How to Prepare your Home for MLS Photos

Real Estate Agent with Coldwell Banker, 170 N Main Street, New City NY 10956

Too many sellers forget that their first showing is online via the homes photos showcased via the internet.  They know they have to prepare their home for sale, but preparing for the photo shoot is just as critical.  Margaret Woda provides a great list for any seller, no matter where they live, on how to prepare their home in order to make it picture perfect.

If you live in Rockland County, NY and you're thinking of selling your home, calla me, Leah Stern 914-772-4528 I'd be happy to help you get it ready for sale and help make it picture perfect.

Original content by Margaret Woda

You've already prepared your home to sell, but do you know how to prepare it for MLS photos? 

The photos of any listing are extremely important to its sale because most of today's buyers will first see the home online.  Buyers are looking for a house with the potential to become their home... one where they can easily imagine living.  We can't count on them to mentally remove clutter from photos so they can picture themselves and their families using the space. This must be done before the photos are taken. 

Just spend 10 minutes looking at random MLS photos, and it's not hard to find examples of "what not to do." 

The camera can only photograph what it sees, so I encourage my clients in the Crofton MD area to follow these suggestions for a photo-ready home.


  • Davidsonville HomeRemove all vehicles from driveways, the street in front of your home, and your yard. (cars, trucks, RV's, and boats on trailers)
  • Close all exterior doors, including garage doors.
  • Remove all garbage and recycling containers from sight.
  • Turn on exterior lights to make the home look more inviting.
  • Remove bicycles and seasonal decorations.
  • Edge and mulch your beds.
  • Mow the lawn, remove or trim overgrown shrubs, and plant flowers (in season).
  • Remove old or broken outdoor furniture.
  • "Dress" the front door area with a wreath, flag, or potted flowers.



  • Bedroom - Child ( electric and phone cords by temporarily unplugging them and putting them out of sight.
  • Open all shades and blinds unless there is something unsightly in view or the window needs repair. (Heavy wood blinds can be left down, but open.) Make sure that open shades and blinds are parallel with the top of the window, and not hanging at weird levels.
  • Turn on all overhead lights and decorative lamps.
  • Minimize items on flat surfaces. Professional stagers often suggest this 3-items rule: one tall, medium, and small (Example: a lamp, plant, and a small dish or book on a bedside table.)
  • Minimize the contents on shelves, leaving plenty of open space.
  • Remove toys from sight or organize them neatly in containers.
  • Store valuables securely out of sight, including cameras, laptops, guns, coin collections and jewelry boxes.
  • Hide tissue boxes and piles of papers, magazines, laundry, etc.
  • Remove family photos, collections, and personal/professional memorabilia. (Repair walls, if necessary).
  • Put all trash cans out of sight.
  • Remove all pet equipment, including bowls, beds, litter boxes, crates etc.


  • Remove magnets and other items on the refrigerator surface and items stored on top of the refrigerator.
  • Clear as much as possible off the kitchen counters, including  toaster ovens, coffee makers, microwaves, and cutlery blocks (even if you return some of them to the counter for daily use while your home is on the market).
  • Follow the 3-items rule for counter tops.
  • Put the cleaning sponges, detergent, and garbage can out of sight.

Dining Area: 

  • Set your dining table for company - an oversize centerpiece, place mats, napkins, utensils, and glasses.
  • Remove high chairs and booster seats.
  • Dress your breakfast bar - perhaps a place mat and simple table setting or a tray with a wine bottle and 2 glasses.
  • Put excess chairs out of sight.
  • Remove items from the top of china cabinet
  • Follow the 3-items rule for buffet or sideboard.

Living Room/Family Room:

  • Living Room ( excess furniture.
  • Put photos, memorabilia, and collections out of sight.
  • Remove all toys, dog beds, etc. 
  • Turn off the TV.  If TV is located in a cabinet, close the door.
  • Remove overgrown or dying plants.
  • Make sure your room has one focal point which is visible from the entry point into the room. (A focal point on every wall is simply overwhelming!) For example, it could be the view out the window, the fireplace, the seating area, or an armoire with a mirror above.


  • Make your beds and confirm that nothing shows under the bed (such as under bed storage containers or electric cords for bedside lamps).
  • Remove stuffed animals.
  • Remove your children's names from walls and other visible locations. (It's a matter of safety and security).
  • Follow the 3-items rule for bedside tables and dresser tops.


  • Remove all "fluff" - i.e., rugs, toilet tank covers, and seat covers.
  • Neatly fold your best towels on towel bars.
  • Make sure your tub area is sparkling clean and leave the shower curtain open.
  • Remove robes hanging on doors.
  • Follow the 3-items rule for vanity top and remove all items from top of the toilet tank.
  • Clean bathroom mirrors (toothpaste splashes show in photos).
  • Close the toilet lid.

Yes, preparing your home for sale and photos can be time-consuming, but there's probably nothing more important to a home sale except pricing.

Three of my last four Crofton area listings sold to buyers who saw the homes online within 24 hours of listing. I don't believe it's a coincidence that the sellers of these homes did everything I asked to make their homes photo-ready for these buyers.

