home selling

Have You Ever Tried Matterport? Is it Even Remotely Safe?!?

Ok, so no...Matterport is not a new futuristic teleportation machine. But I bet you thought that’s where I was going right? As usual… I am speaking real estate lingo here. And yes, it is in fact "remotely" safe!

The Matterport is a camera… a 3D camera to be exact.  This nearly $4,000 camera combines 2D imagery and 3D data to create what they call a “space”. The space is an imagery tour or the ability to fly through physical rooms within (in our case) a home for sale...à la virtual reality! 

The application is amazing and the end product of this photographic process is a “3D Tour” of the home. You get to see every aspect of the house as if you are right there. Flying from room to room, the viewer has the ability to stop and rotate 360° taking in details of the beautiful home from floor to ceiling. 

You can navigate up and down stairs, and the image is so clear you are able to see the finest of details. The Matterport 3D tour of a home is so detailed I have to warn my sellers… “The house has to be spotless!” The camera captures EVERYTHING!

Quite amazing how far we have come from the virtual tours of old. Remember (if you were a Realtor in the early 2000’s you certainly will) the first form of virtual tour? It was a camera on its back mounted on a tripod with its lens pointed to the ceiling. Then the photographer would put a conical shaped mirror that fit over the lens and a picture would be shot… of what was reflected in the conical mirror! Basically a 360° mirror view of the room the camera was in. The end result worked… sometimes. And when it worked, the tour still looked as if you were seeing the room reflected by a distorted funhouse mirror.

 This new format of 3D imagery is a powerful selling tool and it is expensive. The tour cost is based on the home’s square footage and can easily be $400-$600 just for this tour to be produced. It can also be a lengthy process. This type of photography is not quick and takes a good 2 to 2 1/2 hours to shoot a 3500 to 4000 square foot house.

 But is a Matterport tour for every home? No. Personally, and professionally, I do not believe this tour is right for smaller homes. For a more compact home or condo, it can make the experience seem a little cramped and may create a distorted view that the house is smaller than what the buyer is looking for. Also, is this 3D-type of tour good for a house that needs work or at least some TLC? In my opinion… only if the house has a historic feel and has intricate features or unusual rooms to show off.

 There is something else to consider when deciding if your home should have a 3D tour.Are we showing the buyer too much? With all of this high definition photography, unlimited online verbiage, and 3D virtual tours…. What is the real end goal?

To sell the house.

What do we need to sell the house? We need to get the buyer through the front door. Live and in person, the buyers of your home need to experience it in the flesh. All of this carefully executed marketing works its magic when it encourages the buyer to put down the iPad or cell phone and pick up the car keys. There is a fine line to walk between giving buyers an enticing preview that results in a showing versus "virtually" overselling by providing an all-access pass that promotes inactivity.

You can be the judge. Give it a try! Take a look at this 3D Tour of 309 Linden in Oak Park that was created using the Matterport camera by VHT Studios’ photographer, Autumn Latronico.

Selling Your Home? Success is All in The Details.

You want to sell your home. You or your agent comes in… takes some pictures… makes note of the home’s features… and then throws it on the multiple listing service. Heck! those photos may even be by a professional photographer showing your beautiful rooms and lush green and flowering exterior. But is that enough to separate you from all the other homes that got tossed on the multiple listing service that day?

You’ve visited sites like Zillow or Realtor.com… You know how fast you rip through those house photos. What is going to separate you from every other Victorian or Bungalow or Colonial on the market and on those sites?! You (really it is your agent’s job) need to find something in your home that stands out.

 It is my belief that every single home has something special to photographically showcase. Take a look at this door knob photo. The one with all the very intricate details. This was the inside original knob for the homes main front door. It was tiny! Maybe an inch and a half diameter at most.

When I put this house on the market, the clicks I tracked to this knob photo were unbelievable. Higher than any other!

Everything starts with the multiple listing service (MLS). After some unspecified number of hours, that data and all the photos that go with your home will get catapulted out to all the other real estate websites like Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, Homes.com and more… (If your agent pays for that extra special marketing.)

I preach over and over… “Everything needs to be perfect and completely ready for the moment the listing enters the multiple listing service. The MLS is the catalyst that starts the show… creates the hype… showcases your home's personality… and ultimately brings the buyer or maybe… buyers.

 I like to use door knobs and simple hardware when I list a property. Knobs are easy to shoot as they are at an easy tripod level. And I am not sure why but even in the most simple plain homes I have found beautiful intricate door knobs. I think that if a home has been altered over the years the door hardware is something that hardly ever gets replaced.

