Forget “Curb Appeal.” You Now Need “Screen Appeal”

Fashion couple using a tablet with sunbeams and lens flare

In this article, we’ll discuss the growing importance of “screen appeal,” a term used to describe how a home looks through online images.

In the past, “curb appeal,” a term used to describe the initial appearance of a home when viewed from the road, was one of the most important aspects of selling a property. It acted as the first impression, helping establish the quality, refinement, upkeep, and beauty of a house.

But, as we’ve written before, the coronavirus is changing the real estate industry in many ways. Now, instead of curb appeal, sellers need to focus their attention on “screen appeal,” a term used to describe how a house looks when viewed through online images and virtual tours.

Even before the coronavirus created a significant decline in home showings, screen appeal was on the rise. Long after the coronavirus is gone, screen appeal will still matter. Quite possibly, in the foreseeable future it will matter more than curb appeal.

Screen Appeal: Why it Matters

Virtually everyone looks at online listings before visiting a home in person. This is widely-accepted conventional wisdom, but there’s also data to support this theory.

There are a variety of stats that can be analyzed, spliced, and dissected in numerous ways. In 2018, for example, G2 reported that the National Association of Realtors (NAR) found that 50% of buyers found their homes online, while just about half that (28%) found their home through a realtor. If someone finds your home online, they are almost certainly looking at the images first.

It seems that it’s not just young buyers who are going online. The same report claims that for buyers ranging from 53 to 71 years of age, virtual house tours were the most important aspect of buying.

You might think that talking to a realtor or getting pre-approved for a mortgage would be the first step for most buyers. The most common first step in the home buying journey, however, is looking at online listings. A report from the NAR says that in 2019, 44% of buyers looked at online property listings before doing anything else. Only 17% contacted an agent first, while only 7% contacted a lender first. Only 6% drove by homes to browse properties. This, perhaps more than any other stat, shows the growing importance of screen appeal.

How to Create Fantastic Screen Appeal

How can you make your home look fantastic on the screen? This tips will help boost your listing’s screen appeal.

Declutter, Declutter, Declutter

This is a fundamental principle when preparing a home for sale, and it’s also one of the most important aspects of taking high-quality images for an online listing. Take the time to clean and declutter your space so people see a home that looks neat and spacious.

Furniture Should be Arranged for the Camera

A comfortable, convenient furniture arrangement is not always the best option for images. The current arrangement may not maximize the space, but a layout that shows a more open space may look better in an image. You may want to consider removing a few items to make the area look more spacious. (There we go again with decluttering!)

Lean Towards Bright Lighting

When you are sitting at your dining room table, dim lighting is a great way to create ambiance and charm. But when you are taking pictures for an online listing, it’s best to have bright lighting. When in doubt, turn on all overhead lights and have dimmer switches set to high, creating pictures that show your home in vibrant detail. When showing in person, dim light may be appropriate, but for images, bright light is most attractive.

House on tablet screen
Screen appeal creates the first impression for a property.

Consistent Lighting Matters

Consistent lighting is also important. Don’t have bright lights on one side of a room and dim lights on another; give your rooms consistent light so they look well-balanced. Also, avoid using lamps unless you have lamps evenly distributed throughout the room. A single lamp on one side of a table, for example, can create harsh, unattractive shadows.

Natural Light is (Usually) Best

Opening blinds and shutters gives your home a warm, welcoming appeal, and it can also make the home feel more airy and spacious. You don’t want to shoot images directly at open windows, but angled shots of a well-lit room allow you to show off any windows and glass features while making the room appear more inviting and spacious.

Shoot Images on a Sunny Day, Especially Exterior Shots

Want to make your home look like a dreary haunted house? Then by all means shoot exterior images on a cloudy, rainy day. However, if you actually want to sell your home, you should make it look cheerful and bright by shooting images on a sunny day.

Drone Images Sell Homes

Whatever home someone buys, they won’t actually view the property from the sky, so why do drone images help sell properties? We’re not sure, but they do. An article from The Close, a digital real-estate insight publication, cites data proclaiming that real estate listings with drone images sell about 68% faster on average than listing without.

When in Doubt, Hire a Professional

If you need help with taking pictures, if you’re not confident using a camera, or if you simply don’t have time to spend shooting and re-shooting images, you should hire a professional. There are many photography companies that specialize in real estate photos, and they can help you create the perfect first impression for your property. If selling your home quickly or getting the best price is a top priority, a professional photographer could make the difference. (And they may also know how to take drone images!)

To be fair, curb appeal has not disappeared. It never will. But when you talk about a first impression, it now happens online, not in person. With these tips, you’ll be better equipped to generate a large group of interested buyers and sell your home quickly.

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I hope you enjoyed reading this article. It's my goal to keep you updated with the latest real estate mortgage news. I'm proud to provide you with 100% original and unique content. Subscribe now to get high quality real estate mortgage content and articles delivered directly to your inbox. Chad Baker is Regional Manager for Cross Country Mortgage. Chad is consistently recognized in the top 1% of mortgage originators in the United States 2011-2019. Got a question for Chad? Call (858) 353-8331 or submit your question online