Lay My Hat
The newsletter for rental home owners, BY rental home owners: helping you use the internet to get year-round bookings.
Wherever I lay my hat, that's my home Issue number 11
  Photographing your home  |  Listing site rankings  |  What's hot at the forum  |  Subscribe to Newsletter  |  Past issues

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In this issue of Lay My Hat, a great tip on photographing your property at its most appealing, and thoughts on just how easy it is to find your ad on a rental listing site.

Also, some of the hot discussion topics on the Lay My Hat forum right now.

What's the Lay My Hat forum? You mean you don't know?! It's where hundreds of rental owners hang out instead of working, and exchange ideas and advice on everything to do with owning a holiday rental property - if you haven't taken a look yet, you're missing out. It's very informative and good fun. The forum is here.

All the best,

Paolo De Paolis signature
Paolo De Paolis
Editor, Lay My Hat

P.S. You can read past editions of Lay My Hat here:
If you have friends who are rental home owners, why not email them this address so they can see what they are missing?

Photographing your property 'on the blink'

I liked this tip from the Lay My Hat forum so much that I asked Joanna if I could run it in the newsletter, so here it is!

The first photo was shot mid-day, the second one was shot "on the blink". Same house, but which is more inviting, and why?

House shot at midday


House shot 'on the blink'

...same house, shot 'on the blink'.

The second one is taken from a more interesting angle, but more important, it emphasises a warm glow coming from inside the house. That's its main appeal.

There is a common misconception that people who are house hunting are looking for photos that show mainly the property's architectural features. Not true. What they are looking for is a lifestyle that they want to buy into, and this is even more true for rentals than it is for sales. You are not selling a building, you are selling dreams that can be lived in and around that building.

The "glowing" shot shown above is easily recreated for any building by anyone with a digital camera, but the timing is critical. It must be taken "on the blink", which is a technical term meaning the half light between daytime and night-time, or visa versa, which occurs at dusk and again at dawn. You will need a tripod, or they will be fuzzy, and you will only have a window of a few minutes twice a day, that's all. Blink and you'll miss it, that's the origin of the term.

Here's how to do it. Even if you have a passion for getting up before dawn, you can't set up your photo in the pitch black, so it's best to go for the late afternoon. Put every light on in the house, well before you need any lights on. Pick your best angle and set up your camera. If you don't have a tripod a table or chair will do. Click the camera every 5 minutes until it's completely dark. There will be 3 or 4 good shots amongst those you capture, and you'll soon get the hang of when the light is exactly right.

Do not use a flash - this will ruin the picture (see below). Many cameras use flash automatically so you have to disable the flash first.

House shot with flash

With flash...

House shot without flash

...without flash.

You can see Joanna's rental property here:

Related photo topics:

- What is the best way to present your photos on your website if you want to show as much as possible without making a page too long or too slow to download? Thumbnails, link to a gallery page, or show them all big? See that discussion here.

- If you have an aerial photo of your house (or any photo), where the grass is brown or the colours not at their best - how much 'touching up' can you do without being guilty of misrepresentation? See that discussion here.

- Ever wanted to have an online photo tour of your home based on a floor plan? Where you can click on different parts of rooms to get the view from that spot? Full instructions and discussion here, courtesy of Brooke from

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What's hot at the Lay My Hat forum this month

  • Have you heard of 'blogs'? Short for weblog, they are a sort of online diary and the next big thing to hit the internet. Web users and search engines love them, and more to the point a blog could be a powerful tool to market your rental property - see how here.
  • The value of word-of mouth recommendations and using testimonials from your guests on your website.
  • Some Lay My Hatters are having problems with Wanadoo losing emails and therefore enquiries - problems and solutions here.
  • And finally - still going strong, the most popular discussion thread ever at Lay My Hat - 'How many towels?'. If you are fascinated by towels, bathmats, flannels, face-cloths, duckboards, etc. in your rental home, look no further, there are many like-minded owners here.

Click here for the forum homepage.

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How visible are your listing site ads?

If you are recovering from the rental season, and getting round to assessing your advertising for next year, here is something else to think about: how easy is it to find your home on a listing site's search results?

If somebody is looking for a house in your location and there are 250 others, how that site arranges those 251 ads is an important consideration - will you appear on page 1 of results or page 5? On some sites you can influence the outcome, on others you can't.

Here are some ways listing sites decide the order in which they show ads:

1. How recently you updated your availability calendar (e.g.,,

2. Number of bedrooms (

3. How much you are paying - for instance how many photos you are showing (e.g.

4. Randomly shuffled for each search, so that each property is given equal exposure (e.g.

5. Randomly shuffled but always within a grouping by number of bedrooms (e.g.

Does it matter? Yes it does! If you are always stuck 5 pages into a search for your location, you're relying on people not to get bored before they reach you.

Important tip: if you are on a site that rewards regular calendar updating, make sure you do update it. On some this can mean just hitting the 'update' button without making a change. On others you have to make some sort of update.

A site like tells you where you will rank if you pay for more photos - vrbo actually tells you the cost of attaining a particular position.

If it is not clear how ads are ranked, make sure you ask the site before you hand over your money. If you're not happy, tell them - it's a competitive market-place and they all want your money, so make sure they earn it.

After you have weighed up all other factors, this is perhaps the last important one to consider before you decide on which sites to advertise on.

Listing sites differ in their approach to this because there isn't a perfect solution. Or is there? Join the discussion by clicking here.

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Copyright 2003-2005 Paolo De Paolis. All rights reserved in all media.