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As someone who quite literally writes about homes for a living, it’s my dream to have a beautiful, designed-to-perfection space that looks like it’s hosting a fancy open house every day. But I have a long way to go until my pad is real-estate listing-ready (not that I’m looking to leave my digs anytime soon). My fiancé and I rent an apartment right by the beaches of sunny (and sometimes foggy) San Francisco, complete with French doors and wooden accents throughout. We love our home and wanted to bring our own style into the space while respecting the classic architecture — and, you know, not lose our security deposit.
Curious to see how how my space’s reality compares to my idea of a dream home, I tapped Rob Moreno, a Boston-based real-estate photographer, for his input. Though Moreno emphasizes he’s a photographer — not a home stager — he’s seen a lot of houses in his day. (Translation? He can really separate the “wow” from the “just okay.”) And, true to form, his feedback did not disappoint. Though there are some criticisms I cannot change — again, I’d love my security deposit back when we do move — Moreno served up some honest takeaways. At its core, his advice is simple: Your home is like a puzzle.
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“When prepping a house for sale, think of it as getting ready for your wedding: Details, details, details,” he shares. “You want everything to be as wedding day ready as possible —clean, neat tidy, organized, inviting, and welcoming. If a seller and agent can work together to prep and stage a house with this thought in mind, rooms kind of come together and fold in place.”
Read on to discover Moreno’s top tips for getting your home photo-ready. If you’re looking to zhuzh up your home, there’s a good chance that his tips for my space will help you, too.
Nix the personality-packed accessories.
Personal touches might be what makes a house a home. But for real estate photography? It’s best to keep your space to a minimum. Our living room has a gorgeous tiled fireplace with built-in wooden shelves on each side, and I love to fill these surfaces with a rainbow-colored cornucopia of books and greeting cards. However, Moreno says simplicity is the key to a beautiful space.
“Let’s showcase this charming feature when we photograph this room,” he says. “Rework the whole bookcase that flanks both the left and right side of the fireplace.”
While I love my mementos as a walk down memory lane, a potential buyer wouldn’t have the same sentiment. Instead, they’d see clutter — and I’d honestly feel the same if I was scouring listings. Of course, my mantle and shelves aren’t the only places that need a detox. According to Moreno, anything that really blocks the architectural features should go, including the “out-of-control green plant.”
Keep furniture consistent.
Admittedly, this isn’t always how my dining room looks. I snapped this picture right before a dinner party, so the setup is fully dressed up and we added two temporary chairs right where we added a makeshift table leaf. Turns out, those temporary chairs are exactly what Moreno recommended I get rid of.
“Kill the kids chairs,” he shares. “I like that you are trying to showcase how large room is by hosting an eight-seater dining room table, but also looks like you ran out chairs.” (Which, yes, I did!)
As a general rule of thumb, Moreno stresses the importance of keeping your furniture cohesive with the room. In fact, he had this exact same feedback about my living room’s eclectic seating. (In Moreno’s words, my living room pieces “look like a couple just got married and combined furniture.”)
“I know we are not selling the furniture, but style and placement is what helps a buyer envision what they can do with the space,” he explains. “There is a ‘synergistic’ relationship that goes on between the rooms and furnishings.”
Show off your room’s possibilities.
When it comes to photographing a home for a real estate listing, it’s important to show off your property’s potential. Our apartment has a pretty spacious kitchen — a major upgrade from the teeny, tiny area in our old home — and we’re still figuring out exactly what to do with it. Moreno’s advice: “Place a nice two or three-seater table on the corner, and show that this is an ‘eat-in kitchen.’”
Why limit this tip to my kitchen when it can be applied to virtually any room of any home? “My perspective is to showcase the room, the size, the flow, any unique personality the room may offer,” he says.
Neutral colors are generally considered excellent blank canvases, but not all shades are created equal. Moreno recommends that I ditch the light taupe paint that covers my entire apartment — including our split bathroom — for something lighter.
“My pick would be the Chantilly White [by Benjamin Moore] because [it will] go nicely against the beautiful old wood in this house,” he shares. “Love the color; not hospital white, but not creamy white.”
Since we’re already moved in — and don’t want to repaint the entire apartment without our landlord’s seal of approval — we probably won’t give our space a paint job. That said, it’s definitely something I’ll keep in mind should my fiancé and I ever move.
Highlight your floor plan.
Since my fiancé and I already owned a king-sized mattress, it was important to keep our bed in our current apartment. While Moreno say that it’s great that the bedroom shows off just how spacious the area is, it does make it appear a bit crammed.
“As a result, you have created an obstacle course in the room and will have to use your best ‘Simone Biles’ gymnastic moves just to maneuver and bound around the room and when you get to your end-point,” he explains. “Hope you stick your landing and score a 10!”
His advice? “I would get a smaller bed, nice-colored duvet, and wall art above the headboard, Moreno says. “Looks like there’s a tall ceiling and I’d like to showcase this feature when I photograph this room.”
For the perfect finishing touch on my bedroom, Moreno suggested one last thing: throw pillows. “Not too much, but enough to swallow you up when you lie down on the bed,” he says.