Copyright 2006-13.  All rights reserved.

  DISCLAIMER: Information contained in this post is deemed reliable on the date of publication, but it is not guaranteed and it is subject to change without notice.



Margaret WodaMargaret Woda Blog SubscriptionMargaret Woda, REALTOR & Associate Broker
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Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. * 2191 Defense Hwy., #120, Crofton, MD 21114

Posted by

Lora "Leah" Stern - Your Rockland County, NY REALTOR of Choice - (914) 772-4528

Your Rockland County, NY Real Estate SpecialistLeah Stern Signature Photo

Lora "Leah" Stern
Real Estate Salesperson
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
(914) 772-4528 CELL
(845) 634-0400 OFFICE
(862) 345-2463 FAX

If I can assist you in any way with your real estate needs in Suffern, NY Rockland County or the surrounding areas, please feel free to contact me by phone at (914) 772-4528, email me at or visit my website .

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Comments (14)

Teral McDowell
Referral Patners LLC - Murphy, TX

A great choice for a reblog and would make a good handout for sellers too.

Apr 20, 2013 01:13 PM
Lora "Leah" Stern 914-772-4528
Coldwell Banker, 170 N Main Street, New City NY 10956 - New City, NY
Real Estate Salesperson

Teral, funny you should mention that.  I was thinking of including this list in my home seller kit.  Margaret did a great job on this list.

Apr 20, 2013 01:17 PM
Joel Weihe
Realty World Alliance - Wichita, KS
Helping you to use your VA home loan benefits

This is such a great piece of work. This could be put into my initial consultation package.

Apr 20, 2013 01:26 PM
Inna Ivchenko
Barcode Properties - Encino, CA
Realtor® • Green • GRI • HAFA • PSC Calabasas CA

Yes, she did. But if the home-sellers just agree unclutter their houses it would make a huge difference. Good pictures are like the invitation card to visit. Buyers love good clean pictures:)


Apr 20, 2013 01:30 PM
Charles Stallions
Charles Stallions Real Estate Services - Pensacola, FL
800-309-3414 - Pensacola, Pace or Gulf Breeze, Fl.

Never thought about it as a handout but makes perfect sense. I will have to check that out

Apr 20, 2013 01:33 PM
Lora "Leah" Stern 914-772-4528
Coldwell Banker, 170 N Main Street, New City NY 10956 - New City, NY
Real Estate Salesperson

Joel - Sounds like we're all on the same page.

Inna - Love the analogy of an invitation to visit.  I'm borrowing that one, if you don't mind.

Charles - Until you see the pictures, you don't realize how intrusive some of that "stuff" you have lying around really is.  Removing it makes such a difference and cluing the seller into this in advance, makes a huge difference.

Apr 20, 2013 01:39 PM
Jennifer Fivelsdal
JFIVE Home Realty LLC | 845-758-6842|162 Deer Run Rd Red Hook NY 12571 - Rhinebeck, NY
Mid Hudson Valley real estate connection

Leah what a great list.  Spending some time preparing for the photos will result in better photos.

Apr 20, 2013 03:25 PM
Lora "Leah" Stern 914-772-4528
Coldwell Banker, 170 N Main Street, New City NY 10956 - New City, NY
Real Estate Salesperson

Jennifer - As a master photographer, you should know!

Apr 21, 2013 12:35 AM
Margaret Woda
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. - Crofton, MD
Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation
Leah, thank you for the re-blog and the nice intro. 'Love the photo w/ your signature.
Apr 21, 2013 10:59 AM
Lora "Leah" Stern 914-772-4528
Coldwell Banker, 170 N Main Street, New City NY 10956 - New City, NY
Real Estate Salesperson

Margaret - Thanks for stopping by and glad you liked the intro and photo.  This should be required reading for every seller.

Apr 21, 2013 12:00 PM
Joe Petrowsky
Mortgage Consultant, Right Trac Financial Group, Inc. NMLS # 2709 - Manchester, CT
Your Mortgage Consultant for Life

Great choice for a re-blog, lots of great suggestions that will insure a home sells in a reasonable time period.

Apr 22, 2013 03:59 AM
Lora "Leah" Stern 914-772-4528
Coldwell Banker, 170 N Main Street, New City NY 10956 - New City, NY
Real Estate Salesperson

Joe, Margaret did a great job of outlining what needs to be done in every part of a home.

Apr 22, 2013 04:09 AM
Debbie Walsh
Shahar Management - Middletown, NY
Hudson Valley NY Real Estate 845.283-3036

Great reblog Leah - it is so critical to prepare and to do it well.  Many people just don't realize that first impression can set the tone for the sale.

Apr 23, 2013 04:35 AM
Lora "Leah" Stern 914-772-4528
Coldwell Banker, 170 N Main Street, New City NY 10956 - New City, NY
Real Estate Salesperson
Again a, amargaret did a great job on this list. It should be quoted reading for all sellers. Bad photos can deter a buyer from wanting to view a property.
Apr 23, 2013 04:46 AM

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