So, you’ve bought a really awesome vacation property. It’s going to provide you all sorts of enjoyment and when you’re not using it you can rent it out to cover the costs of ownership and hopefully more. Sounds like the perfect plan.
Of course, if like so many people who have purchased vacation properties, you’ve bought in a popular place, with other like-minded folks, you can trust that you’re going to run into some competition. And while a well-written sales piece is a great start it’s no match for some well-staged photos and nowadays even a bit of well-shot video.
Assuming you want to skip the professional and attempt it yourself, here are a few tips to shoot your place like a pro. However, if you find it’s just not working out, there is no shame in deciding to farm this one out to a qualified professional. At the end of the day, it’s all about getting the place rented and revenue coming in.
A Full on Clean Up
This may sound obvious but it is so important to go through the home, inside and out and make sure it looks like some place you would want to rent.
This means putting away all the clutter, including your family photos and knick-knacks. I promise you can take them back out as soon as you’re finished, but for the sake of the shoot go with a less personal touch. What you may want to do is get some fresh flowers and put out some other little pops of colour such as seasonal throw pillows or couch blankets. These items give the place a bit of style without making it feel cluttered.
On the outside, make sure you cut the grass, spruce up the garden, and wash down the brick or siding if it’s a free standing home.
It’s never a bad idea to have a friend over and ask them to identify things that could use a little sprucing up. Often when you become attached to a place and it’s full of your things, it can be hard to see the forest for the trees, or clutter for the design flourishes, if you will. Of course, if you’ve just taken possession of the place, be sure to get it furnished, bring in bits of colour and then photograph it before you start to place your personal items.
Get a Tripod
They can be purchased almost anywhere these days. Even a little $10 pocket one is going to make a world of difference. You need every photo to look perfectly clear and professional, and while most cameras these days have fairly good internal stabilizers, (even your iPhones and Android devices) having a tripod will ensure you can stage and execute just the shot you want.
Now that you have your chosen camera on a tripod, spend some time composing the image. It’s not enough to wander through your home snapping pictures at random. Each image you post should look as if it’s been thought through. You should know what is shown in the frame and make adjustments to the furniture, accessories, and artwork until the room looks absolutely perfect from the angle you’re shooting it. The challenge for many owners is that they know the space, and know how great it is. On the other hand, if you have never been there before and are looking for a place to rent, you are requiring these photos alone to entice you. With that in mind, it’s always a good idea to show the pictures to a friend who has yet to visit your vacation property. Make sure you ask for very honest feedback.
The best way to photograph a home is to allow the natural light to do its thing. It will depend on the windows and the angle of the home, but ultimately you want to take the photos at the time of day when there is an abundance of natural light coming into the property. No matter how great your living room looks in the evening with low lighting and candles, it just won’t translate into a great picture the way the same room would awash in sunlight.
Post the Images in Order
Once you’ve shot all the photos, make sure you post them in ‘walk-around’ order. The first shot should be outside the home and then use the photos to walk the potential guest through from the front door to the back door. Even if there is a video, do your best to create a proper tour with the photos. Always assume they aren’t looking at the other media and make each part of the post sell.
Invest in a Good Video Specific Camera
Most smartphones these days take pretty decent video. However, going that one step further and getting yourself a GoPro can make a huge difference in the quality of the virtual tour you can create. Again, just like the photos, you want the video to be perfectly clear without obvious shake as you walk around the home. And again start in the front and leave through the back. Jumping around makes it hard for the potential renter to get a good sense of the place.
Edit Your Videos
Don’t try to shoot the virtual tour in one go and post it. I know it seems like doing so will make it more authentic, the trouble is, it always looks choppy and amateur. The last thing you want to do is make a prospective renter dizzy watching your virtual tour.
If you have a Mac it will have come with iMovie, a very easy to use non-linear video editing software. If you have a PC there is a good chance it came with Windows Movie Maker which, is also quite easy to get around. In the event that your computer didn’t come with video editing software, Pinnacle Studio is easy to use, relatively inexpensive software that can be purchased online.
Transition Between Images
Whether it’s your photo slide show or your virtual video tour make sure each image or scene transitions smoothly. All video editing software comes with a selection of fades and wipes that can be dropped between the bits of footage to create a smooth progression throughout the tour. Don’t get too carried away with crazy star wipes or cube spins, a simple cross-dissolve will do the job nicely and draw very little attention to itself.
Consider a Soundtrack
Not anything imposing or avant-garde. Simply some light classical music that can add a soothing element to the video without upstaging the property, which of course should always be the main attraction. If you get the slightest sense that the music is distracting from the virtual tour, swap it for something even softer.
Use Your Voice
Consider the possibility of creating a voiceover for your virtual tour. What you will want to do is write it out before and then record it as an audio track on the video editing software. You will want to keep it simple and friendly. Briefly describe each room as you go through and, of course, what makes it such a great place to rent overall. Don’t get carried away. The same principle applies here, the property should be the main attraction, not the narrator.
The Use of People
This one could really go either way, so be prepared to forget about it if it just isn’t working. Have a few of your friends and family positioned out by the BBQ or sitting by the pool. If there is a bar in the home, show people relaxing with a drink. The important part is that you have the people behave as if there is no camera around. You don’t want them looking at the camera or trying to interact with it, you simply want to convey the impression of people using the space and having fun. It could really add a bit of life to your virtual tour or it could look really ridiculous. If you can’t make it work right, leave it out.
Each of these tips will help you get your vacation property looking it’s best for potential renters. Just remember to have fun with the process and never lose sight of the fact that it’s all about getting the property rented and everything should be geared to that end!
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