20 Seconds is All it Takes

While I find myself in the busiest season I’ve yet to face, I’ve managed to find the time to do a little research.  This research is regarding the value of professional photography for the real estate industry.  I’ve put this together to emphasize what bringing a professional photographer to the table can mean for a realtor.  More importantly how embracing the photographer as more of partner or asset can increase the profitability for any realtor.

First some facts.

According to the website RE Source 90% of buyers look on-line before they even contact a realtor.  In the same article they state that 88% of those people prefer professional images.  Having professional images of a property is becoming essential.  But less than 15% of all listings use professional photographs.  This according to the Wall Street Journal

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20 seconds                                                                                                           In a Wall Street Journal article from March of 2013 it is reported that 95% of home buyers looking on line spent 20 seconds looking at the “Hero” or main exterior photograph.  That’s out of a total of 56 seconds spent on all of the images.  According to Professor Michael Seller, Founder and Director of the Institute for Behavioral and Experimental Real Estate at Old Dominion University, “Without an eye-catching photo, the battle is lost before it begins.”  He goes on to say, “You have to grab peoples’s attention within 2 seconds.”  2 seconds!  It’s not a lot of time.  So ask yourself, “Are my images that I take with my iPhone compelling enough to grab people and have them continue looking at the listing?”

So out of the total amount of time looking at aWSJ_Graph_2 listing your potential buyer spends           60% of their time looking at the photos, 20% of their time looking at the property description and the remaining 20% on the realtor’s remarks. (These stats taken from the same WSJ article from March 2013)  So if we do a little math that means; 56 seconds on photos. 18.5 seconds on the property description and another 18.5 seconds on the realtor’s remarks.  Not a lot of time on those wonderful few paragraphs that you’ve slaved hours over is it?  Based on these statistics the best place for you to spend your marketing dollars is not in the hours spent trying to come with adjectives and superlatives to describe the property. It’s in the planning and preparation for the images.

I know.  At this point you’re asking what’s the bottom line?  Let’s break down the numbers. Redfin_Infographic-good-photos_21813According to on-line resource Redfin it could mean $934 to almost $19,000 more for your listing depending on the price range the property falls into.  Which means as a realtor more dollars in your pocket.  In addition listings with professional images garnered 61% more views.  How’s that for increasing the odds?  Additional research provided by Brick House Visuals and Los Angeles area MLS indicate that homes in that area sold on average  26 days faster when professional images were used.  Putting it all together,  that means you sell more houses for more money in the course of year. All by simply investing in professional images of the property.

 

The Cost                                                                                                                               But Jim it’s SOOOOOO expensive to hire a professional photographer.  Well let’s just call BS on that right here and now.  The national average for bringing in a professional photographer is $300 (Based on 2011 polling).  I know for a lot of realtors this comes out of your pocket initially and it can seem like a lot of money.  But let’s look at this in dollars and cents.  Based on the median price of a home in the U.S. the average commission is $6668.  So the $300 that your professional photographer cost you is a mere 4.5% of that and overall less than 0.1% of the value of the home.  That’s not a typo.  Less than one-tenth of a percent of the value of the home.  But if this allows you to sell 2,3,4 or more homes a year your overall income has increased.  Substantially.

There are additional benefits that go beyond the sale of the home.  The biggest of these is the perception potential future clients will have of you as being more professional and willing to take the additional steps to get their property sold.  As a realtor you drive home how important “curb appeal” is to the homeowner.  It’s your responsibility as the realtor for the “web appeal”.  You are the one responsible for the on-line presence of the property.  Remember that 2 seconds we spoke about earlier?  Now think about the property that you just took photos of with your iPhone competing against someone else who has taken the added step of hiring a professional photographer.  Still think your iPhone pictures cut it?

Well I have a DSLR                                                                                                             Great and you probably take some awesome vacation photos.  But just having a DSLR isn’t enough.  A professional photographer can make your life as a realtor considerably easier.  First off unless you’ve spent years photographing your own listings you’re not going to have shot anywhere near the number of homes a real estate/architectural photographer has.  Most real estate photographers have hundreds if not thousands of homes under their belt before you engage their services.  Secondly.  The photographer brings his/her artistic eye to the game.  Yes real estate and architectural photography is very technical but you have to have an eye for composition and lighting that only experience can bring.  Speaking of lighting that brings us to the third part.  The gear.  Most photographers have thousands and thousands of dollars invested in equipment and lighting.  Special lenses. Special lights.  The stands, gels, modifiers and other assorted items required for professional photography. (Personally I come to a shoot carrying about $10000 worth of cameras and equipment.  Some people I know have way more invested.) Not to mention the hundreds of hours working with that gear and learning it inside and out.  The final factor is the darkroom (now Photoshop) skills to make your property look like it was lifted right out of any architectural or lifestyle magazine.  Here again the photographer has spent hundreds of hours learning and perfecting those skills through training and repetition.  Now as a realtor with a DSLR can you bring all of this to bear on your photography?  Not to mention the time.  Probably not.  I know there is the rare exception but isn’t better to leave it to the professional who does this day in and day out?

