Home Buying in Scottsdale>Question Details

Phred, Other/Just Looking in San Francisco, CA

What do agents think about the photos that are included with Internet listings?

Asked by Phred, San Francisco, CA Tue Mar 24, 2009

I have been using several internet sites to look at available listings in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area as well as listings locally in the SF bay area. I know that you can only get so much from a picture, but what I get from most of these pictures is the following message: "I took these pics myself in order to save money." Dark rooms with a blinding rectanlge or two where the window is. Pictures of toilets, sinks, and light fixtures. The occasional exception will have nice photos - well lit, wide angle view so we see the whole room - but then I get several pictures of table settings or flower arrangements. As if we were shopping for those things. Personally as a Internet shopper, I cannot stress enough how important good pictures are. Why isn't more attention paid to this? How about pictures of each room well lit? How about views from the windows and decks? We are going to find out eventually anyway!!

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Hi Phred-

I've written about bad pictures on my blog several times. It's a shame that some of them are so incredibly bad. Personally, for the most part, I take my own photographs. To achieve results I am comfortable with, I use a high end digital SLR Camera, with an extremely wide angle professional lens, and 2 professional flashes, all tripod mounted.

The flashes enable me to get the room light enough so that those blow out windows are blown out white. Instead I try to get at least a soft blue coming through them. Really large rooms are still a problem, however, and a couple of more $500 flashes wouldn't hurt. But they are $500, and so I compromise.

As you can see, camera gear like this is expensive. Thousands of dollars expensive. Most "professional" photographs that a Realtor might hire don't have the gear that I personally do. If I hire a pro to do something special (like those super cool night shots via time lapse), I can expect to pay over $500 for the photos alone.

If you consider the total cost of marketing a property against the commission earned, for many listings a $500 photo shoot just doesn't make sense. It's sad, but true. And so agents compromise.

FYI, views from the windows and decks are SUPER difficult to make look good. The light imbalance from the interior to the exterior makes all but the most talented of photographers cringe.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Mar 25, 2009
I think Realtors have just been slow on taking to the internet- In our area, we couldnt even upload 1 picture to our MLS system until about 6-7 years ago.....
The net for real estate sales is still relatively new- less than 10 years, The average agent is in their mid 50's and likely werent raised in front of a computer screen- these agents are having to learn a whole new set of skills, including photography- some are, many aren't. Old dogs- new tricks, it is really that simple.

If you are a buyer looking at real estate, don't skip over a property simply because the pictures stink- you might be missing out on a nice home, that could be perfect for you.

If you are selling, be sure your agent has an intimate understanding of the internet and the importance of good photos.

In regards to your statement, "I took these pics myself to save money." Well, that is likely case, however, you must bear in mind that every listing agent is paying for the advertising, photos, signs, promotional flyers out of pocket, while hoping that your home will sell, that you and he/she have priced it correctly, and that you, the seller, have given them a reasonable amount of time to get the job done-
In otherwords, if you give your LA 3 months to sell, while the average in the area is a year, you have doomed your agent to failure, and have doomed yourself to having him/her be much more selective in the amount and types of advertising they will do. A 3 month listing in a market where the average time to sell is 1 year is a losing proposition from the get go, for your agent, and you. They are gambling their own funds on the prospect of your sale, and right now, many listing agents are performing charity work for their sellers.
Remember- you get what you pay for, and most list agents do not require a retainer fee- so they minute your agent is hired, they are operating in the red on your home, and professional photos usually only make economic sense on high end homes, with a contract that is at least 1 yrs length, longer if market conditions warrant it.
If you want more out of your list agent, give them the length of the listing they ask for, and price it at the price they recommend. It is a partnership between you and them- treat them as a partner, not your servant.

Foreclosures- foreclosures typically do not have a lot of photos and proper advertising because there is a mountain of additional tasks that are typicallly performed for REO's, that are not performed for a typical listing. Other agents are quick to lambaste REO agents, but they haven't worn those shoes, and have NO idea of the amount of work that is required when listing an REO. Often, these agents are doing 3x's the work, for less commission dollars. they survive on high volume and quick turnaround due to proper pricing- and proper marketing sometimes falls to the wayside in these sales- if they have done the rest of their job right, often marketing outside of the MLS is not needed as multiple offers and quick sales are the norm in this market arena. I hope this helps to answer your question.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Mar 25, 2009
Thanks all - very informative answers. I am surprised that getting decent photos would cost $500, but if so, I can see why agents or owners do it themselves. However as Steve points out, you can spend a lot of money on photo gear in order to do it right. At least a decent wide-angle lens and decent flash are needed. Your $100 camera with popup flash is just not up to the job unless you are taking outdoor pics.

My comment about the toilets and sinks was to point out if you don't have the right lens, all bathooms and kitchens are going to look like that (becuase the room is so small), and really, who needs a picture like that? I admit some of the worst pics have been for foreclosures so I guess I understand the issues there.

I have actually seen listings with amateur photos of views from windows and balconies and I find them very useful (I don't mean photos which give both a good room AND outdoor exposure). It gives a context of where the home or condo sits with relation to neighbors - which I admit in some cases is not flattering. But again, the prospective buyer will see this eventually. I can get similar info with satellite maps, but it is tedious. Amazingly I see listings that mention great views, but no pics of the views!

