Have you ever seen an ad for a property for rent and were immediately turned off because of the awful, quickly shot, low-quality pictures? Online ads are especially guilty of this, and in fact, the majority of rental ads you will find on Craigslist (for example) are full of ads that were obviously taken with a cell phone, usually at weird angles, in poorly lit rooms, or of awkward things (toilet seat up, anyone?). Your ad is usually the first time your prospective tenant is introduced to you, so it’s logical to aspire to make a good impression. Taking some time and putting a little effort into your pictures will help accomplish that goal. In fact, the majority of prospective tenants won’t even look at online ads without pictures. Here are some tips for using pictures in your marketing.
Lighting plays a huge role in determining the outcome of your pictures, as it makes the space look more open, warm, and inviting. You want your prospective tenants to imagine themselves sitting at your kitchen counter, sipping a steaming cup of tea with the warm, bright sunlight shining in on them. That’s going to be hard for them to imagine if you took your pictures in the evening or in the middle of a rainstorm. For this reason, consider taking your pictures on a bright, sunny day. In addition, make sure you turn on all the interior lights in the property and open all the blinds and curtains to make the property look as warm and inviting as possible.
The best time of the day to take your pictures is going to be when you have the most natural light available, most likely in the middle of the day. Avoid taking pictures when you have dark shadows to deal with or when it is dark. If you live in an area where it rains frequently (such as Northwest Washington), consider taking at least exterior pictures of your property when the sun is out, even if you aren’t advertising it at that time. Those pictures will come in handy when you have a hard time getting bright pictures during the dead of winter.
A Rent-Ready Interior
Before taking the pictures for your ad, make sure the unit is orderly, clean, and rent-ready. Don’t take pictures mid-rehab or before the unit is completely ready to show. Take a look around and make sure there is nothing that will stand out as “awkward” in your shots, such as your purse or clean- ing supplies sitting on the counter or open toilet lids. Consider staging the interior with a few items — such as a vase of flowers or fruit on the counter, or curtains in the windows — to make it appear more “homey.” If you have tenants currently in a property and you know they have nice furniture and decorating skills, offer them an incentive such as a gift card or rent credit for the opportunity to take a few “furnished” pictures for future marketing. Those will be very useful in the future for showing tenants a visual of how the unit looks furnished.
A Rent-Ready Exterior
The exterior should be free of any items that don’t normally belong. If there is off-street parking, such as a driveway, make sure your car is not in it. The lawn should be freshly landscaped with nice lines and the flower beds weeded. If it is a property that has bark mulch, it’s not a bad idea to freshen that up as well. Your goal here is for the property to look well-maintained and in tip-top shape.
Ready, Set, Shoot: Equipment
Now that the property is ready for its glamour shots, it’s time to actually take the pictures! For high-quality pictures, you will need high-quality equipment. No 1997 flip-phone camera photos allowed!
A normal point and shoot digital camera or even an iPhone camera will do the job; however, consider investing in a DSLR cam- era if you really want a professional look. A DSLR camera is going to take higher quality, crisper images, give you wider angles, and allow you control with the depth of field, creating that beautiful “blurred” background that makes the image you are focusing on really stand out. The Canon T3i is the camera we use, and it takes beautiful, high quality shots. This particular camera is currently around $550 dollars but is worth every penny. And as an added bonus, you can use it for candid shots on family vacations! If a DSLR camera is not in the budget, at the very least use a camera that takes high-quality images — the outcome will still look professional if you take the necessary steps to prepare the property ahead of time for your pictures.
Although a tripod isn’t necessary, it’s just one more tool you can add to your tool belt to create professional-looking pictures. You can find a tripod for around $20 on Amazon or even a tripod adapter for your smartphone for under $10, which will give you an even angle (you don’t want potential tenants thinking the walls are slanted) and steadiness.
Lastly, take lots of pictures! Besides being descriptive with your ad wording and including all of the pertinent information like rent, deposit, utilities, and lease specifics, your ad is going to make the biggest impression with pictures. Remember, the majority of people won’t even bother with an online ad without pictures. First, you will want to include a picture of the front of the home, followed by pictures of all the main rooms, such as the kitchen, living room, dining room, recreation room, bathrooms, and bedrooms, as well as the garage, yard, landscaping, patio, garden, and all the special features of the property, both inside and out.
When creating your online ad, include as many pictures you can since you are giving your potential tenant a virtual tour of the property and you will want to show them as much as possible. Craigslist, for example, allows posters to include up to 24 photos, and Postlets allows you unlimited photos, so feel free to take advantage of that space!
[This excerpt was taken from Brandon Turner’s The Book on Managing Rental Properties. For more tips on marketing, managing, and profiting from your rentals, be sure to check out the full read.]
Have any tips you’d add for taking amazing pictures of your properties?
Let me know with a comment!