Selling a Kirkland Condo – Staging and Photos

condo windows

Whether I am helping a client sell a house or a condo, my thought process is generally the same.

Start at “buyer profiling”. Who is likely to buy this property? Then make a list of the top 3 to 5 reasons why THAT person, whom you have targeted as the likely buyer, will choose THIS property over others that are for sale.

The first part, “buyer profiling” is an old method I learned when I was a Certified Corporate Property Specialist for Coldwell Banker back in the 90s selling vacant properties where the owner was relocated for job reasons. There is less of an emotional pull from the owner, and the process is more of a business effort to sell, with little to no accommodations for the seller’s emotional “triggers”.

For this condo, which was sold about a month ago, I determined the individual would likely be a single professional person…or at least that would be the person who might pay the highest price for it. I also determined that the person (or possibly couple) would likely be younger vs older because there were a lot of steps up to the front door. Not likely an “empty nester”, as might be the case for a ground floor unit with no steps.

Next I listed the reasons why someone would choose THIS condo over the other 65 or so condos for sale in Kirkland at the time priced at $250,000 or less.

1) View of Lake Washington (only 6 of 65 have a view of Lake Washington)
2) 1,000+ square feet (only 11 of 65 are over 1,000 sf)
3) Super high ceilings on the inside interior walls of the main living space
4) Clerestory Windows at the top of the high ceilings
5) Travertine and “wood” floors vs carpet

It is very important that you match your staging and photos to the main selling features of the property. NICE is not good enough. This particular condo is a great example of that because the owner hired a professional stager and I had the photographer take photos…but…

I just wasn’t happy. I didn’t feel the property would sell at its highest possible price based on that in person and online presentation. It was nice, the photos were “good” and better than most if not ALL other properties for sale. But they just didn’t tell the STORY of THIS condo well.

condo before after 1

condo before after table

condo view from sink

Kirkland Condofull set of before photos and the full set of after photos click on those links from the photographers site at HD Estates.

I use Brooke at HD Estates for my listing photos, and it was funny that when she first came she knew immediately that I had not staged the condo. She had done several of my properties this year, all of which I had staged myself, and she just knew. The tired old floor lamp with the fern…the granny orange shaw vs the red throw…the weeds on the table vs the art deco glass bowl…even in the bedrooms and bathrooms she just knew something wasn’t quite right. 🙂

I’m glad I went to the extra time, trouble and cost. The owner paid $92,700 for this condo just two years ago and we were able to sell it in less than a week with five offers at $233,000 with no home inspection contingency and no must appraise clause.

Might that same result have happened if I did not re-stage it myself and have the photos redone? I don’t really know for sure. What do you think?

My daughter’s shoot for Smashbox Makeup

I’ll be heading down to see my three girls and two grandaughters in L.A. on Tuesday. I thought you might like to see Andrea’s recent pics from her photoshoot.  Maybe this time I will actually get over to see her doing tattoo art over in Venice Beach. She moved over to the Boardwalk store, so it should be a fun place to hang out in.

Hey Dustin! Weren’t we supposed to get matching tattoos?

andrea pinup

andrea makeup

andrea ink

Hard to tag this post…I chose the category “diversions” 🙂

When showing houses, watch where you’re stepping

Real Estate photographers come across some interesting subjects and situations in the course of their work but this one is at the top of my list. An inter – species friendship that’s truly unique…


And when you’re showing houses, please watch where you’re stepping. The gal on the right would really appreciate that.

Seattle Sounders and the Space Needle

seattle-soundersWhen I first saw the pictures below taken by Damon Cortesi who I know as @dacort on Twitter, it was St. Patrick’s Day.  I thought the green “hat” on the space needle was a Lepruchan’s hat 🙂 I didn’t know why it wasn’t all green.

Kim told me that the blue and green colors on the Space Needle are for the Seattle Sounders Football Club. Tickets for their inaugural game were sold out well ahead of time, and they WON!

