Why should a Lake Sinclair seller take down their photos?

When I ask sellers to de-personalize their home I get resistance sometimes.  Sellers will say, "but, this is showing us having fun at the lake", "but, we caught that fish right off the dock" or "but, this is the lifestyle we found intriguing when we moved to the lake".  Then when buyers get back to the office and we're sorting out which homes are in the keep pile and which are in the that's not the house for us pile it ALWAYS seems that those homes that very personal to the sellers are put into the "that's not the house for us" pile.


Well it's because the homes that end up in the we're not considering that one pile are ones people name the "thimble collection house, the post card house, the GA bulldog house, the doll house, the dead animal house, the flea market house".  And folks, I didn't make those house nick names up.  Those words were from buyers mouths to my ears and each of those homes went right into the "that's not the house for us" pile.  

Some of them were really nice houses. But when buyers can't see the house, see the space and envision their things in a home for looking at all your "stuff" they can't see the house. They won't remember the house.  No matter how great you think that GA bulldog bar looks in the basement a buyer who is a Clemson fan is going to immediately start finding objections to your house.  I've seen it happen time and time again.  I try to explain what I mean by "photo ready" and some people get it and others don't.

I recently had a buyer who I actually said "it needs to look like no one lives here" and she completely got that.  Her house was totally transformed. Her husband wasn't too pleased that he couldn't find the coffee when he woke up, but their house went pending in less than two weeks.

The two photos are of a home I listed last year.  It took some convincing after they moved to get them to removed the shelving and repaint the room. But the home sold pretty quickly after the painting was done. It seemed buyers could not see that room as a bedroom with those shelves in it.

I know it's incredibly hard if you live there, but it can be done. And if it's a weekend house, just take your personal stuff you don't want to leave with the house and pack it up and move it out. You are selling your "house", not your home. Buyers need to be able to visualize their things in a house and sometimes they can't do that if they area distracted while looking at your things.  When I read Kent Temple's post of tips to do before you list today, I thought, if only they would. So thanks Kent for inspiring me to do a little show and tell of why a seller should head that very good advice about de-clutter and de-personalize.

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Comment balloon 45 commentsTammy Lankford, • September 13 2015 11:22AM


as the doctors say, "Do no harm"  if the house makes some love it, it likely makes more hate it.

Posted by Mike Rock, Granite Bay Luxury New Construction...For Less (Complete Design) over 5 years ago

The only thing I take exception to is "making it look like no one lives there". That's going to extremes IMHO.

Posted by Roger D. Mucci, Lets shake things up at your home today! (Shaken...with a Twist 216.633.2092) over 5 years ago


We heard about issues with sellers' homes from buyers all the time. Now and then there is someone who can and does look past certain items, but it's taking a big risk.

I've heard mixed feedback on photos, at least in moderation. I've had some buyers say they like seeing some personal photos, especially those of the owners enjoying the house and yard, because it makes them feel good about the people who live there, and they found that welcoming.

Figuring out what works and not is the challenge, and some buyers simply cannot see beyond any personal stuff. A vacant home is the other extreme to a cluttered one


Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude (eXp Realty of California, Inc.) over 5 years ago

Lots of the home here are sold furnished as there is a bunch of vacation rentals here. If it is a owner occupied I stress decluttering. But seller has to have a life also.

Posted by Bill Reddington, Destin Florida Real Estate (Re/max By The Sea) over 5 years ago

Tammy, The feeling of making it look like no one lives here sounds to me like a well-staged home.  Getting rid of so much personal stuff is so helpful in getting a home sold.

Posted by Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist, Probate Real Estate (KD Realty - 408.972.1822) over 5 years ago

MIKE ROCK sometimes your comments puzzle me.

Roger D. Mucci perhaps I should say "make it look like ANYONE lives here" and not "no one". But my seller a few weeks ago had tons of little things that said "me me me" all over the place and well some of them are actually vacationing at my office waiting her to move into the new house. LOL

Jeff Dowler CRS figuring out buyers can be a challenge too.  And sometimes I throw houses into the mix once I know buyers can indeed see past "stuff"  And honestly I've never really found a vacant home a challenge.  Could be because "lake" and "view" are so important to my buyers.


