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People always tell Los Angeles–based real-estate agent Jenna Cooper that they can clock her properties solely from the photos. It’s not just the way they’re decorated (although Cooper does specialize in special houses—think: ones designed by Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent and Tiffany Howell of Night Palm). “I think it’s my vernacular for telling that story,” explains Cooper. “It’s the way I line up the shots and edit them down. I might have 20 amazingly beautiful pictures, but I don’t need to show them all.” Cooper, who worked in the movie business before launching her real-estate firm and home accessories shop +COOP, starts every potential sale by coming up with a marketing angle. “With movies, a studio executive would hear a pitch from the writer and say, ‘What’s the one-sheet? How are we getting people to the theater?’ I think about houses in the same way,” she says. 

While the common advice for staging a house and getting it listing-ready is to depersonalize it, Cooper’s approach is quite the opposite. “I’m selling the life that is lived within those four walls, which might include how the people before did it,” she shares. Yes, some family photos can stay on the walls. No, you don’t have to stick a batch of cookies in the oven before a showing to ensure a welcoming scent. Ahead, the real-estate pro shares her top tips for staging, styling, and photographing an eye-catching listing. 

The Best Story to Tell Might Be Your Own

Because Cooper’s job is to get 20 potential buyers to fall in love with a place (not just one), she starts by imagining who that audience is. Are they a young family? Is it a couple who loves to entertain? Are they artists? Often, the answer stems from how the house is already being used. “Maybe the sellers are writers with an amazing book collection and it’s a cluttered mess, but it’s a beautiful mess. That’s my way in,” shares Cooper.

Declutter While Giving Small Treasures Room to Shine

A resin salad bowl or leather woven vase alone won’t sell a home, but it’s items like these that help complete a necessary layer of lived-in-ness. “I’m always looking for unique pieces to complement a storied home and objects with meaning,” notes Cooper. It’s why she ultimately launched +COOP, a place for her to share the chic finds she uses to style the listings she represents. In cases where she needs to source larger pieces of furniture, Cooper will peruse the aisles of CB2 and Lulu and Georgia (specifically recent collaborations from the brands) and fill in the gaps with vintage items. 

You Can Leave Some Pics Out

Before you box up your framed family photos because someone told you it makes it easier for buyers to picture themselves in your home with you out of the picture, think again. While personal framed photos on counters are a definite no for Cooper, ones that are displayed in a gallery wall format can stay. The only other major personal belongings that she prefers to hide are plastic kids’ toys. “Consider putting them in big neutral baskets for storage, or just pack them up and get them out of the house,” she says. 

Don’t Try to Capture Everything in a Room at Once

The secret to attractive listing photos: “Good lighting. Period,” attests Cooper. If the sun isn’t shining, she’ll often reschedule the shoot for a different day. She also relies on interior and architectural photographers as opposed to traditional real-estate photographers, because they steer clear of wide angle shots that distort the actual space. 

As for showing off curb appeal, when capturing a home’s exterior, Cooper always has a leaf blower and broom on hand to make sure dried-up leaves and disheveled mulch beds don’t ruin the shot. 

Set the Mood Without Candles

On showing days, Cooper keeps the story going by making the house feel like whoever lives there (even if they aren’t actually living there) has recently left to do something fabulous—but not before they have just cut fresh flowers from the garden. “Judging from the kitchen countertops, one could assume that they will cook an amazing meal when they come home, as evidenced by bowls of fresh produce and citrus,” she says. 

If there are built-in speakers, Cooper and her team will put on a mellow playlist. Lighting a million candles isn’t necessary, she points out: It can make things feel overly planned or like you might even be trying to cover something up. “The vibe should be on point but not overly contrived,” she says.