As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Every good Realtor® knows that good pictures can be worth thousands of dollars when it comes to photos on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS)! Once your house and its photos go on the MLS, your listing is “live” on services such as, Trulia, Zillow and other online real-estate web sites and available to Realtors to see worldwide.

Home buyers now go to those sites to decide whether they’re even going to bother visiting a home listed for sale. The impact of MLS photos is powerful: Research by the National Association of Realtors® shows that people who look at MLS photos decide in FEWER THAN 15 SECONDS if they’re even going to bother to visit a house.

What do you need to do to get great MLS photos that will make people want to see your property? First of all, have your home professionally staged! An accredited home stager (look for the ASP designation!) knows how to advise you on readying each living space for photos and for showings. Second, don’t take those MLS photos yourself. A professional photographer—and Realtors know who the best ones are in your area—knows the ins and outs of proper lighting, camera positioning and so much more.

What is the best way to prepare for the photographer to show up and take the photos in the fastest, most efficient manner? I talked with Oscar Mikols of OM Media, a rapidly growing, well-respected real-estate photography business in the Philadelphia region.

“Open space is important for today’s buyers,” Oscar said. Rooms that have open spaces give photo viewers “visual breathing room.” Neutral colors and décor with “small pops of color” are also inviting for viewers, he noted. When people aren’t distracted by outdated décor and furniture, they won’t quickly “swipe” to the next listing.

Oscar and I have some advice to get ready for your MLS photographer’s visit:

  1. Make sure all your rooms are clean and free of clutter. A good rule of thumb is to take out anything from the room that’s smaller than a shoebox. Your fireplace mantel display of Hummel figurines or the international doll collection in the guest bedroom will distract people who want to see the rooms, not your “stuff”.
  2. If your walls are dark, repaint them white, cream or other bright colors, which automatically make rooms look bigger, brighter and cleaner.
  3. Raise the shades and remove sheers and heavy curtains from windows. Bring that natural outside light in.
  4. Take out non-essential furniture and décor. Magazine racks, wastebaskets, occasional tables, ottomans and other smaller furnishings fill a room unnecessarily.
  5. For bedrooms, replace bedspreads that have “busy” prints and patterns with white or cream bedspreads and pack away all of those decorative pillows.
  6. In the kitchen, put away everything on countertops and tabletops, including utensils, paper towel dispensers, and small appliances. Have a few relevant decorative items nearby from which your photographer can choose to “dress” the space for photographing.

Most important, ask your photographer what you need to do in your house before he or she shows up…and follow through on the to-do list your photographer gives you! Photographers aren’t furniture movers and shouldn’t have to rearrange your living room or clean off your kitchen counters in order to take great photos. Making your photographer serve as your home stager eats up valuable time she or he could spend taking multiple shots of the interior and exterior of your house.