Overall, the online listings are a real benefit to buyers, even with crummy pics, but with good ones, they can be like being there.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Mar 25, 2009
I have to agree with you on all counts.
When we list a property I take as many photos as possible of each room and from every angle. Then comes the job of cleaning up the photos brightening up the dark ones cropping and resizing them. After this process if the picture isn’t a good representation of the room it’s deleted.
We’re very fortunate that many of our listings are rural properties. Not only do we have the home to take pictures of we also have barns, stables, pastures and even livestock to shoot (pictures of course).


When it comes to small homes and condos it is a bit of a challenge to take multiple photos. As a consumer you may pass up a property with say only 6 or 7 pictures and view the property with 10. For this reason some agents may take the bathroom picture or a picture of a small bedroom that may show you nothing but a twin bed. They do this just to attract you to the listing. You just might skip over your dream home due to the number or quality of the pictures. I encourage you to read through the description of the properties. After all they came up by meeting the search parameters you or your agent entered. If you like what you read about the property ask your agent preview it and take more photos for you, if you’re not local.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Mar 25, 2009
Good Day Phred

Wow, you are so right. I have see the best and the worst of things and I agree with you. I will admit that when I take my photos I'll have some with great success and then what turns out dark I'll brighten it up on my photo shop software. I do want you to see the home in it's best light! Even the best shots won't always give you the same image as being in the home. I would suggest that if the home falls into a search result that matches your "top 5 must haves" in a home you should save it in your folder of homes to consider when searching in person.

When searching out of state the best thing is to narrow your neighborhoods down first and then submit your internet picks to your agent. Have them preview some top picks for you and on your first trip out show you the ones that fit the criteria you have for property.

I'll admit that our first rule of thumb for the seller is to get the potential buyer to be inside the home. More photos are better to get this to happen. Too dark is a mistake and not necessary. All listing clients/sellers should view their homes online the first day online. They should demand more from their listing agent which includes great photos, correct spelling, and clear compelling descriptions of their homes so shoppers like yourself will be "compelled" to visit their home!

View my listings at http://www.DesertRidgeLifestyle.com and I would love your feedback as well!

Make it a powerful day!
Laura Myers
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Mar 25, 2009
Hey Phred,

This may not answer your direct question here, however I have a little insight from your previous email.

My job as a buyers agent is to preview the property`s before my clients step in the door. Obviously more important with out of state clients, so they can narrow down a few property`s to tour on their limited time in town.

After a client has chosen a home(s) from the custom Flex MLS search, I will preview the home and take pictures, of everything, inside and out.
Post them to a private Picasa photo album and email the client a link ....

The pictures of course tell a thousand words, and help the client decide if they want to tour the home.
Big time saver.

The 6 or 12 nice or not nice pictures you see on the listing are followed up by my 100 plus photos. It makes my job easier and my clients happier, because I am not wasting their time.

So to answer your question you have posted......They don`t know any better?
Yes it is tough to take a nice picture of a toilet.

Good Luck
Patrick

Here is a link to one of my relocate video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMuv9CE-x88
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Mar 25, 2009
Mr.P, Other/Just Looking in Arizona
MVP'08
You could not be more correct. My partner and I use a professional photographer to do night photography, and she brings in her own lights to enhance the exterior shots all the more. Should there be extensive views to capture, we bring in a telescoping boom to shoot the landscape from sunset to dark. We find it dramatically increases our internet hits and translates into numerous showings, because the listing -- especially those under $1,000,000, stand out from the balance of the crowd. And it also tends to get the home sold in a shorter time and at a higher price. We do this for all furnished homes, regardless of list price.

My company is affiliated with Sotheby's International Realty, whose guidelines are very strict regarding photographs used to market properties. You will never see a photo of a toilet or closet.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Mar 25, 2009
Phred,

The performance of each realtor will vary, just as each individual from varying professions or trades will.

If you are looking at Bank Owned homes that are vacant, good luck. Pictures will usually be just one of the front of the home on a drive by. Often times it's the wrong photo all together!

Because of the lack of professionalism of some the listing agents, good buyers agents like myself will generally provide enough information outside the current listing that you will have an idea of what the home feels like in advance. Sometimes the buyers agent can find the old listing for the home which will be loaded with pictures and forward those on to the potential buyer.

This is a variable that will just have to be dealt with.

All The Best,


Stew Keene
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Mar 24, 2009
I agree with you -these are the photos that either will or will not capture a buyers attention. With over 85% of buyers now pre-shopping on line , bad photos will be clicked away along with any potential for a real life showing.
Web Reference: http://topbrainerdagent.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Mar 24, 2009
I think they are VERY important. I take between 100 to 150 photos of an average listing, choose the best 6 to 24 photos and make sure they are light and bright and show details buyers want.

Here is my latest listing:

http://www.flexmls.com/link.html?opdjyrlwq4y,12,1

I would love some feedback on the photos from an internet shopper.

Thank you
Web Reference: http://www.TheKeysTeam.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Mar 24, 2009
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