Posted by Tammy Lankford,, Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville (Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668) over 5 years ago

Kathleen Daniels I truly get Roger's point and perhaps do need to rethink the actual phrase I used.  And absolutely what I meant was it needed to look as if anyone would move right in and begin to enjoy it. As for "staging" don't I wish we had someone local to do that we don't.  And it costs an arm and a leg to get someone down here from Atlanta.

Bill Reddington if they really want to sell sometimes they have to pack up some of their life.  And I do mean people who have clutter and personal items to the extreme.  We seem to see a lot of that.

Posted by Tammy Lankford,, Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville (Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668) over 5 years ago

Tammy - the point for the seller is that you don't want the house to say you.  You want it to be a blank slate.

Posted by Grant Schneider, Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes (Performance Development Strategies) over 5 years ago

I live in a very small town, where people are apt to know each other. I can't count how many times the house lost the buyer's attention because he or she was looking at the photos. Once, while viewing some sort of team photo, once of them even said - "Look, I'm in this picture!"

Posted by Marte Cliff, Your real estate writer (Marte Cliff Copywriting) over 5 years ago

Grant Schneider exactly.

Marte Cliff we're a small town and I'm sure the "town folk" who move from one house to another do get some of that. However our typical buyer out at the lake is not local.  It's very rare for someone to be local and buying on the lake.

Posted by Tammy Lankford,, Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville (Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668) over 5 years ago

Yes, excellent point.  You want others to imagine themselves in it.  Great point on the teams.  Here in NY, we have 2 major football teams and baketball teams, so you have a 50/50 chance of annoying someone.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) over 5 years ago

Some buyers can look beyond pictures and personal things and others can't.  A seller needs to always depersonalize their house.  A buyer wants to see themselves having fun in a house, not the sellers.  A few pictures are fine but the 12 family generations on the wall and mounted animal heads need to go!

Posted by Shirley Coomer, Realtor, Keller Williams Realty, Phoenix Az (Keller Williams Realty Sonoran Living) over 5 years ago

Debbie Gartner our buyers come from all over and people get really annoyed about sports loyalties.  I just sit back and keep my mouth closed.  I didn't even tell people where my children were in college.

Shirley Coomer yes on the mounted animal heads and lot of fish here too.  some buyers are immediately turned off and it doesn't matter how great the house is.

Posted by Tammy Lankford,, Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville (Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668) over 5 years ago

This is soooo true!  You want buyers to look at THEIR potential home, not the stuff in YOUR home. There is no place in a real estate listing for personal, political, religious, or sports memorabilia and photos IF you want to sell your home quickly and at top dollar.

Posted by Margaret Woda, Maryland Real Estate & Military Relocation (Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.) over 5 years ago

If they are truly serious about selling they do what it takes.

Posted by Evelyn Johnston, The People You Know, Like and Trust! (Friends & Neighbors Real Estate) over 5 years ago

Excellent blog Tammy and oh so true. I have heard people say the exact expressions you mention and it is not positive.

Posted by Noah Seidenberg, Chicagoland and Suburbs (800) 858-7917 (Coldwell Banker) over 5 years ago

Margaret Woda sometimes it's a shame that people can't look past stuff, but I've seen it over and over that most just can't.

Evelyn Johnston I find people who are very emotional about their homes are the hardest to get to de-personalize them.

Noah Seidenberg no it doesn't seem to be a positive thing when they start on those comments. Those houses go right into the trash can pile.

Posted by Tammy Lankford,, Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville (Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668) over 5 years ago

We always ask our sellers to remove family photos, along with furniture if it's too big, too much of it, or it doesn't work well to show off the house. 

Posted by 1~Judi Barrett, BS Ed, Integrity Real Estate Services -IDABEL OK (Integrity Real Estate Services 118 SE AVE N, Idabel, OK 74745) over 5 years ago

do no harm simply means, dont alienate anyone with your Taste, if you can help it...you may have a Raiders football room and i hate the raiders... do no harm is part of the medical creed/oath

Posted by Mike Rock, Granite Bay Luxury New Construction...For Less (Complete Design) over 5 years ago

I completely agree and when buyers walk into a house they need to be able to feel like it will be their house!  When a home as a lot of personal stuff within it, the buyers tend to think that the sellers aren't wanting to move.

