Take a good look at everything—including your junk drawer.

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Back in 2021, Saturday Night Live aired an all-too-relatable skit about people fantasizing about their dream homes. But not every Zillow listing is a work of art. That got me thinking about what real estate agents and sellers do to prepare a home for the all-important photoshoot that can drive more eyes (and eventually, offers) to the listing. 

Harrison White of Mason Taylor Associates in Newport Beach, California, shares his thoughts on the nuances and priorities he makes to best position a home to go on the market. Before anything, he says it’s all about finding a real estate agent who can advocate for you and put in the time and energy to sell your home. 

From there, these are the steps he takes for his clients, plus tips on what you can do to get the most out of a real estate photoshoot:

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1. Make a Few Cosmetic Fixes

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Pre-photoshoot, White often visits the home and looks at every spot to determine what could use a refresh.

“If a certain space is looking tired, we’ll suggest painting it or refreshing it with a new color—and that’s really the extent of the work,” he says. “If someone had a puppy and the puppy was chewing up the baseboards, they should probably replace the baseboards.”

2. Do a Little Decluttering

“A lot of home buyers like to look through cabinets and drawers, just to get the feel of the space,” White says. “Everybody has a junk drawer. Get some drawer organizers or clean up the place.”

Beyond the junk drawer, sellers can also expect people to peek into their closets, kitchen drawers, cabinets, and more.

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3. Interview Different Stagers

If you are selling a newly constructed home, you will need a stager to outfit it entirely. And you’ll probably need one if you’re still living in your home, too. 

“Every stager is different, so you have to pick a stager that’s right for the vibe of the home,” White says. “It will cost a little more, but it’ll make the home look so much better. We interview stagers and see how they envision the space.”

If they’re a good fit, White says he’ll hire them and perform a walkthrough prior to the photoshoot. If anything looks off—say, they split a large room in two—he’ll direct the stager to make any necessary changes.

4. Depersonalize Your Home

Selling a home you currently live in, or one that is full of existing furniture, artwork, and photography, will require what White calls “depersonalization.” Any family photos will need to be taken off the walls or removed from any other spot in the home. Neutralizing the space can give potential buyers the freedom to imagine what their future home could look like. After photos are removed, stagers can go in and add artwork or other decor to fill in those gaps.

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5. Find the Best Angles

Your dedicated agent will want to be involved on the day of the photoshoot. White says his team will typically have two agents, who go through the home and look at what’s being captured. During this time, they’ll usually remove anything distracting, like toothbrushes, foot massagers, or kids’ toys. When it all looks clean and photo-ready, make sure the photographer highlights every room and takes multiple photos to review before it goes on the multiple listing service, or MLS. 

“It’s just getting every single angle,” he says. “We’re not going to use every single photo on the MLS, but we’ll just pick what looks best.”

6. Test Out Different Lighting

Not every home has great natural light, and that’s okay. White recommends testing out different lighting options by shooting with the lights on and off.

“It can really make the home feel a little bit warmer with the lights off, if it has good or even okay natural light,” he says. “When the lights are on and the photographer uses flash, it can look sterile or too staged.”