details that make a large impact,” says Cutler. “Architecturally almost nothing has changed, but the room, with the addition of the seating area, feels larger.”

Cutler also likes the potting area, which gives buyers another example of a creative way to use the space.

Source: realtor.com