03/16/13 8:00am
03/16/2013 8:00 AM

KATE CARPLUK COURTESY PHOTO | Kate Carpluk of Town & Country Real Estate staged this South Jamesport home formerly owned by Steve Berger.

With a bite in the air and snow coating the ground, home buyers are less likely to go out and about searching for the perfect house. Instead, they are turning to the Internet to get a peek at what a property has to offer.

“Showcasing a home on the Internet is probably, besides pricing the property, the most important way to market a house,” said Diane Gregory, associate broker with Douglas Elliman in Mattituck.

Nine out of 10 buyers use the Internet as a resource when looking to purchase a home, and 52 percent of buyers use it as their first step, according to a 2013 survey by the National Association of Realtors. Real estate-related searches on Google grew 22 percent in 2012 compared to the year before, according to internal Google data.

“Buyers today have already done their shopping on the Internet,” said Kate Carpluk, senior vice president of Town & County Real Estate in Mattituck. “They have looked at hundreds of homes and come with a short list of their favorites.”

Where realtors used to make lists of homes to tour, Ms. Carpluk said, “the buyers put together the tour now.”

A complete portfolio of quality photographs is the most important part of an online listing, she said.

“The thing that generally grabs people is the quality of the photos, and the number of photos,” Ms. Gregory added. “The more photos, the more likely the individual is to stay with the property and look through the details of the home.”

Nancy Cervelli and Barry Novick of The Corcoran Group in Southold said they hire professional photographers to best showcase each property.

“We take them no matter what the price of a house is — if it’s $300,000 or $3 million,” Ms. Cervelli said. “The most important thing on the Internet is to have great photos with good lighting, or people will go on to the next property.”

They try to feature around 20 photos of each property, and no less than 12, she said.

A professional photographer isn’t always necessary, however. There are tips and tricks to taking inviting photos of a home.

“The devil is always in the details,” said Steve Berger, who recently sold his Jamesport home with the help of Ms. Carpluk. Mr. Berger is an avid photographer and took photos along with Ms. Carpluk, who said she generally photographs the homes herself. She purchased professional camera equipment to do so.

“She’s really good,” Mr. Berger said. “She made sure when she photographed the back of the house that she went out on a windy day so that the flag was fully extended. The little details like that make a difference.”

“You want to take away anything that personalizes the house,” Ms. Cervelli said. “We always tell homeowners to remove as many personal photos possible as well. It is best to have everything as clutter-free, simple and clean as possible.”

“[Ms. Carpluk] said you just want to leave bare essentials. You have to leave enough pieces that are sort of neutral — so people can see themselves sitting in a chair in the living room or see themselves cooking in the kitchen,” Mr. Berger said.

Then you want to “set the stage.”

“The house should be staged properly,” Ms. Gregory said. “If there is an outdoor table it should be set with margarita glasses and fresh fruit, maybe some colorful napkins. You need to set a stage for how the house will be used.”

“Some people are limited in what they can imagine so you try and make it as easy for them as possible,” Mr. Berger said. His home sold within 10 months of going on the market.

Timing can be essential, Ms. Gregory said. Shooting interiors in the late afternoon offers a warm glow, giving more depth to rooms, Ms. Cervelli said.

Shooting the exterior of the house depends on which way it faces and where the sun is in the sky, the realtors said.

“I think it’s also important to do a sequence of photographs,” Ms. Carpluk said.

She said she starts with exteriors, moves to interiors and saves any special amenities a home may have for last.

“The last photographs are often the ones that stay on the buyer’s mind,” she said.

And avoid the cardinal sin of East End realty marketing: a photo with snow on the front lawn.

“Generally, the people shopping for homes on the North Fork, the reason they purchase it is for enjoying the water, the summer people, the fresh vegetables, the fresh fruits,” Ms. Gregory said. “Looking at a property with snow on the ground is not going to showcase that.”

cmiller@timesreview.com