Old School Thinking: Personal Photos Do NOT Make Your House Feel More Like "HOME" While You Are Selling.

Home Stager with Stage a Star Staging & Consulting Services

Thanks to HGTV and many other media articles on home staging, Sellers are starting to understand the importance of removing their personal photos as part of the overall preparing their home for the real estate market.  However, I've still noticed an awful lot of personal photos in our MLS when I check out the local listings.   So what gives?

Old School Thinking:  Often it is very difficult for Realtors to tell their Sellers that the personal photos have got to go.  Sellers can be very attached and proud of their grand displays of their kids and extended families. On the other hand, one of the old school thinking I have heard many times is to leave the photos up because buyers want to see who lives there and it feels more like "home".

This simply is not true.  Don't buy into that old school thinking.  The way houses are marketed and shown today are completely different than 5-10 years ago.


Sellers MUST take themselves out of the picture.  If you walked into a house with a large display of these gorgeous Olan Mills photos I'm showing here (and I'm being sarcastic folks!)would you be distracted?  You'd probably be taking a trip down memory lane instead of remembering those great selling features. 



The same stands true for those beautiful up to date baby/family photos and wall collages. Yes, they distract too!



Think of it this way:   How would Buyers feel when they came to view your home?  You want them to connect and feel like the home could be theirs.  With all the photos, they'll feel like a GUEST and that they are intruding.  Buyers also get distracted by trying to figure out who lives there and why they might be selling. 

Remember:  "Distraction" equals forgetting about your house and all it has to offer. It's the kiss of death because those buyers just walked out your door and will forget your house completely as they view 10+ more that day. Or worse, buyers do remember the house...."Oh yeah, is that the fifty million photo crazy house? What did that one look like? I only remember all those pictures."


Bottom Line:  Pack those photos up.  Let the house be the "STAR"and on DISPLAY...NOT the people who live there.  Doing so will get you one step closer to a successful sale!


Posted by

Teresa Meyer is the Owner and Lead Staging Designer at Stage a Star, Cincinnati's Premiere Real Estate Staging company located in Cincinnati, Ohio. Teresa is an Accredited Staging Professional and recently awarded 2011 Midwest Stager Of The Year.  She is a member of RESA, Real Estate Staging Association, RESA Instructor and currently is the State of Ohio RESA President.   Teresa can be reached at 513-379-5488 or by email: teresameyer@fuse.net to answer your questions about the staging process and looks forward to assisting you in preparing and staging your house for the Cincinnati real estate market.


Stage A Star provides home staging services to Hamilton county Ohio, Butler county Ohio, Warren County, Ohio, Clermont county Ohio, West Chester, OH., Liberty Twp, OH., Mason, OH., Fairfield Twp., OH., Monroe, OH., Hyde Park, OH., Loveland, OH., Maineville, OH., Morrow, OH., Deer Park, OH., Indian Hill, OH., and surrounding Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky areas.



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James Downing - Metro DC Houses Team REALTORS®, CRS, GRI, ABR,MRP, MilRes
Real Living | At Home - Washington, DC
When Looking to Buy or Sell - Make the Right Move

Great Advice!  Whenever I take buyers into a home with too many pictures; I am forever trying to pull them from the pictures to show them the wood floors or granite counters!

Jan 27, 2009 03:38 AM #1
Kathy Passarette
Creative Home Expressions - Mount Sinai, NY
L.I. Staging/Decorating

Teresa ~ Great information!  I agree that they are absolutely a distraction. Just to simplify in my own home (that I'm living in and not selling), I try to limit my family pictures that are out on tables and such.  I don't know that if I am selling, I would want prospective buyers (that I know nothing about) looking at pictures of my kids or nieces and nephews anyway.

Jan 27, 2009 03:53 AM #2
Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
New Hampshire Home Stager

The photos do make it feel like home, someone else's home that is!  Great post!  Remove those pictures!!

Jan 27, 2009 05:27 AM #3
Janice Ankrett
Janice Ankrett Home Staging - Burlington, ON
Staging Professional

I agree with you Teresa! I have had to deal with agents and owners that feel the family photos should stay - for that homey feeling. I always try to make them understand that they are a distraction and will divert the buyer's focus from what they are selling - THEIR HOUSE.

I like Kathy's point about all those strangers ogling the kids. Good point.

Jan 27, 2009 05:43 AM #4
Teresa Meyer
Stage a Star Staging & Consulting Services - Cincinnati, OH
Home Staging Cincinnati-OH.

James: My point exactly!  Thanks for popping in here and letting us see an agent's side of it when they are showing those homes.

Kathy: You're right...I've told sellers that too.  You never know who is looking at your home.

Sharon: LOL! Yep..someone else's home indeed!  Selling? Pack them up!

