Joshua Vensel of Atlanta sent me the results of a study performed at Duke University in association with the American Society of Home Staging Professionals that is of interest to real estate photographers.
The study results are here. Staging and styling a home is a huge factor in selling a home. And is also a huge factor in getting good photos of a home. Any top listing agent understands this and will routinely doing all these 15 things on this list. Since my shooting is mostly for my wife's listings and my wife has been to Barb Swartz's classes and is a big advocate of all these staging items, I routinely got in trouble for not removing shampoo bottles from showers, tooth brushes from bathrooms and coffee makers from kitchen counters. Most high-end architectural shoots include a stager or stylist to setup the room for a shoot. This is just part of getting the best interior shots possible.
As a real estate photographer you will not always be working for a Barb Swartz trained listing agent but you can have a "how to prepare for a photographic shoot of your home" handout that you give to your clients. And you can easily take time to move aside all the clutter. This can make a huge difference in what the photos look like.
My experience is that very few home sellers are good at getting their home in shape for a shoot. It takes a pushy listing agent to be on site while you shoot and help remove garbage cans, pet dishes and the like. If your client, the listing agent is not on site helping with this activity, you need to be pushy with the home owner to make the home looks good. Of course there are limits to what you can do. A strong handout that reminds the agent and the home owner of all the standard de-cluttering that needs to occur before the shoot starts will help.