This wooden door knob found on the 2nd floor of an Oak Park grand Victorian. Builders often spent the money on precious metals like bronze and brass for the 1st floor where the guests would enter.

Look at the door knob plate behind the wood knob. This is some form of “pot metal” which was just a mixture of whatever metals the metal-smith or caster had available.

It isn’t just door knobs that can be showcased. Get up close and personal with other details in the house. Below is a tile surround on a Victorian fireplace. I rarely see these but when I do they are front and center in the home’s marketing. The photo shot needs to be up close and dramatic. Remember, try to be different and catch the eye of the buyer on the internet. “Click” optimization!!

This particular tile was most likely made by the American Encaustic Tiling Co. out of Zanesville, Ohio. (c.1891) (see TileHeritage.org)

This art-glass window in a South Oak Park home on Kenilworth shows great. Art-glass windows can be difficult to shoot for even the most experienced enthusiast photographers. The bright outdoor sunlight behind the glass and a dark interior will require some post processing.

Some homes are so full of details to shoot you don’t even know where to begin. This was the case for one of my favorite sales… 239 S. Grove, Oak Park. This Farmhouse Victorian was certainly not original on the outside with it’s years of stucco over the original clapboard, but the inside had so much amazing woodwork and added detail.

Even little stuff like this bronze sun face on the stair’s newel post.

Remember, there is more to showcasing a home in this digital age than just a bunch of room photos. Get creative! There are details in your home you take for granted everyday. Details that some buyer is going to absolutely love. Stop. Look.

Try to view these details as a more macro photograph on a website that is showcasing your home. Now experiment with the photography and post processing. Go get the attention of those buyers!

Seeing is Believing...but Feeling is Selling

The saying, “Seeing is Believing”.  I like it.  It is true for me.  But when I sell somebody’s home… I do not want the buyer to see the home.  I need the buyer to feel the home. 

I go through great lengths to stage a home’s lighting with the seller before going on the market so that when the buyer walks in the door… they can feel the home… emotionally.  That is what I want… emotional attachment from the moment they enter the home.  Softer lighting is better. Take those energy efficient curly bulb things out and put back the warm glow of incandescent energy suckers!! Create that warm French Bistro atmosphere. Hmmm… If only our homes were still lit by gas lamps!! That would be perfect!!

But how can we get the buyer to feel the home when they are looking online?

Bokeh – The blur or aesthetic quality of the blur in out-of-focus areas of an image. Photographers use this technique all the time to illicit something more of their photos and their subjects. To illicit… feeling. Bokeh can turn a normal completely focused portrait into one that the viewer just cannot take their eyes off. I started experimenting with Bokeh about a year or so ago. Not in terms of real estate photography but just to understand the mechanics.

I came across a great blog that got me started on my way to creating what I needed to be the perfect Bokeh for my home listings.  The name of the blog is The Photographer’s Dream House by Jackie Boldt.  The specific post on Bokeh discussed the four main aspects of achieving desired blur and I was off and running from there.

If you follow my listings or my blog you know I love photographing and featuring details within homes… especially!!!… door knobs!  I discovered that I can feature the knobs and create the feeling in the photograph as well by using Bokeh to blur the background of a master bedroom with a table lamp or blurring the soft light of a kitchen glass door.  

Below… the soft blurred light of the kitchen door in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robert Parker House at 1019 Chicago Ave.

The photo effect helps the buyer feel the rich materials and bright light as well as view the detail in the original hardware.

I didn’t want to just take a photo of the architectural detail or feature I wanted it to be special.  When the buyer looks at one of my listings online I want the photos to make them say, “Honey!! Get the car! We need to go see this house!!!”… not just “Oh… that is a nice home.”

Show Us How to Marry the Old with the New!

In Oak Park & River Forest… we have old homes. And I am always sooooo fascinated by how a homeowner and/or their designer can blend the modern luxury features we crave today with the 100+ year old house they own.

Sometimes… I see it go oh so seriously wrong. The hot-tub in the basement? You know… in the basement that holds your heat boiler and pipes? That basement that is unfinished and never meant to be finished and then in the middle is… this hot-tub!! Oh no.

I had the privilege of selling this home. The owner just … everything they did to this house… they did RIGHT! Sure it is my job to boast about my client’s homes and tell the buying community “how awesome is this home?” But I just had to show you photos of this home so you can see for yourself.