But this is a post about the fabulous night shots taken by Damon, and I appreciate his permission to post them here for everyone’s enjoyment. Thanks @dacort !spotlight-on-seattle-space-needle1


A bit of staging magic goes a long way

This past weekend I attended a three hour class on staging. I was motivated to take the class because, as a real estate photographer, it helps to understand something about staging a property as agents frequently defer to me over last minute details of the home staging when I am on site doing the shoot. It’s not part of my job description but many agents have come to expect it and I do enjoy surveying a room and making simple, and quick, recommendations. I am fascinated by the psychology of staging and the dramatic changes staging can have on our perception and impression of a property.

Prospective buyers largely lack the imagination to see what one can do with a space so the seller, listing agent and/or stager need to provide it for them and hopefully do it well. In some cases it may be adding, subtracting or both. Immediately after my class I had a shoot that the listing agent had requested a few new photos as they had redone the staging since the original shoot. I think this is a great example of how a few changes really add considerably to the appeal of this condo. I especially appreciate the accent wall which was easy and inexpensive but really makes this condo, or at least the photo, look so much more inviting.

And to just pass along a tip to realtors from the class I took, get rid of dead vegetation in the landscaping. Especially in the front of the house. I walked by a home for sale in my neighborhood and I saw some dead plantings and I could see how detracting it was from the impression, or curb appeal, of the property.

I’d also recommend checking out Barb Schwarz’s existing book on staging and/or pre-ordering her new one that will be available in May.

Learn as much as you can about staging, regardless of who does it.

Your seller, (and photographer) will love you for it.



The Value of High Quality Photos for Real Estate Listings

In previous writings for Rain City Guide on the subject of real estate photography, I’ve emphasized more of a ‘how to’ or ‘how to improve’ approach for Realtor’s who photograph their own listings. I want to shift my emphasis toward raising awareness regarding the value of high quality photography for listings and actually learning to recognize the difference between a bad photographic presentation of a listing and a really good one. Or to put it another way, acknowledging a poor photo presentation when it is and hopefully doing something about it. As a photographer who works almost exclusively with Realtors, I am continuously mystified by the disregard by so many Realtors locally and nationwide who seem to be clueless regarding the photos used to market their listing. To simply purchase a ‘point and shoot’ digital camera and walk around your seller’s home snapping away and expecting a satisfactory result is simply not going to cut it. In most cases there is more to it than that and unless you consider photography a hobby and worth time invested in the necessary skill development, you might be much better off hiring a professional photographer to shoot your listing. Many of the best Realtors do use professional photographers and they’re not fools.

This is a comment from my previous article by a St. Louis Realtor that deserves a more prominent view.

First time poster here: Glad to see some recognition of this problem! The most important thing an agent can do for their sellers today is to get lots of superior images up on the web. Here in St. Louis I am continually astounded at the plethora of dark, awful images, and “what were they thinking” photos of toilets, ceiling fans, etc, or NO PHOTOS at all! How do these [realtors] even get listings?

For most of my listings, I take a lot of my own photos, as I have a background in photography and image correction, so I have hi-res images for color flyers, but I ALSO have a great local photographer who comes in and shoots a batch of wonderful web-ready wideangle shots and virtual tours…

It’s worth the investment (typical agent–“you mean you actually PAY someone to shoot your listings? That costs MONEY!”) My business would be a lot less successful without quality photos.

And this is taken from a follow up email from Shannon. “It would help the profession if we all did better than this, although I’m happy many of my local competitors are still so bad at it!

This is really a great article by Norm Fisher, a Saskatoon realtor, with a virtual tour of some of the photos that were taken from the Saskatoon mls. “The Unbelievably Bad Real Estate Photography Hall of Fame”. Click on the links in the article to be taken to the virtual tour page. Norm’s humorous audio narration of the tour are really worth a visit.

A typical comment from a friend who have done an internet search for a home makes comments like, “I sure see a lot of dark, out of focus, awful photos’. Are they hiding something they don’t want me to see?”

I am getting calls from Realtors with listings from low end houses and small condos to spacious multi-million dollar homes. One might think that even a very basic home that is in decent condition deserves to be marketed well. If I’m the seller of a modest home, the sale of my home and the potential price is certainly important to me. I’d like to know that my Realtor is doing a professional job of marketing my home and taking care of the details. Lousy shots do not inspire confidence in the agent and the points a Realtor might earn by producing a good photographic presentation, or in many cases, simply hiring a professional photographer, are going to make it more likely that I’m going to be a happy customer. Happy customers equal referrals. And where are Realtors without referrals?

