Are you really taking photos of your listings with your iPhone? As Dr. Phil says, how’s that working for you?
You caution your sellers about the importance of curb appeal. You counsel them to clean up and maybe even stage the home’s interior. Then you come along, snap some quick photos on your smartphone and slap them on the MLS.
While curb appeal is your client’s responsibility, web appeal is yours. You have one chance to impress – a scant two seconds to grab a buyer’s attention without a photograph and 20 seconds with one. Do iPhone listing photos or those you take with a point-and-shoot camera make optimum use of those valuable seconds?
Why High-Quality Listing Photos Matter
When the typical buyer looks at an online listing, the first thing she does is look at the photo, according to Michael Seiler, founder and director of the Institute for Behavioral and Experimental Real Estate at Old Dominion University at Norfolk, Va.
“We find that the photo is overwhelmingly viewed first,” concludes Seiler’s study, “Toward an Understanding of Real Estate Homebuyer Internet Search Behavior: An Application of Ocular Tracking Technology.”
Photos are overwhelmingly viewed first in real estate listings.
Agents that just can’t find the time to photograph their listings – an alarmingly common occurrence – and rely on a pithy description instead, may reconsider that behavior in light of the fact that most Internet home shoppers won’t even look at listings without photos. Even when a listing includes photos, 40 percent of all participants donn’t even look at the agent remarks section.
What professional listing photos look like:
What iPhone listing photos look like:
Images courtesy of Ben Freedman and HookedOnHouses.net.
What Professional Listing Photographers Brings to the Table
According to a 2010 Redfin study, homes that are professionally photographed sell for at least $934 and as much as $18,819 more than homes photographed by an amateur. The study also shows that homes photographed by a professional garner 61 percent more online views.
Professionally-photographed homes sell for up to $19,000 more.
The key to getting these results is in creating inspiration, according to real estate photographer Jay Groccia. Effective marketing photos are inspirational. If homebuyers perusing the Internet get inspired by a photo, “they’ll click through to the agent’s website. If they don’t, they click “back” to view the next result in the search list,” Groccia explains.
“That was it – right there – that was your opportunity to grab that buyer’s attention, and if they clicked back, you’ve lost them forever,” he cautions.
“But I Own a Really Good Camera … “
Many agents fancy themselves photographers merely because they bought a high-end camera and taught themselves how to use it. There is an art, however, to good photography. The skilled professional knows how to use composition, color and lighting to make a photo more appealing. Owning a great camera makes one no more a professional photographer than owning a Wolf range makes one a professional chef.
To illustrate this further, real estate photographer John Becker tells a story about a blues fan who attended a B.B. King concert and was able to meet him in person after the show.
“Backstage, he thanked Mr. King and said, ‘I’ve always admired that particular guitar – it sounds so good!’ Mr. King’s response was to take the guitar off his shoulder, lay it on a table, and ask, ‘How does it sound now?'”
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How Much Do Professional Listing Photographers Cost?
In an online real estate forum, the question of whether to use a professional photographer for listing photos was met mainly with the lament that photographers “cost too much.”
Although we can’t find a study on the average fees that a real estate photographer charges, we do know that they vary across the country, with photographers in New York being the priciest.
Hiring a professional listing photographer costs 0.09% of the median U.S. home price.
Photographers who hang out at Digital Photography Review claim that $300 to photograph the whole house – interior and exterior – is the going rate. A photographer in Montana offers a menu of options in different price ranges according to the home’s square footage. His prices start at $125 and top out at $300.
Let’s assume that you’re an average agent, working in an average market where the median sales price is the same as the national median, about $222,275, and you take one of those average listings.
If you spend just 1/10 of 1 percent of the list price to advertise the home, it would cost you $222.
Considering your commission will be $6,668 and change, $222 seems paltry, doesn’t it? Kick down just a bit more and you can hire a professional photographer.
The extra money spent to adequately market your listing pays off even after the sale. An additional benefit of drop-dead gorgeous photos is that you’ll be viewed as more professional and get more listings, hopefully with a higher price tag.
Be the Agent – Not the Photographer
Deep down inside agents understand that they can’t wear all the hats in their real estate practice and still adequately serve their clients – especially while simultaneously trying to grow their businesses. It’s the agents who delegate that typically move to the next level.
Even if you fancy yourself a budding photographer and have all the high-end equipment necessary, your time is better spent drumming up new listings and growing your business.
Real estate agents are hired to sell homes, not take photos.