The home is a NW Oak Park classic meaning there are a number of these lighter brick center-entrance Colonials in this particular area of the Mann School district. Take a look at these photos of the more traditional rooms. The sunken living room is so bright and beautiful. Transition through the classic grand entryway and into the formal dining room with perfect custom lighting touches.

Look at the sun pouring through these windows! How can you not be happy with all that vitamin D!!

So unique - these arched bi-fold French doors that separate the dining room from the formal entry foyer! Original… unpainted… amazing.

But look what you find when you enter the kitchen. It is new as of 2011. Is it modern? Absolutely not! Is it beautiful and does it fit this home? The white marble. The custom cabinetry painted and NOT just one color! The subway back-splash. Price the home well and it is a kitchen like this that can be the reason a home sells.

My client built this kitchen to cook and bake with her child. What better reason is there to build a kitchen like this?

My wife Julie and I re-did our kitchen almost ten years ago and there is no better end to the day than coming home knowing the two of us have a perfect space to prepare a family meal. No better snowy Saturday than seeing your daughter baking on her own. No better anytime than seeing Julie and the kids making something in the kitchen… from scratch.

Do you need a $70,000 kitchen to have these everlasting memories? Certainly not. But if you are renovating a kitchen and you plan that kitchen with this vision in mind… no matter the budget… I really do not think you can go wrong.

If you know me or this blog you know I am all about the details. So this homeowner has created a masterpiece of a home. It is classic vintage with all the upgrades you could want. Beautiful new kitchen, zoned central HVAC, water prevention systems and the master bath even has a steam shower! But what did they leave? What details did they look at when they were renovating and say… “How can we save that?… How can we incorporate that into our new vision ’cause that needs to stay!!?” This gorgeous colonial again impresses.

The crystal door hardware with brass back plates remains as originally built throughout the home.

Bathrooms… I think renovating a bathroom in a classic home is one of the hardest tasks when it comes to preserving the details set in the home when it was originally built. The trends pressure us to go ultra modern, high tech, bright and new! But an ultra-mod or new looking bath can really throw the balance of a beautifully vintage home. So what can be done? Do you have an old vintage bath? What can you save in this bath that can keep the character of the home yet still offer you a fantastic new place for everyday use, comfort and luxury?

Take a look at what the owners did with one of the 2nd floor full baths. They replaced the plumbing fixtures, re-tiled the floor and kept this beautiful wall tile with unique gold accented accent tiles. Is it the most amazing update bath job in the world? Did it cost a fortune? No, but is it fun? Is it cheerful? Yes!! I loved this bath and this tile so much I had to get a detailed shot.

For many who love vintage homes the love stops at the front door and they cannot wait to rip out the entire inside. This beautifully restored colonial is about keeping the vintage and adding the new where you can. Bravo!

A Charming Victorian is Reborn

Living in an architecturally historic community, one will see renovation taking place everywhere. And what does the historic governing board of a historic village love to see?… Returning to original.

This beautiful CV (Charming Victorian) in Oak Park was originally, lovingly cared for by my friend and client, Susan and her husband before they sold it. This renovation occurred after their move by the new homeowners. The exterior was stucco and you could tell that the stucco was most likely NOT the original siding.

In Susan's time as the homeowner, the interior was full of some of the most beautiful woodwork I have ever seen. There was no central air… no fancy kitchen… no new baths (it only had one!!!)… but the character inside this rather small Oak Park home was like no other I had seen in the past 15 years of residential real estate.

Look at the house (above) after the stucco has been stripped off. The original clapboard (most likely cedar) appears to be in fantastic condition. Before tearing off an added covering on an old house like stucco or asphalt shingles, a contractor would tell you to to estimate needing to replace about 700-1000 linear ft. of the original cedar (for a house of this size).

Take a close look at the far right side of the home’s front porch. See that black wall? That is not original to the house. The very small addition was to provide for a large cedar coat closet on the inside of the house. Crazy, huh?

This “addition” was done not long after the original build date of the home. It is actually built over what was originally that section of the front wrap-around porch.

In 2013, the home was purchased by a young couple and Susan moved closer to work in the city. And then, as I often drive by this area of Oak Park because my kids are in the middle-school near by… I started noticing something. The CV was being transformed from a Charming Victorian to a Victorian Farmhouse reborn.

The new owners painstakingly worked the home from one stage of restoration to another. And look what they did!!! Beautiful.