A friend sold her house a couple of years ago. She called a recommended realtor, agreed upon the asking price and decided the date the house would go on the market.
In preparation for the sale, she completed a few repairs around her house and discussed marketing strategy with her realtor. She was assured the realtor would handle advertising, including taking photos of the house for use in print and online.
The realtor, who has a good reputation for all aspects of successfully selling homes, scheduled a time for her photographer to come out and “snap a few” photos.
The college-age photographer arrived with professional- looking equipment, but he was interested in staying only long enough to “snap a few photos.”
Alarmed that the visual presentation of her home was being left to a disinterested amateur, my friend, who has marketing experience, called her realtor and asked to submit her own photos.
She cleaned and staged every room of her house, removing personal “clutter.” She did the same for the front and back yards. She placed a bottle of fine wine, hors d’oeurves and crystal glasses on the patio table to suggest lounging under an open-beam cover. The timing of outdoor shots was coordinated with the rising and setting sun. A tripod was used to capture a spectacular street scene at dusk.
The photos were not “snapped.” They were planned and staged to capture the home at its best, because they would be the first — and possibly only — views potential buyers saw.
The house was beautifully maintained and priced “right.” It sold before the realtor had a chance to put a sign out front, but after the listing and the photos appeared online. A steady stream of potential buyers kept calling until the sale closed six weeks later.
My friend’s realtor is not the only one who treats photography as an afterthought. Call up almost any real estate website — Zillow, Trulia, national brokerage websites, etc. — and you will find house photos with garbage cans and discarded lumber cluttering frontages. Likely these “quick snaps” were “convenient” afterthoughts.
Whether you are selling a house, product or business service, a well-considered visual presentation should be part of the marketing strategy.
The scope of the visual presentation will depend on the type of property being sold. If the listing is for an older, “fixer upper” tract house, for example, the desire may be to minimize “defects” and maximize “potential” by using only a few photos. If the listing is for an elaborate ranch estate, a more elaborate photo spread may be warranted.
Here are some tips:
• Evaluate the property and marketing strategy. Discuss expectations with the seller.
• Special effects may be warranted. Video, including virtual home tours, are becoming common. Drone flights and 3-D photographs may be useful to showcase some properties.
• Take many photos, not just a few. While a few may be included with the listing, you will need more to sustain buyer interest by regularly posting on social media sites.
• Preplan your photo shoots. What direction does the house face? What time of day is best to photograph the exterior? Can eyesores be removed? My friend asked her neighbor to remove the ladders leaning against his garage so they would not appear in her photos.
• Stage, or compose your photos. Allow a couple of hours for the shoot. Ask the seller to remove clutter. Prepare the rooms to appear inviting. Avoid taking vertical shots. Most people are more comfortable viewing horizontal photos. Return, if necessary, to take additional photos.
• Hire a professional. While necessity occasionally requires me to take photos for clients, I prefer to hire professionals. And the professional should fit the assignment. Listing photos should be taken by a photographer with real estate experience.
• Likely circumstances will require that you occasionally take listing photos. Buy some basic equipment, including a simple single-lens, digital camera, with a zoom and a wide-angle lens. In a pinch, you also can use your smartphone to take some listing photos. Most current digital cameras and smartphones have HDR settings, which allow cameras to take and merge multiple images. This creates a more polished, professional result.
• Watch the many tutorials that can be found online. They provide tips for taking real estate photos with digital cameras and smartphones.
• Have fun. Photography is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to present property to potential buyers.
Maureen Buscher-Dang is a Bakersfield public relations and marketing consultant. She can be contacted through her website www.buschermarketing.com