It doesn’t matter how perfect your home is—if your listing photos don’t stand out, potential buyers won’t come by to take a look. In our series “Lessons From Listing Photos,” we dissect the smart updates sellers have made to their homes, and how their listing pictures highlight the home’s best assets.
The owners of this Arlington, VA, townhouse had been renting it out since 2007. In 2019, however, they decided to leave the landlord life behind them and put this property on the market.
With just a few cosmetic changes—mostly paint and staged furniture—the sellers were able to breathe new life into this dated property without the cost or hassle of major construction.
As you’ll see in the before and after photos below, these updates made a huge impact on the quality of the listing photos. It just goes to show that increasing the value of your home doesn’t necessarily require a pricey renovation. The home sold in September 2019 for more than $200,000 over what the sellers paid for it.
So what changes made the most difference? And more importantly, how can you replicate these simple—and successful—methods in your own space? Our experts weigh in.
Before: Living room
The living room before was very ’90s.
After: Living room
Now the same space is light and bright.
This living room proves that just a little bit of effort can make a difference when you’re redesigning a space for listing photos.
“The color on the wall [in the after photo] is much more modern,” says designer Katie Stix, partner and design director at Anderson Design Studio. “The previous color screamed ’90s! Pairing the light walls with light furniture and a natural rug allows the room to feel light and fresh. The room gets a lot of light, which is great, and the lighter walls allow you to appreciate the two-tone color of the blinds.”
Nisha MacNeil, design manager at Kerr Construction & Design, focuses on the new accessories in the space.
“Texture is playing a key role here. The tortoiseshell on the wall, the pillows, the jute rug, and the hammered-nickel coffee table are the elements that bring life to the space,” she says. “That is how you achieve a perfect monochromatic design, by playing with textural elements.”
She also points out one of our favorite decorating tricks: layering rugs. An easy way to pull off this look is to use a sisal or jute rug as the base and layer a faux animal skin rug (like the cowhide above) on top.
Before: Dining room
The dining room was dark and like a cave.
After: Dining room
The room looks more spacious.
The biggest changes in the dining room are the new paint color and the brand-new dining furniture. So what do our experts think of this transformation?
“When in doubt, go light!” says Paul Trudel-Payne, founder and creative designer of Casa Consult+Design. “Removing the dark paint and opting for the perfect shade of gray make this room finally look alive.”
Stix says painting the fireplace wall the same shade as the other walls makes the room feel much bigger.
“It makes the room feel like it connects with the rest of the house,” she says.
The sellers also made quite a difference by switching up the bulky furniture with more modern, mismatched pieces.
“The benches are a good solution for more seating and also take up less visual space,” says Tiffany Fasone, owner and CEO of Voila Design Home.
And we can’t tell if the spot above the fireplace has been filled with a TV that doubles as a work of art or an actual painting, but removing the screen makes the room feel more refined.
The bedroom before was just plain boring.
Now it’s a luxe place to rest your head.
This after photo proved that strategically arranged furniture can have a huge impact on the appearance of a room. What felt like a college apartment is now a luxurious, glamorous master bedroom.
“Changing the color scheme and layout in a room is often one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to update without the need for any outside help,” says Trudel-Payne.
The light gray and white palette is key to bringing the relaxing vibes in this bedroom, but MacNeil also loves the small accents of black in the lighting, pillows, lamps, and console table in the sitting area.
“It takes it from beige and boring to hotel chic,” she says.
Speaking of the sitting area, Trudel-Payne says the revamped alcove off to the side of the bed “helps show buyers the function of the oddly shaped room.”
And while some people think putting a bed in front of a window is taboo, this after photo proves that it’s actually an effective way to make the room feel more spacious. The sellers used a black room divider as a headboard in this room, but you could use any headboard you have on hand.
This bathroom was dated and clunky.
With only paint and new decor pieces, the space feels like a spa.
It’s hard to believe there were no major renovations in this bathroom, because it looks like a completely revamped space.
“Painting the room all the same color is genius! It makes the room way more cohesive,” says Stix. “The dark paint made the room feel extremely choppy, and it accentuated the dated fixtures. The white palette draws your attention away from those elements and brings the focus to the airiness of the space.”
Fasone agrees that the contrasting black and white parts in the before photo made the bathroom feel very ’80s.
“The new color choice, serene artwork, and white fluffy towels make the bathroom feel more spalike and more inviting,” she says.
The bulky sectional sofa does little more than provide a comfortable place to sit.
After, the parlor is a light-filled dream.
The revamped parlor follows the rest of the house with light paint colors and more on-trend furniture that brighten up the room.
“The last wall color was very dull and depressing,” says Fasone. “The new color on the walls and the white trim feels modern and crisp and brings life to the room.”
After looking at the before photo, most of our designers were focused on the elephant in the room: the giant sofa.
“That massive leather sofa soaks up every ounce of light,” says Stix. “The before image looks like a man cave where you’d binge-watch Netflix and never leave the house.”
Most home buyers like to see pictures of rooms where they could entertain guests or spend time with friends, and this makeover certainly achieves that.
“In any room that does not have an excessive amount of breathing room for a larger sectional, do yourself a favor and just say no,” says Trudel-Payne. “This sofa/chaise lounge combo is the perfect alternative to increase seating and maintain comfort in the room.”