Using Area Listing Sites to Get Real Estate Photography Business

January 31st, 2010

This last week I talked to two real estate photographers that have built area listing sites designed to reach home sellers with the message that good photography helps to sell homes ( John Quarles in the Birmingham, AL area and Dan Abraham in the Prince George, BC area). Area listing sites list part or all of the listings in specific area the photographer is working in.

This approach of area real estate sites run by photographers was a new one for me since I’ve not seen it done in the real estate markets that I’m familiar with. In the Seattle area buyers and sellers primarily frequent the big broker sites (Windermere, John L Scott, Coldwellbanker etc.) and increasingly sites like Zillow and Redfin that are beginning to be very high traffic sites. I’ve talked about how marketing directly to home sellers is a great approach because they will insist that agents use good photography if they understand how important it is. But the trick is to reach the home sellers without alienating the agents involved. An area web site does that nicely.

The underlying idea of an area listing site is simple and makes perfect sense:

  1. Provide great tours for the homes you photograph.
  2. Put all those tours on a web site along with all the other listings in the area and make it searchable.
  3. Design the site to sell the idea that great photography and great tours are important in selling homes.
  4. Promote the site to home sellers and agents by getting a high search ranking, yard signs, door handle flyers and rider signs.
  5. The result is as John Quarles says: “Sellers who visit the site make the agents call me“. “About half my jobs each month come from new agents this way”

I think it is worth noting some of the details about John’s site because he’s been running it for a long while and it has been quite successful. John says:

Up until last year I was averaging [photographing] around 1000 homes a year and had a full time photoshop employee and writer for the brochures. Since the “depression” last year, I work alone now, but still have jobs everyday.

My site is get high Google ranking for the term “birmingham alabama homes for sale” and normally comes up on the first page. Sellers who visit the sites make the agents call me. But, I have also had some of the areas top producers call me for years.

I started the site a long time ago because I was having trouble getting agents like everyone else, even though I was an agent. It helped get started because I was giving agents a little more that the other “shoot and scoot” guys in town. After a few agents had their homes sold off the site, the word spread and other agents started calling.

So, the site serves two purposes, it gives the agents more marketing for their money and gets sellers to have there agents call me.

If I were starting all over again, I would build a site and buy Google ad-words to offer a little more than the other guy and pick up some agents for sellers looking at the site.

Whoa, 1,000 shoots a year makes me tired thinking about it! It’s hard to argue with this kind of success. Undoubtedly this approach will work in any area where you can get on the first page of a google search for the search term “your-area-name homes for sale”. Home searching and selling is now completely an online activity so your success is dependent on getting high search ranking.

Dan Abraham in the Prince George, BC area is just launching his site with the goal of doing very much the same thing as John has done; get the attention of the home sellers and agents in the area and give sellers and agents a little more than the competition.

I’d like to thank John and Dan for sharing their marketing approach with us all. I’m sure many others can put these ideas to good use in their local areas.

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17 Responses to “Using Area Listing Sites to Get Real Estate Photography Business”

  • Interesting article
    what do other RE photogs feel is the best way to get noticed by sellers rather than agents?
    I suppose most of the time we always try to gain as much exposure with the client (the agent) but more and more sellers are becoming accustomed to the importance of good quality photography and marketing
    yes we can do door hangers and showcase our various websites but is there any other methods utilized out there to get us noticed more by sellers
    regards

  • Larry,

    This is great stuff. I’ve printed it and it is the next part of my marketing plan.

  • Larry,

    Good article. We had the same problem in Greater Vancouver when lisitings and sales fell off the map in October/November of 2008. We are also looking at how to educate home sellers as opposed to relying strictly on agents. Advantage would be we could charge more as the value is higher in the minds of the homeowner versus most real estate agents. We will try with vehicle advertising directed at home sellers but am curious as to how other real estate photography companies are approaching this challenge?

    Another thing to keep in mind is the Competition Bureau’s attack on CREA and organized real estate. Whether CREA negotiates or it goes to a tribunal, changes in the real estate industry are coming and the commissions for agents will be lower. That is going to put even more pressure on them and their marketing budgets. It will probably be harder and harder to get new agents on board as the commissions decrease. This will make the direct-to-homeowner business even more important.

    Brett

  • @Brett- “changes in the real estate industry are coming and the commissions for agents will be lower”.
    I’m not that familiar with how agent commissions work in Canada, but in the US commissions are completely negotiable and there has already been huge downward pressure in the last 5 or 6 years on commissions. Companies like http://www.redfin.com and http://flatfeelisting.com are having a big effect.

  • It does appear that there are listings pulled directly from MLS. In Ohio, at least, it’s my understanding that only a broker’s website can have access to these listings. Is it different in Alabama?

  • @Larry- John is a licensed agent. Typically any licensed agent can get an IDX feed to their site from the local MLS. Becoming an agent is not difficult.