“I used to believe that a good product sold itself,” admitted Phil Knight, co-founder and chairman of Nike, Inc.
Lots of real estate agents fall into the same trap. A good house will not sell itself without your assistance. Even in the best of markets, advertising your listings is essential. Your clients expect it and they’re paying you to do it right.
The next time you’re tempted to pull out your iPhone to snap listing photos, ask yourself this: Would Phil Knight whip out his point-and-shoot and snap random photos of a pile of athletic shoes to be used in Nike’s print advertising?
Your main objective is to “make them dream.” Jaw-dropping photos do that.
Boy, is this EVER the truth! As owner (and photographer) of Ohio Real Estate Photography, I am always amazed by the extreme perspectives realtors have on real estate photography! On one end there are those who, even though they can SEE a difference between our work and theirs, are unwilling to spend the little extra (as you said, a nearly insignificant amount of the home’s sale price or even their commission) to add the “WOW!” for their clients, and those that also see the difference and believe in what we do and think we are not charging nearly enough!!! One of our realtor client’s has had such success marketing her homes because of our photography (several homes sold in as quickly as 13 days and the buyers told her it was specifically due to the images marketing the home!), that, as she said, “I believe in this!” What a wonderful compliment and attestation to the quality of service and product we offer realtors.
Thank you for writing such a succinct article addressing the subject and may many more realtors understand the true value of what we offer as professional real estate photographers! And further, may they understand that the reality REALLY is that they cannot afford NOT to hire us to capture their real estate: )
Couldn’t have said it better myself
Pretty outrageous that anyone would trumpet the fact that they were, and charge as, a professional marketer, then botch the most basic and important element of their marketing. It defies logic.
Great article by Shannon, I love the line “It’s the agents who delegate that typically move to the next level” so true.
In a market where your clients see you and your competitors as “all the same” does it not make sense to get yourself an obvious difference ?
As sales people, realtors (estate agents), don’t half make it difficult to sell themselves and the property they are trying to sell.
This is brilliant. Well said, well written and bang on.
Thanks. sharing out to Twitter and others.
I agree with this article. I have seen some pretty bad photos online when searching for a house. I recently just purchased mine and I had to take new photos to share with my family because they were blurry. That was good for me I guess because less people probably wanted to see that house. HAHA… overall, I think it’s a great idea to spend a little extra cash in order to get high quality photos that will increase the traffic. Like you said, the agent can’t wear all the hats.
Well written article about the differences. I’m amazed when I see things like car mirrors for exterior photos, over exposure, blurry pictures, etc… The picture if the first thing people see nowadays… how is that not important??
Your blog is right on the mark, why is it so hard to get agents to understand photography is so important.
For many Realtors they don’t see the value,
Chuck Overton Realtor
Great article, couldn’t have said it better myself. It’s shocking to see some realtors with a million dollar listing in their hand yet the are nickel an diming for $50! I invest in myself and my business I can’t understand this way of thinking?
In doing “dog-and-pony shows” in agent office meetings, I was often asked, “what do we need YOU for? After all,” they’d say, whipping out their iPhone, “we’ve all got cameras!” I had a million answers till I hit on the right one:
“I’ve got as many answers to THAT question as YOU do to the question ‘what do we need YOU for? After all, WE can fill in a contract!'”
That said, sunshine does NOT make for a better picture, as looking at the video above would seem to suggest: the “after” photos are just as bad as the originals! Since when do exterior walls go up at an angle? Most houses I’ve seen, they’re parallel with each other and perpendicular to the ground! Whoever took those photos should invest in corrective software and/or a lens that lets them take close-up photos from a greater distance … and anyone promoting their work should NOT use them as “examples” of what they can “do” for an agent with a bad camera!
Although this is a good article with interesting facts, the ‘After’ photos are lacking in quality. The converging verticals and distortion is pretty bad. It looks like a wide angle lens was used, but correction software was not. I much prefer the straight lines of the ‘Before’ photos. Anyway, thanks for the article.
Sorry about that, Marlene. Unfortunately, I didn’t choose the photos for this post.
Great article! I would love to see an updated article like this that includes information about 360’s, virtual tours, and drone photography/videos.
Successful brokers know that people buy with their eyes. Good photography will draw people in quicker than a thousand descriptions!
The “professional” photo’s verticals are off… I’d look for a better photographer.
Chris Neibauer Photography, LLC
Very true, they certainly picked the wrong photo to use as an example. I’ve found that I always look at the verticals in photos. Even the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry had horrible verticles!