Posted by Brian England, MBA, GRI, REALTOR® Real Estate in East Valley AZ (Vacasa) over 5 years ago

Tammy this is a conversation that I have so often and almost all our sellers understand 1) the house will sell faster 2) and most likely for more money if it's prepared properly.

Posted by Anna Banana Kruchten CRS CRB, Phoenix Broker, 602-380-4886 (HomeSmart Real Estate BR030809000) over 5 years ago

You are so right about the way a buyer will designate a house.  We were into one and the family had all manner of taxidermied animals  the buyer called it the hunter's house

Posted by Ed Silva, Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally (Mapleridge Realty, CT 203-206-0754 ) over 5 years ago

Judi K Barrett hope you are most successful with getting them to agree.

Brian England never really thought of it like that, just that they can't visual their things there, but you have a good point.

Anna Banana Kruchten more times than not sellers agree, lately we've seen more push back than usual.

Posted by Tammy Lankford,, Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville (Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668) over 5 years ago

You inspired me to write a post about the little talk I give my Sellers..

Posted by 1~Judi Barrett, BS Ed, Integrity Real Estate Services -IDABEL OK (Integrity Real Estate Services 118 SE AVE N, Idabel, OK 74745) over 5 years ago

Great point Tammy Lankford .....sometimes it's just the best thing to do!

Great job ....Hope you have a great week!

Posted by Rob Thomas, Bristol TN-VA & Tri Cities Agent, ABR, GRI, e-Pro (Prestige Homes of The Tri Cities, Inc. CALL....423-341-6954) over 5 years ago

Tammy Lankford from my personal experience - couple of homes that are vacant (No one lives there) is totally de-cluttered and de-personalized! However, it's a challenge to sell, even in this market.

We can blame it on price, however, I have 30+ showings (average 3-5/week and few of them are more than once!) and priced below any other smaller homes in the same neighborhood - and the home looks good!

Posted by Praful Thakkar, Andover, MA: Andover Luxury Homes For Sale (LAER Realty Partners) over 5 years ago

I agree Tammy Lankford people love their photos and stuff, especially the stuff on the fridge!  Buyers need to see the place as their own without the seller's photos for distraction.

Posted by Christine O'Shea (Christine E O'Shea Broker) over 5 years ago

Judi K Barrett I liked that

Rob Thomas buyers have a hard time making it feel like home.

Praful Thakkar that's a whole different ball game.  I'm talking clutter and full of personal things vs. not being. 

Christine OShea Yes I ask them to de-clutter the frig too.

Posted by Tammy Lankford,, Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville (Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668) over 5 years ago

Buyers do get an impression of a house and they do give them nicknames. One of the buyers I was working with called a house with a sump pump that exited out the side of the house the "pee House"  woops.

Posted by Joan Whitebook, Consumer Focused Real Estate Services (BHG The Masiello Group) over 5 years ago

Good morning Tammy. Very well done post and important topic when marketing a home that is occupied.Some folks go overboard, so the listing agent needs to do some educating, most sellers will understand the importance of the coaching.

Make it a great week!

Posted by Joe Petrowsky, Your Mortgage Consultant for Life (Mortgage Consultant, Right Trac Financial Group, Inc. NMLS # 2709) over 5 years ago

Thank you for sharing the great tips and the photos. Have  a good day.

Posted by Gita Bantwal, REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel (RE/MAX Centre Realtors) over 5 years ago

The life of the person who owns the home, is selling it. The grandchildren are the center of it and it shows if allowed to in the grand tour. We don't sterilize it.

Posted by Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573, Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker (MOOERS REALTY) over 5 years ago

I've noticed that even as a "professional" if I'm showing a home with too many personal items and pictures, I get all caught up in looking at those things. So if I get caught up, what about my buyers? Besides, I've found that your pictures might just compromise negotiating strategy as they might "give away" your reason for selling.

Posted by Nina Hollander, Your Charlotte/Ballantyne/Waxhaw/Fort Mill Realtor (Coldwell Banker Realty) over 5 years ago

Joan Whitebook that made me laugh,  did you see that house?

