The Demand For Real Estate Photography Is Not The Same Everywhere

May 20th, 2012

From talking to real estate photographers and agents the geographic variability in demand for real estate photography is quite apparent. It’s harder to do business in some locations than others. There are some locations that are hot and some that are not. What’s going on here?

One interesting illustration of this varied geographic demand is Google.com/trends. Google trends shows geographically where search terms are being used. If you type in “real estate photographer” it shows you geographically where people are searching for that search term. Before I discovered google.com/trends I knew from just by talking to people, that there was something very special about real estate photography in AU and NZ. Moreover, it appears that Brisbane has some real estate photography stimulant in the water. It is clearly the real estate photography capital of the world!

I’ve been looking for a measure of real estate photography demand that gives more detail than google/trends (for some reason it only ever shows a handful of US cities. It dawned on me recently that the PFRE real estate photographer directory and in particular the number of real estate photographers in the directory in each geographic area is a rough measure of the demand for real estate photography services in that area. The more demand in an area would mean there are more real estate photographers in that area to service the need. A demand index would also have to take into account population. So to create a real estate photography demand index what I’ve none is divide the number of real estate photographers in a state by the population of the state. Here is what a chart of that PFRE demand index looks like.

This chart shows that HI has the highest demand and LA (Louisiana) has 21 times lower demand. States to the left are going to be easier to make a living in this industry than the states to the right. Also, you may want to think twice before you start a real estate business in AK, IA, KY, ND, NE, SD, VT, WV, WY or MS. I’m not sure all the factors are at work here but this index matches the my general impressions that com from talking to photographers and agents around the US. This could just be showing where there are more upper-end homes or it could be illustrating the general economic health of states. Probably a variety of cultural and economic factors.

I should point out that this index is more accurately showing major metro areas instead of the whole state. For example, most of the real estate photographers in WA are in Seattle and most of the real estate photographers in OR are in Portland etc. I just did this by state to simplify the work. Perhaps in the future I’ll do it by city.

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13 Responses to “The Demand For Real Estate Photography Is Not The Same Everywhere”

  • I found this post highly informative. I’m not surprised to hear that demand varies.

  • Interesting analysis Larry. At a more micro level, I’ve found that the closer homes are to a coastline, a vacation destination, or a major metropolitan area, the demand for professional photography is exponentially higher.

    I’ve always assumed the nicer the location, = the more expensive the real estate, = the more pride homeowners have, and they want their homes to live up to the “model lifestyle”. ***That pride is celebrated with photos and virtual tours.*** In fact, in my area if you don’t have professional photos and a virtual tour, the listing practically goes unnoticed.

    I’m guessing most beach/resort/metropolitan areas would claim the same. I wonder if my assumption is true for Australia and New Zealand. Or anywhere else, for that matter. Great topic. Looking forward to other comments and I’d love to see the city by city analysis.

  • Not surprising that demand varies dramatically. But I do wonder why my state (NY) is rather low on the list. I think that downstate demand would be fairly high – similar to CT, but probably the low number reflects in part upstate NY that is very heavily depressed.

  • There is a difference between demand (people looking for) and market (people who would benefit from).

    Is it a chicken and egg scenario ? the more real estate photographers, and the visibility of their work, the greater the demand ? after all, you have got to be already aware of it, to go searching for it.

  • Great post Larry. Steve has some great points about the geographical attractiveness of a location. The only surprise was how low California was.

    What I’m curious about is what was Brisbane like 10 years ago? Ian hit it on the head with the demand notion. But because real estate is so competitive and there’s so much money at stake, once Sellers and agents see what a difference it makes to have attractive pictures, it’s a snowball effect. Exposure and education. 7 years ago maybe 5% of agents in Steamboat Springs used professional photographs. Today it’s over 50% and growing fast. 7 years ago 1 agent was using video, today there are around 20. Still low but growing as well.

  • Its incredible to think that our little city in AUS gets such a mention. I never really thought about it but I guess we are quite lucky. I work with some of the big players in the inner city area and come to think of it they totally swear my pro photos and video.

  • Thanks for more tools for the chest. I do not see a lack of demand I see the possibility of growth. If a marketing technique works in one locale it will work for all, worldwide. If you are in one of the low service areas better your opportunity to create and hold a larger market share. In many areas RE photography is an emerging marketing strategy and I expect a lot of the ground floor opportunities you illustrate will be gone soon.

  • There is a ton of opportunity for entrepreneurial photographers in those unsaturated markets…. of which there are thousands of those markets.

  • The demand is everywhere for real estate photographers. You just have to let agents know why they should be demanding your services. I was just sitting in on a Tom Ferry webinar in our office today (Tom Ferry is one of the well known real estate coaches in the country. He coaches agents to succeed). Tom was coaching agent to hire professional photographers and include side by side comparisons of listing real estate photos in their listing presentations. If Tom Ferry is telling his agents this, word is getting around that photography is key in the RE Business.

  • IMHO, RE photographers aren’t in demand in all areas because the competition among realtors hasn’t been created yet.

    As a former RE agent, I know that if I’m taking a listing and the seller tells me that his neighbor’s house is on the market and there is a beautiful tour on MLS and the agents site and he/she (my seller) wants me to do the same, if I’m worth anything as an agent, I’ll hire the same person or another photographer who can provide me with pics/tour that look as good, or better.

    It starts with the sellers. I’m sure everyone knows that RE agents can tend to be cheap. Most won’t do anything unless they have to and it will be the sellers who will push them.

    I started in the business in 1999 by shooting 360 pics for a company called Realtor3d.com In 2002, I started my own business and used Realtor.com for 360’s. Shortly after that, I started doing SS’ss and hosted them on my own site. At the time, I was the only person in the area who owned their business doing RE photography. Anyone else doing RE photography was working for a national company.

    Today, there are probably around 15 local photographers who offer their services to agents. Most (good) agents wouldn’t dream of not having professional photos/tour for their listings. I have a couple of clients who hire me for even $100,000 listings!

    I’m from the Columbus, Oh area and the need and competition hasn’t been created there. I’ve talked to a few people there and told them it’s a perfect area for someone to start a RE photography business.

    Again, it’s just my opinion. Nothing scientific, but it would be interesting to see if this is why one area has the demand and another area doesn’t.

  • Dismal here in the St. Louis area. Have a feeling a lot of agents are failing to stay afloat.

  • I think so too that demand is different in various parts of the country. Some people take their own pictures and some hire professionals. We do want our house to look good for the buying community.

  • Very interesting data and I’m surprised to see MA higher than OR, WA and CA. About a year ago I came across an article from one of the real estate firms, maybe Redfin, stating that only about 15% of the realtors in MA were using photographers. I’m curious about how other factors might influence these numbers. There are a number of photography schools pumping out grads in MA. It would be interesting to see how many of these photographers are actually making a living doing this work.

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