Home and Garden: Market Ready

The New York TimesFebruary 01, 2012
Q. Should I remove the family photos hanging on my wall before listing my apartment?

A. Clearing out family photos “should be the very first thing you do when you prepare an apartment for sale,” said Elizabeth Kee, an associate broker with the New York real estate company Core.

It’s important “to depersonalize and declutter,” Ms. Kee said, and “that includes picture frames that are located on mantels and bookshelves.”

The reason, she said, is that “you have a lot of different types of people, from all walks of life, with different customs, cultures and religions,” coming through to look at a home when it’s on the market. “You don’t want the space to feel like it belongs to any one group of people.”

Ms. Kee acknowledged that taking down family photos can be a task fraught with emotion.

“I’ve had a lot of instances where people feel like they should leave their wedding pictures up,” she said. “They think that they’re so beautiful, and they probably spent a fortune on them. They feel that having a picture like that shows what a great home it is. But that can actually be a huge turnoff to buyers, especially in New York, which is a transient city.”

However, David Kassel, the owner of ILevel, a New York art-placement and picture-hanging service, isn’t so quick to dismiss family photos.

“With a family photo wall, it may be a good thing if it’s done really well, so people can imagine their own family there,” said Mr. Kassel, who has worked with interior designers like Jeffrey Bilhuber and Charlotte Moss. “Our experience is that people have a really hard time making these design decisions and can’t fathom how to arrange pictures.” In that case, you might actually be doing the buyers a favor by leaving your photos up.

To create a stylish family photo wall, Mr. Kassel offered a couple of tips. First, use frames that complement one another. “You don’t want to have gold and silver frames together,” he said. “Gold and wood frames together are good; black and white frames together are good.”

Also, make sure the pictures are arranged in a grid or with common spacing — about an inch and a half between the frames — to create an orderly composition.

If your photo wall isn’t that aesthetically appealing and you’d prefer to take the pictures down, Mr. Kassel had some advice for cleaning up the wall.

To remove pencil marks and scuffs left by frames, he said, try a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. To fill the holes left by picture hangers, use spackling paste, but be sure to wipe the repair down with a wet sponge before it dries to get a smooth finish that doesn’t require sanding. “You might have to spackle it twice,” he said, and “it’s a lot easier to rub it with a damp sponge as opposed to sanding and creating a big dusty mess.”