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Can I have my pet turtle in my real estate pictures?

Lindsay Smithindsay

By Lindsay Smith/Real Estate Columnist

I had a conversation years ago with a client who owned a makeup studio. She was looking at homes and suggested that looking for homes was similar to being single and looking at profiles on dating apps. She mentioned “if the profile doesn’t look appealing you swipe and move on.” I feel that when buyers are searching for homes, they use a similar approach.

I am seeing a range of online presentations that realtors are using to market their properties for sale. Here are a few things I have noticed:

  • Pictures of rooms sideways.
  • An image of a room with headphones on the floor, a can of shaving cream and a bag of garbage.
  • A picture of a bathroom with the agent holding a cell phone in the mirror.
  • Pictures of homes covered in snow… in June.
  • Time stamps on pictures dated five years ago.
  • Cats, children, neighbours, Lego and Christmas trees, (again in the summer time.)
  • Toilets with open lids, open dishwashers and back to toilets… with training potty seats sitting up and proud.
  • A Timmie’s cup on the kitchen counter of a home over $1 M
  • Five toilet rolls, four boxes of Kleenex and the doors of a fridge open. (Listed over $1,500,000.)
  • A dog, in a cage, inside the home standing and barking like someone was breaking in.

It would be easy to comment, “everything sells so why spend money on expensive photography, virtual tours or staging.” This could not be further from the truth. There is a retail term, “shelf positioning.” This means the most saleable products are at “eye level” when you walk down the aisle, making them easy to spot and place in your cart. How we “display” this term in real estate sales is with 3D virtual tours, professional photographs, staging making the home look its best, offering builder style floorplans, and most importantly, targeting the group most likely to buy the home.

I recently sold a penthouse condo for over $1,000,000 and prior to it hitting the market I decided to do some test marketing to see how people in a targeted group would respond. I called the condo the “Ritz Carlton of Durham Region” and targeted the area in downtown Toronto around… you guessed it the Ritz Carlton. The response was overwhelming. This ensured we had a property worthy of the asking price and determined that it would sell quickly. It took less than two weeks. The virtual tour and pictures made the condo look like it was out of the pages of Architectural Digest. This was a one-of-a-kind property, however is attention to detail as important when marketing a home in an average price range? My belief is that it is not as important, it is critically important. This is how a home that may have 10 or 15 similar price homes available for sale, shine and become the one who gets the bids and top price.

When I am creating a marketing strategy for a home I am hired to sell, I start at the beginning of a buyer’s home search. I create an appealing price range for the home and then ensure the first image they see is one that causes interest to want to find out more. Next, letting the buyers choose a 3D virtual tour or still photos to view. Once they have gotten excited, they can view the floor plans to see the traffic flows of the home. This is what causes the email or phone call to either our team or to the agent that the buyer is working with.

I will say that when a buyer sees images of toilet rolls and barking dogs, they tend to swipe and move to the next property for sale.

Part of a skilled real estate marketer is technical, part attention to detail, and part is keeping the toilet lids down and bags of garbage out of the images.

If you have any questions about the above information, or if you have any funny real estate pictures, I can be reached at