The Downside                                                                                                                        Is there really a downside to all of this?  OK so you won’t have your images the minute you get back to the office.  In most cases you can have them in 24-48 hours.  72 hours at the extreme end of things.  So you might have to plan ahead a little.  Other than that you really can’t get a better bang for your marketing dollar that professional photography can bring you.  You get better quality images, faster sales, higher prices, the time to concentrate on selling the property and developing new leads and a better professional representation which leads to more and better listings.  All of this when you engage and partner with a professional photographer.  So what are you waiting for?

NEXT TIME:  Making it Happen (The Photo Shoot that is)

 

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Feeling Humble

Today I had something quite unexpected happen.  I woke this morning to a notification from my Flickr account that I had a new follower.  And just any new follower.  It was a photographer whose work I really admire.  He’s mainly known for his avant garde style in the fashion world.  His name is Frank Doorhof.  Here’s a link to his Flickr account; https://www.flickr.com/photos/frankdoorhof and his web site; http://www.frankdoorhof.com.  I think you’ll be very impressed if you haven’t seen his work already.  It’s some pretty cool stuff.   Too continue on the same line of unexpected.  Last week I shot a house for a realtor last week.  The owner happened to be a relatively big name architect in the Philly area.  I was a little nervous as I knew my images would be compared to the photographer that his firm uses.  Here again a relatively big name.  His name is Tom Crane.  Here’s the link to his website; http://www.tomcranephotography.com  So you can understand the sense of validation I got when I saw an email from the homeowner after I delivered a copy of the images to him.  Here’s what he said.

Hi Jim:

Thank you so much for sharing your talent.  The photos of our house are terrific and clearly attest to your skill and the time you took to compose and light the images.

Best regards,

Peter

It’s always nice to have your hard work notice and appreciated.

7 Caryl Living Room 7 Caryl Front Door 7 Caryl Library

 

A House. A Photographer. And Getting the Color Correct

In my last post I promised I would share some images from the shoot I did.  So here they are.  I’ve been trying some new techniques I’ve learned reading the Scott Hargis book and studying what Mike Kelley does.   I’m really liking the results.  Real estate photography is not as easy as most people think it is.  Dealing with wide dynamic range of dark interiors balanced against bright windows and sunshine is very tricky.  Making things look natural and not over lit by too much flash.  Getting the view out the window but not too much.  And most importantly capturing the essence of the space.  Along with all of this is the ability to render colors accurately.  I was the 3rd or 4th photographer to shoot this property.  While there the owner expressed to me her concern that none of the previous  photographers had reproduced the colors correctly.  They ranged from a soft peach in the entry to a deep almost brick red in dining room to a soft yellow in the kitchen.   Challenged accepted.  She later showed me brochure with some of the images from one of the other photographers.  Let’s just say they weren’t accurate and leave it at that.  I tried to explain to her that it might not be entirely the photographers fault.  That there are a lot of variables when printing an image and making sure that colors are rendered correctly.  All while trying not get too technical.  After this conversation I thought for a moment about what the client said.  That it was a problem with the photographer.  Not it was a problem with the printer or the photographer sent images in the wrong color space or the realtor had used the wrong version of the images.  No.  It was the photographer’s problem.  Perception is everything.

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A Great Start!!!

At the end of 2013 I made a commitment to myself to not only grow as a photographer but to grow the business as well.  If January is any indication, I’m not going to have any problem growing the business.  I’ve already done 4 real estate shoots in the past week.  I’ve got 3 more scheduled for next week along with an event for the JDRF South Jersey Chapter, a wedding for Faymus Media and one more real estate shoot at the end of the month.   If everything on schedule comes through I will have more than doubled the number of real estate shoots I did last January.  Plus put another wedding under my belt.  The biggest trick is getting all of the future promotions and work together and getting my name out to more realtors.  This year I’m also going to put significantly more effort in getting my name to architects and designers.  I REALLY want to get into more architectural work.  It would be nice to spend the time really putting together a nice architectural shoot.  I love getting all of the details together for shoots like that.  The planning.  The preproduction. And the ability to really craft an image.  In the meantime I will continue honing my craft with real estate shoots.  Speaking of which.  I did a shoot last week for Charles Rappa.  A realtor based in Northern Delaware and SEPA.  He had me over to shoot a beautiful home of about 4500 sq. ft.  While I was getting set-up Charles mentioned to me that house had been on the market before with another realtor.  And that realtor had had the house shot several times because the owners were extremely picky in how they wanted the house represented.  All Charles said to me was that the owners said  “It’s all about the lighting.”  Oh boy.  Well, I did what I do and held my breath.  The owners were out of town and wouldn’t be back for a couple of days.  I completed the images and sent them off.  Fingers and toes crossed.  I heard back two days later.  The owners loved the pictures!  Thought that they truly represented the house.  YEAH!  Here’s a couple of examples from the shoot.