  • I agree that photography is a big part of marketing. People want to be able to search for pictures and data for homes online before they pick up a phone and call a broker. Great job on finding a method that works for you that can translate into prospects.

  • One route I have explored which has garnered significant attention in my small town (Prince George has around 100,000 people – including rural) is an advertisement in the ‘Real Estate Weekly’ which is a paper publication open only to members of the local real estate board. Due to the nature of my business, I am not in direct competition with any agent or agency and am therefore eligible to advertise. This is a great way to advertise both to buyers, who look in the publication for new local listings, as well as agents, who check the publication weekly to ensure that their ads are placed properly.

  • A real estate website is a great method of promoting your work and the worth of professional photography. Having run such a site for over 5 years, I have found it to be very useful. If you can get ranked at the top for several popular local real estate terms, the sellers will contact their agents and request placement on your site. The more listing on your site the better.

    On IDX feeds: Only Realtors® can get an IDX feed. That means you are a member of the local, state or national Board of Realtors®. All Realtors® are licensed agents but not all licensed agents are Realtors®. However, I do not suggest that you use an IDX feed to display listings our your site. There are many restrictions that come with the feed, you also don’t have complete control over what photos are displayed and MLS system tend to do bad things to your nice photos. Building your own database of listing is not hard. Basically all you need is # Bedroom, #Bathroom, price, agent name & contact info, and a description.

  • One more quick comment. Many real estate agents are very touchy about FSBO listings. I would advice caution if you wish to advertise that you service that market. Personally we do not service the FSBO market and this has resulted in stronger ties to agents in the area. It has also encouraged many potential FSBO sellers to talk with agents that use our services.

    Neal McGuire
    HouseViewOnline

  • @Neal- Thanks for the added insights. Wow, I’m impressed… you have #1 Google ranking for the search term “southeast missouri homes for sale” great example. Obviously you’ve had some practice at this!

  • Very cool concept. I like how you point out that it aids in preventing the alienation of agents. We have marketed directly to sellers with mixed success…It is great to see a different approach.
    Thanks!

  • Great article and information fellas and I think the timing is just right. In years past, during the real estate boom, houses were literally selling just by being listed. Several years ago my parents house sold in three days for four times what they bought it for but today that’s definitely not going to happen. My friends think everyone should count their blessings and walk away from the housing industry, but not me.

    This dramatic decline (or realization) of the RE industry means sellers and agents are putting on their thinking caps for the first time in a while. That’s good news to all of us because that reinstates our value to the industry. The truth is, the smart agents and sellers will use this slow market to re-evaluate their archaic marketing and get up to speed with today’s standards. Marketing they’ve managed to turn their back on over the years because of the boom, but not now.

    The same could be said about a lot of other industries.

  • […] and Read More: photographyforrealestate.net Technorati Tags: Area Listings,Real Estate […]

  • I am taking this article to heart as I create my website now.

    How tasking is it to manage a website with this type of content? I want to obviously feature homes that I shoot as an added benefit for Agents working with me, BUT how do you manage listings that sell? Do you have to constantly stay on top of the marketplace to see if it has sold so you can mark it as sold or remove it from your listing page?

    I’m curious as to how you manage this. Thank you!

  • Edson: What is vitally important here is maintaining links with your client base, and monitoring their automated listing system. My client agents usually inform me of price changes and listing status changes, but I also monitor realtor.ca for changes from time to time in case they forget. Between the two, it’s pretty easy, especially in a smaller location such as mine, where inventory remains small. Attaching a sold image to a thumbnail takes less than one minute, with the site update taking less than 15 seconds, so it is very manageable.

    On a side note, my local listing site is three months in and already I cannot stress enough how important Google adwords has been for my marketing strategy. Using statistical information generated by adwords, in conjunction with analytics, has made me happily busy, as it has raised many eyebrows during presentations! In addition, one avenue that I am currently exploring is a mortgage calculator on the site sponsored by a local brokerage who works with several agents. The brokerage would like to advertise, and in addition to paying a monthly fee, will cover their affiliate agents costs of hiring me to put their listings on my site. All in all it is a win win situation for everyone and I just thought I would share this potential revenue stream concept for those who are considering local area listing sites – there is a lot of opportunity to branch out.

    Thanks!

  • The group at Bostonlofts.com, link provided, have been doing exactly this type of marketing for 10 yrs. In fact after reading these comments I checked into their website and they have done quite well. It had been atleast 4 years since I had been there. They started by taking loft photo shoots for free and presenting them in a different way with quality photography. The site used to be simpler in its approach. It now appears to be a full fledged listing service. I found very little about their photography acumen, which is evident by the featured listings. But photos were pretty much the way they had started.

    http://bostonlofts.com/Realtors/default.aspx

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