Have you ever noticed that you see your home differently when other people enter it?  It looks fine until company arrives and you suddenly glimpse pillows that need plumping, baseboards that need touch up paint, and other imperfections that weren’t visible before the doorbell rang.

When it comes to your home, you have a much more critical eye than people visiting do.  In fact, others may see your space with a completely different perspective, one that could bring you extra income.

In tough financial times homeowners who need cash rely on their home for help, usually by renting out a room or by taking out a second mortgage.  But there are other ways to make money from your home.  People are doing it every year by allowing home photos to be taken on their property.

Look at the covers and inside pages of Crate & Barrel catalogs, Natural Home & Garden Magazine, Luxe and other architectural publications.  Where do you think get their photos?  From people like you.  Most publications employ scouts who regularly look for residences to feature on their covers and inside pages.  The scouts make recommendations and soon the homeowner is contacted with a request for permission to use the home in a photo shoot.

The amount of money the homeowner receives for use of the house depends on the budget of the magazine.  Some payments can be quite substantial.  Of course, if photos of your home have made it into a prestigious architectural magazine, you can expect higher compensation than if you own a cookie-cutter type house.  Nevertheless, the look of your home or property could be an unexpected way to earn money.

If you’re thinking yours is not a model home, it doesn’t necessarily have to be perfection.   Your house may have unusual features, or it may just be lived in enough to be the focus of an article on comfy spaces.  Keep in mind, a publication may not want to feature your entire home, but more likely some aspect of it.  Here is a short list of elements scouts may find interesting:

Historic home that’s had a facelift

Unusual doors or windows

Gourmet kitchen

Special children’s rooms

Interesting indoor lighting

Dramatic landscaping or hardscape

Green home upgrades

Blooming gardens

Art collections


Outdoor country setting

Wide-open scenery (great for auto ads)

Woodland setting

How Do You Get Your House Noticed?

Scouts find appealing candidates for their shoots in various ways.  Some flip through magazines in hopes of finding a home that has already been photographed for another purpose, some actually get on the road to seek what they’re looking for, and some find their perfect home through word of mouth. 

In most cases, scouts won’t come knocking on your door.  So if you feel your house or some part of it might make a great magazine photo, contact the appropriate magazines suggesting why.  It wouldn’t hurt to include a few of your own photos to back up your claim. 

The Photo Shoot Agreement

Before entering into an agreement to have a photo shoot at your home, know the details.  Some photographers may want to wallpaper or paint the space before photos are taken.  They may need to hang drapery rods or make other permanent alterations to your home, especially if they are featuring those kinds of products in the magazine article.  Quite often, items in your home will need to be rearranged or removed for the optimum layout or lighting of the photo.  You will want those items returned to their original settings and the agreement should state that.  What happens when an item you own is accidentally damaged during the shoot?  You will also want an agreement that spells out the kind of compensation you will receive.

If you are out of the home during a shoot, one of your possessions could accidentally get packed up at the end of the day, or destroyed and you might not notice it until long after photographers have departed.  So, it’s a good idea to be present during the shoot if you can.

Movie Shoots 

There are several differences between magazine photo shoots and movie shoots.  The duration of a photo shoot is usually shorter than that of a movie and there are typically much fewer people involved.  And unless you know a location scout personally, you won't be contacting them to use your house.  Scouts know what the film requires and they go out looking for it.

What can you expect when you offer your home for a movie shoot?  When crews enter a home for a shoot, rest assured, the space will be altered.  Not only do cinematographers need to bring in heavy lights and sound equipment, they also need to have crew close at hand.   The equipment will require cables snaking through rooms when the shoot takes place inside, tons of people tracking through, crews eating and spilling food.   The house may need work when the shoot is through so consider this when negotiating the price.  If the shoot takes place outside at night, klieg lights may illuminate huge areas, which may adversely affect neighbors.

I was once present at a movie shoot where after hours of filming, the heat of the lights scorched the white tiles of a low ceiling.  Another incident included a door that was thrown open with so much force the doorknob penetrated the wall behind it.   These kinds of accidents are not uncommon on movie shoots.  The most important thing for a homeowner to consider is the reputation of the filmmakers.  In both cases above the ceiling and wall were repaired to the homeowners complete satisfaction.

Most people immediately assume that a film company will pay homeowners exorbitant fees to use their residence.  While the contract may include repairs/remodeling on the home, or lodging for the family in a hotel during a long shoot, the truth is, fees are based on the film’s budget.  You can expect significant payment if a major studio is producing the film with a large budget, but low budget, independent companies have been known to pay very little, or nothing but the cost of damage and repairs.  In exchange they might offer the homeowner a credit on the film as a thank you.  Don’t minimize a film credit or the prestige of having a movie produced in your home.  It may be of benefit.  An owner with a beach home allowed independent film crews to shoot in her home which was on the market but not selling.  The daytime shoot drew huge crowds.  In her real estate listing she mentioned that the home appeared in a movie, all of which she claims helped sell the property!

Any time you allow photo or movie shoots in your home, check out the principals involved and carefully review the agreement beforehand.   It also wouldn't hurt to hire an attorney to negotiate with a big film company.