Janice: I am amazed that so many still have that "old school" mentality about the "homey feel" pictures give.  I am seeing a shift but there are still way too many homes with personal photos that are distracting.

Is it just me or is the comment fonts really big?  I think I've messed too much with the html codes in the post.  Whoops.

Jan 27, 2009 06:15 AM #5
Wanda Richards
Shows Great Home Staging and Web Solutions - Roanoke, VA
Shows Great Home Staging

Great post!  And when they are removing the photos, don't forget about all their personal items on the refrigerator.  You can tell alot about the owners of a home just from what they have posted on heir refrigerator. 

Jan 27, 2009 09:36 PM #6
Janice Ankrett
Janice Ankrett Home Staging - Burlington, ON
Staging Professional

Refrigerators and microwaves! Why do people stick and pile 'stuff' all over them. LOL

Jan 28, 2009 06:32 AM #7
Laurie Calhoun
Gloria Home Staging, Inc. - Winter Springs, FL
Seminole County FL Home Stager

Ah, the memories! My family had a picture with the Olan Mills wagon wheel, too! You're absolutely right -- those portraits are just way too distracting. Keep the focus on the house!

Jan 28, 2009 11:52 AM #8
Teresa Meyer
Stage a Star Staging & Consulting Services - Cincinnati, OH
Home Staging Cincinnati-OH.

Wanda and Janice:  Yep, those refrigerators can be crazy!  It's all got to go.  A buyer could stand there for 10 minutes reading through the seller's whole life.  Not a good thing.

Laurie:  I was wondering if anyone would pick up on the Olan Mills photos! Glad to see your appreciation for the wagon wheel portrait. LOL!  Something about looking at Olan Mills photos crack me up. Probably because I have the WORST one of me and my sister with the shadow head shots. ugh!

Jan 28, 2009 10:24 PM #9
Leslie Olson
Leslie Olson Interiors - Greenbrae, CA
Interior Design and Home Staging - Marin County CA

I completely agree about all those "artful" Olan Mills photos (are they still around?). YIKES! I will say that I have one exception about personal photos in a house staged to sell. To me there's something wonderful about a framed traditional black and white wedding photo, maybe from the '40s or '50s. Emotion is such an important part of effective staging, as we try to create an environment that's warm and inviting. Whenever I see one of those classic joyful photos I can't help but thinking, "Awwww..." Very romantic!

Jan 29, 2009 03:49 AM #10
Gina Zimmerman
North Eastern Group Realty - Fort Wayne, IN
Fort Wayne Real Estate

Love the photos and the "artful" arrangements.  AHHHHHH!  I feel like I want to put my hand through the wall.  you can't sell a home that way.  Love the post, T. 

Jan 29, 2009 09:25 AM #11
Jack Gilleland
Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton - Clayton, OH

Need to let my brothers wife read your post.  She is of the "old school" and nothing I say or do will convince her.  Take them down pack them up.

Jan 29, 2009 04:48 PM #12
Kim Dillon
Creative Eye Home Staging - West Chester, PA

I agree with you about the photo galleries!  I DO like one or two framed snapshots on a table somewhere in the home however.

Jan 30, 2009 04:04 AM #13
Hella Mitschke Rothwell
(831) 626-4000 - Honolulu, HI
Hawaii & California Real Estate Broker

How about "senior" sellers who don't leave when the house is shown? I have been on several showings where they are there, oxygen tank hooked up, etc. I'm not making fun here; I know for some it's a major hardship to leave the house. However, it only makes the prospective buyer uncomfortable and they can't leave fast enough. Happened to me several times.

Jan 13, 2010 11:52 AM #14
J. Philip Faranda
J. Philip Faranda (J. Philip R.E. LLC) Westchester County NY - Briarcliff Manor, NY
I guess I'll be the dissenting voice. Too much of anything I'd bad, but a few pictures make a house a home in my view. I don't see how you can hide the presence of children either.
Jan 14, 2010 10:03 AM #15
Larkin (Hathaway) Correia
Keller Williams Honolulu - Hilo, HI

Great post!  I agree the personal effects in a house are VERY distracting to the Buyer & sometimes the Buyer's agent also.

Jan 14, 2010 11:36 AM #16
Trisha P Realty Group
Realty Executives - Leavenworth, KS
"Holding the Keys to Your Dream Home"

Once again a great post, even as an agent I get distracted!

Jan 14, 2010 01:54 PM #17
Barbara Hensley
RE/MAX Properties - Rockwall, TX
Homes for Sale in Rockwall County, Texas

Tell sellers to leave those personal photos displayed...IF they want to distract the prospective buyers away from the details of their home.  Good post!

Sep 30, 2010 09:07 AM #18
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Teresa Meyer

Home Staging Cincinnati-OH.
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