I’d like to conclude with one of my favorite photos of 2006, taken from a listing near Greenlake. This is one of the most ‘kid friendly, family friendly’ homes I’ve ever seen and it was a delight to see and photograph this whimsical, artsy abode. Doesn’t everyone wish they had swing and a chalkboard wall in their living room when they were kids?


The Importance of Using the Digital Darkroom…

Back in February I wrote my first and only article on Real Estate Photography for Rain City Guide with suggestions for improving the quality of real estate photography images. I guess I had high expectations. But sadly, there are still listings out there with what I’d have to call ‘awful’ pictures. I’m somewhat disappointed. I thought I could change the world, or at least the quality of marketing images of Real Estate. Today I picked up a very slick, glossy Real Estate publication of premier listings to ogle what I expected would be some awesome and inspiring interior photography and I really couldn’t believe what I saw. There were certainly good exterior photos, including aerial views of sweeping estates, but I saw several poor interior images on full page listings of multi-million dollar homes which must have been a significant advertising expense for the Realtor. Several of the interior images were much too dark to really show off what must have been beautiful interiors and many of them showed converging verticals created by the use of a wide angle lens, which may not have mattered much anyway as the images were so dark. I have to tell you, a digital camera in the hands of someone who doesn’t know what he/she is doing is a dangerous thing. I don’t know if the Realtors don’t think it’s important, they don’t recognize poor image quality or some other esoteric explanation.

However, I have a confession to make. Some of the images that come out of my camera are pretty darn bad. Fortunately no one sees them at this stage and I wouldn’t want you to. So how do I get people to pay me to photograph their listings? Well, the image capture with my camera is only the first half of the photographic imaging process. The other half is image editing or post processing that takes place on my computer with software such as Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. And it’s amazing what image editing tools can do to transform an image. Referred to as the digital darkroom, I learned fairly early at my entry into
digital photography to regard image editing as an extension of the camera. Although camera manufacturers strive to create cameras for the point and shoot crowd that will require little or no post processing, almost all images will benefit from some editing and the high end digital SLR camera’s are intended more for user involvement in the post processing. This involves making necessary corrections in lighting, color balance, saturation and perspective. Sometimes even a few more tricks are at our disposal for a photographic faux pas or a special touch like a sky replacement. Ideally, photographers consider a good original capture important and reliance on too much editing to be a bad strategy. In the case of interior photography for real estate professionals, I have a choice between bringing in and setting up lights (a time consuming process on location) or simply shooting with both flash and/ or available light and working out the results on the computer. For most homes, the Realtors or home owners are comfortable with about an hour of their time to be present while I’m shooting the interior. After about an hour for the average home, I’ve worn out my welcome, so I’ll only set up the lights in a situation where I consider it a necessity.

For the purposes of illustration, I’m going to be brave and show you how one of my images looked when it came out of my camera and follow it with what it looked like when I submitted it to my customer.


Pretty bad, huh? Would you pay me for something like this? I could try to convince you that the carpenter was really incompetent to explain those slanting cabinets and walls, but would you believe me?


The final image may not be quite ready for the cover of Architectural Digest but most people (agents and buyers) when they see the ‘after’ image are likely to respond ‘wow, what a beautiful kitchen!’ After all, it’s one of the primary selling points of this home and it should make that impression. Do I make my point?

Real Estate Photography — Camera Choice

(Editor’s note: In striving to mix things up a bit here on Rain City Guide, I’m excited to introduce Mark Reibman as the newest contributor. Mark is a Seattle-based real estate photographer who has agreed to post advice directed at improving the state of real estate photography. His first post is geared toward real estate agents, but the advice he gives could be useful for anyone interested in taking better photographs (and who isn’t?). To see more of Mark’s photos, check out his website at Blue Light Imaging or email

How important to you are great photographic images for marketing your listings? Are ‘okay’, somewhat blurred or dark images acceptable to you? Would you like to take better images of your real estate listing? Over the past few years we have seen the dramatic changes the digital age has brought to the Real Estate industry. With this recent technology, a real estate listing can be photographed, images transferred to a web page on the internet, and flyers printed all within hours. Today’s listings are almost immediately available to other real estate agents and buyers anywhere in the world who have access to a computer. With the increasing use of high speed internet connections, the internet is fast becoming a critical marketing media. The value of great looking images as a marketing tool should not be underestimated. Whether it’s a low end ‘fixer’ or a multi-million dollar luxury home, great images are important and are going to help sell your listings.