Joe Petrowsky most do understand, but it's so frustrating when you come across the ones who don't

Sure thing Gita Bantwal, Enjoy your day


Posted by Tammy Lankford,, Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville (Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668) over 5 years ago

Andrew Mooers packing up the drawings from the frig and the photos keeps buyers on point looking at the house.  I don't think packing the photos of my grands would make them any less the center of my world.

Nina Hollander I think that could be true for all of us.

Posted by Tammy Lankford,, Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville (Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668) over 5 years ago

Buyers want to envision themselves living in the home and when it's too personalized they can't do that. Sellers can leave some personal decor hanging up but it's best to neutralize the home as much as possible. 

Posted by Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert, Broker/Owner of Zion Realty ZionRealtyAZ.com (Zion Realty) over 5 years ago

I find it helps to play the part of the buyer and show sellers exactly what a buyer is likely to do if they leave those photos on the wall. Buyer: Well, will you look at this, Martha, doesn't this woman look just like Aunt Louise? Look at the smile and her nose. Agent: Look at this brick fireplace. Buyer: No man, she's a spitting image of Aunt Louise.

They get the idea and remove the photos.

Posted by Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Realtor Top 1%, Put 40 years of experience to work for you (RE/MAX Gold) over 5 years ago

Awesome featured post. I believe there has to be a balance when selling a house. Personal declutter is a must, however, the assistance of stagers is also a plus to sell the house fast and for greater ROI.

Posted by Les & Sarah Oswald, Broker, Realtor and Investor (Realty One Group) over 5 years ago

Tammy, you are so right!  I've seen/shown more homes than I can recall in which the prospective buyers made comments about all the "stuff" in certain rooms and how it didn't let them envision themselves in the house.  Best to put your collections in storage while the house is for sale.

Posted by S. Leanne Paynter ☼ Broward County, FL, Davie, Plantation, Cooper City & Weston Specialist (United Realty Group, Inc.) over 5 years ago

Hi Tammy Lankford ,  Congratulations on the Feature.  I agree, some of those in the reject pile can be quite cluttered with all sorts of personal favorites. We toured one home a few weeks ago.  The Seller was an Archer and had his Bow-and-arrow trophys all over, along with mounted deer heads and boars all over the place. 

Posted by Larry Johnston, Broker,Friends & Neighbors Real Estate, Elkhart,IN (Broker, Friends & Neighbors Real Estate and Elkhart County Subdivisions, LLC) over 5 years ago

I always tell people "this will cost you money". They always get that.

Posted by Richard Robibero, e-Pro, ABR, SRS, Selling Your Home as if it were My Own! (Panorama R.E. Limited) over 5 years ago

Look at it as a page in a coloring book all ready for someone to start coloring in

Posted by Richie Alan Naggar, agent & author (people first...then business Ran Right Realty ) over 5 years ago

"You are selling your "house", not your home".  Perfectly said, Tammy Lankford ... and very strong message ...


Posted by Gene Mundt, IL/WI Mortgage Originator - FHA/VA/Conv/Jumbo/Portfolio/Refi, 708.921.6331 - 40+ yrs experience (NMLS #216987, IL Lic. 031.0006220, WI Licensed. APMC NMLS #175656) over 5 years ago

I tastefully staged home will always sell versus the vacant home with no emotional appeal. Depersonalizing is so important and that includes too much art and family photos.

Posted by Debbie Reynolds, C21 Platinum Properties, The Dedicated Clarksville TN Realtor-(931)320-6730 (Platinum Properties- (931)771-9070) over 5 years ago

I'm so glad this got featured!  Well deserved!  As a home stager, I'm preaching this stuff all the time, and sometimes they listen and sometimes they don't. It's the ones who listen that sell the soonest and for the closest to their asking price...sometimes even over their asking price.

As a general rule, stagers will say "vacant" is not a good idea. In the case of the pictures you share.....that freshly painted EMPTY room is 100 times better for selling than how it looked with the shelves and stuff in it.

Posted by Sharon Tara, New Hampshire Home Stager (Sharon Tara Transformations) over 5 years ago