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A Long Summer

Once again I feel that I have not kept up my end of the blog agreement.  I looked today and my last post was back in May.  Wow where has the time gone? Well things have finally settled down a little and I feel like I can breathe a little easier.  Not to make excuses but there is good reason for such a long hiatus.  I wish I could rack it up way too much work and while that is large part of it, it is not the whole story.  At the beginning of the summer Kim and I promised each other that it was not going to be a summer like we had last year where we weren’t home any weekend between Memorial Day and Labor day.  While a great plan (in theory) the Universe had a completely different plan.  While business has been good and I’ve shot more real estate in the last 3 months than all of last year, I don’t know how I’ve achieved these numbers.  I’m not going to bore you with all of the details but since the middle of May Kim and I have spent more time in Myrtle Beach than here at home.  You see her mom’s health deteriorated very rapidly and we were dealing with all the fun that “end of life” has to offer.  This past week is the first full week we’ve spent in our bed and it feels great!  Now I’ve got to get back on track and get my business going again.

Here’s some images from some of the shoots I managed to squeeze in.

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The Cover shot (maybe)

Well last week was an exciting week.  I received a phone call from one of my realtor clients asking me if I could do a shoot for them.  Not a problem.  So we scheduled the shoot for last Thursday.  Well Thursday came and it was your typical grey, overcast late winter day.  Not that  I was thinking the Sun would come out but I was hoping.  I arrived at the property to be greeted by the owner and a woman by the name of Jo Anne Durako.  At this point I really wasn’t sure what was transpiring.  My initial thoughts were that Jo Anne was part of the realtor’s team and was there to kind of oversee things.  Well after talking with Jo Anne for a few minutes it turns out that she is the editor and VP of County Lines magazine and that I was there to provide photographs for the magazine as the property was being featured in the April issue.  Wow!  Awesome!  So I was given relatively free reign.  There were a couple of shots that they asked for specifically but other than that I was told to do what I normally did.   Meanwhile Jo Anne interviewed the homeowner about the features, designer, architect and contractor.   It was a really nice, clean, contemporary home that was actually a conversion that started off as an early 19th century farmhouse.  I would have never guessed that in a million years if I hadn’t inquired.  The day never got any better and I got some exterior shots but they weren’t anything to write home about.  I was really hoping for something that “popped” but I wasn’t going to get it that day that was for sure.  So I went back on Saturday hoping to get something more dramatic.  Again the Sun did not cooperate so I waited for a nice dusk or night shot.  No such luck.  It got cloudy and there was just no color to the sky.  So I sent what I had off to the magazine on Monday morning.  It didn’t take long for Jo Anne to get back to me saying everything looked good except the exterior.  I was expecting that.  Monday afternoon brought out the Sun. Unfortunately I was already committed to another shoot on the other side of town but I told Jo Anne that I’d get over to the property and get a couple of night time shots.   Well what a difference.  Had beautiful clear skies and managed to get this shot.

_MG_9166_fusedJo Anne liked it so much it might be the cover shot for magazine next month!

Here are a couple more from the shoot.

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A Picture is worth………

In this case a little more than a million dollars.  That’s what these two images generated for the homeowner. Last Wednesday I had been asked to shoot a house for a realtor I had done some work for in the past.  When I arrived at the house I was less than impressed by the exterior. It seemed a little smaller than the type of homes this realtor normally has me shoot.  The realtor arrived shortly after I did and we spoke a bit before going in.  Her words to me were “It doesn’t have much curb appeal but what ’til you see the interior.  I’ve had a really hard time getting people in the door.  They just don’t believe that it’s as beautiful as I say it is.”  Wow.  Was she right.  From the front it looks like a rather plain, two story home.  Talk about not judging a book by it’s cover.   Turns out this is a huge 5 bedroom, 3 and a half bath home.  The owners had moved out and the entire home was staged for showing.  Really, really nicely done.   did what I do and got some really nice shots of the house.  When I was done the realtor begged me to turn the images around as quickly as possible.  I told her that I had two jobs in front of hers but would do my best to get them to her by Friday.  She said that would be “Awesome”  Well by the time I got home I had a text message from her begging me to get her something by the following day.  Long story made tolerable, I sent these two images the next evening. ( I was in Atlantic City all day Thursday but that’s another post)  I delivered the remainder of the images Friday afternoon as promised.  By Saturday afternoon the property was under contract.  Turns out she didn’t even need the remaining shots.

This is a great example as to why realtors should invest in high quality photography.  On the market less than 2 weeks and sold for just 10% below asking price.  The real estate market has made some drastic changes over the past few years.  Where it used to be you would drive around and your realtor would show you houses. Now everything is done on line and you tell the realtor which houses you’d like to see.  I know when Kim and I were looking at houses last year, if the images didn’t draw us in we passed it up.  As a realtor you can’t under estimate how good images can shorten listing periods, increase prices and make your life a whole lot easier.

Special thanks to Sue Fitzgerald of Prudential Fox and Roach for allowing me the opportunity to provide her with the images.

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