The intended purpose of this article and future articles is to provide advice and general interior/exterior photography tips for the realtor who would like to take better pictures and improve their marketing presentation. The topics to be covered will include: Camera choice, required and optional accessories, photographic techniques and tips for taking good images and post processing of images with image editing software.


A good quality digital point and shoot camera with a hot shoe attachment will do the job, but most important, it must be wide angle or accept a wide angle teleconvertor. A camera with a 24mm lens is minimum for photographing interiors. There are a few cameras like the Nikon Coolpix 8400 that have lenses that are sufficiently wide angle (24mm). But most point and shoot cameras are too narrow for real estate interiors so the alternative is to choose a camera that can offer the wide angle option with the purchase of a separate wide angle tele-convertor. Converters adapt to the camera lens to extend it’s wide angle range to at least 24mm or less. In addition to having the capacity to accept a wide angle convertor, a hot shoe attachment is a must in your camera choice. This feature will allow you to use an external flash attachment because the camera’s on board flash is going to be too weak to be a any value when the use of a flash is desired.

And although shooting with available light is an option, in many cases an external flash will be very helpful to deal with the tricky lighting situations you will encounter. The cameras that I prefer are principally the Canon powershots (G series, Pro 1) or the Nikon Coolpix line. You can inquire at a camera store about these cameras or shop for them online. Another option would be to go the ebay route and pick up a used camera. As an example, an ancient (two year old) model Canon Powershot G3 with a wide angle teleconvertor is going to be much more reasonably priced than the current Powershots. Going the eBay route can produce some great deals but requires a certain knowledge and time to play the game. A new Powershot G6 or Pro 1 would be a great choice as well. I’m not as familiar with the Nikon line of cameras but there are some excellent cameras among the higher end NIkon Coolpix cameras. These are my suggestions for cameras but a knowledgeable salesperson at a camera store such as Glazer’s Camera, Kenmore Camera or any one of the Ritz camera stores, can offer you a lot more advice and guidance than I can in this article. Also ask about the availability and price of the tele-convertor and an external flash when shopping for a good camera. There are certainly other excellent choices from other camera makers, Sony, Kodak, Konica, and either you can research these yourself via the internet or at your local camera store. I should add that although I’m suggesting digital cameras, film cameras with the wide angle capability and external flash attachments will work just fine if the film is scanned to a CD when it is developed. It’s simply not as convenient as a digital camera and also lacks the option of on-site review which is a huge advantage of the digital cameras.


A decent tripod is next on the list of necessary tools. Because the camera shutters speeds are much slower when shooting interior photography, your images will be blurred without the use of a tripod. It should be reasonably sturdy and come up to your eye level. If your camera does not include a remote, buy one. This would be an item to inquire about before a camera purchase. Does it accept a remote? I use one that attaches via a wire and there are also wireless remotes. You can do without a remote and use the time delay on the the shutter but a remote is so much more convenient.

And as mentioned above, an external flash is going to be necessary in many situations where there is simply not enough light and/or high contrast lighting, so finding the proper external flash for your camera should be part of your research.

A step above the moderately priced point and shoot cameras are the digital SLRs. These are cameras that allow for interchangeable lenses. This can get expensive and probably beyond the needs of most real estate agents. A basic dSLR like the Canon xt or Nikon D70 with a good quality wide angle lens and external flash and tripod will entail an outlay of close to $2000. Definitely not something everyone will run out to purchase, but it is an option for those who are so inclined. And, of course, you can spend a lot more.

In future articles I will give some advice on working with the variations in lighting, image editing software tips, composition ideas and more.

I would be happy to answer any questions related to Real Estate Photography. Keep in mind that the preceding suggestions are some general guidelines for real estate photography and there is no single best way for shooting interior images. I continue to learn and refine my own process. Practice and experiment on your own home and/or at a friends home and see what works best for you.