Professional Real Estate Photos are Worth Anywhere from $1,000 to $116,000 in a Home Sale

June 12th, 2012

Pennsylvania real estate photographer Joanna Michl was lamenting that:

“The problem with agents is they just don’t get it. Most are still taking their own “lousy” photos and hoping it gets the job done. Maybe they just don’t care enough to shell out a few bucks to get professional photos and maybe they don’t think it matters. They all seem to recognize that their photography sucks but they continue doing it themselves anyway. As photographers we need to convince agents of the importance of having professional photos accompany their listings.”

Yes, I would say Joanna’s statement is pretty accurate. Joanna was looking for a convincing argument to help her convince agents in her area that investing in professional professional photography is worth the investment.

As I told Joanna, I think the strongest, most compelling argument real estate photographers can present in their marketing is the 2010 Redfin study. At the time it came out I covered it on PFRE and linked to the WSJ report of the study (which will probably carry more weight when talking to some people). The great thing about this study is it isn’t just about the benefit photos, it proves that listing photos shot with DSLRs (which implies they were done by professional photographers or agents that have professional equipment) sold from any were from $935 more for the low end to $16,076 at the high-end ($1,000,000 or more list price).

Redfin apparently did this study to promote the fact that they use professional photography for all their listings but professional real estate photographers can use it in their marketing prove to potential clients that professional real estate photography has a significant, measurable return on investment.

17 Responses to “Professional Real Estate Photos are Worth Anywhere from $1,000 to $116,000 in a Home Sale”

  • There’s one agent in my office who will swear all day long that there’s no difference between her pictures taken with her P&S camera and my pictures taken with my DSLR, wide angle lens, and HDR.

  • @Michael – Post some links of examples and this crowd will be happy to the settle the debate for you.

  • I have a few in my office that have that same self-serving attitude. Of course, some of them are shoveled listings through referral pipelines rather than in the trenches identifying listing potential. It is part of the motivation for my current redesigning of my Real Estate web site and developing an putting a series of videos on it that may make them a little uncomfortable with their self-serving assumptions. The trick is to do it in a positive upbeat way because to attack would lose credibility. Estimating may the web site should be totally redesigned with an initial group of videos within the month.

  • More like “POS” camera, Michael. : ) Every listing I have taken photos of using my DSLR, wide angle lens and HDR have resulted in a sale while other listings remain on the market. Granted the best photography in the world will still not sell an overpriced home but I have had buyers who told me it was the photos that caused them to call to see a home. Those same buyers had been looking for TEN years and wrote an offer on that home that very evening so no doubt in my mind, professional photography is the the second best marketing technique (second only to accurate pricing) to sell ANY home in ANY market.

  • I went to the Redfin link and the professional photo isn’t there? That would have been a nice way to show folks some proof, even though we all know what the truth is.

  • In other words, “What would you say if you give me $300 (or whatever you charge) and in a few weeks time you’ll wake up to find somewhere between $1,000 to $100,000 extra in your bank account?”. With the evidence above to back up the claim, surely it’s a no-brainer.

  • I wish Redfin had used a better example – the amateur photo is actually pretty good. And it makes the professional photo look like they faked a bunch of foliage/landscaping which would probably scare a lot of people off (false advertising and such).

    But to the original point of this post – I’d probably not even waste my time with agents who don’t “get it.” Sure you might be able to convert one or two along the way but it’s going to be a pretty frustrating process and you’re going to alienate more agents than gain. I’d just focus on the agents who are already using a pro or those who are spending big bucks on the marketing for their listings (property websites, lavish open houses, etc).

  • Too bad the bar chart is a straight comparison of P&S vs DSLR. Some realtors would interpret that to mean, “I’ll just get that Rebel kit from Best Buy and sell more homes!”

  • Yes, there is much about the redfin article that could be improved to make it a stronger presentation of the underlying facts, that’s why if you are inclined to use this data, I’d be inclined to use the WSJ version.

  • I agree w/ Malia — I’m not going to go out of my way to convince real estate agents they NEED a professional. I want to target those that already have decided, or have seen my work (or my educational presentations) and decided for themselves they need a professional (or even better, need me).

    @Jeff – For some realtors who are real DIY-types, yeah, even the Rebel kit from Best Buy is better than the P&S they use now. But taking good photos still takes time & energy (& some education), and most realtors I know are in short supply of those. One agent I shoot for even bought a nice dSLR to take photos of her staging. She never took it out of the box. By the time I talked to her, she was ready to pay me because she liked my work, I turned the photos around fast, and I was just overall much “better” than their contract photographer — plus I would do the before & afters for her staging (at an extra cost). She’s exactly the kind of agent I want to work with — values quality work & great service, and is willing to pay a reasonable amount for it.

  • You’ll waste a lot of time trying to convince people that don’t inherently understand the value of professional photography. They can see the difference… they just don’t care. They don’t value the difference. It’s like trying to sell morality to the devil.

  • Hi,
    I am a Realtor for 30 years and am an amateur photographer ( great hobby- in 2 camera clubs and a photoshop club) and do my own pics because I like to. As to my fellow Realtors, some have to have professionals shoot their pics because it is their office policy. Most do their own to save money and when they are done they truly look at their work and think it’s acceptable. It’s very rare a Realtor will look at other Realtor pictures becasue they are too busy prospecting for more leads. The only way a Realtor will change that thought process is if the seller demands it and most of the time the seller doesn’t know a good photo from a mediocre one. Time will tell if this process changes and in this economy with so many foreclosures ( foreclosures generally will have 1 pic and that’s all they need because they are priced so low) and Realtors making less than they did in 2006-2007, they will cut corners where ever they can. Time will tell.

  • It’s so interesting to me that professional real estate photographers “get it” and know so much more about marketing than real estate agents, and in the same breath will complain about how agents make more money. How is it good marketing to slam your client in a public forum and then expect to gain more business. I could go through the numbers for you, but there isn’t the money there for the agent to spend what it takes to have pro photos on every listing. The money just isn’t there.

    Here’s what I propose: Create a brochure aimed at the homeowner that the real estate agent can provide at the listing appointment. This brochure will point out the importance of real estate photography and how hiring a professional real estate photographer will pay substantial dividends; $1,000 to $100,000 in increased sales price, increased number of showings and faster sales. The photographer provides this brochure for the agent to use to sell the concept of pro photos to the homeowner. If the agent feels guilty for not pay the cost of photography, then they can offer to reimburse the seller at closing.

    There are lots of benefits to the agent: improved professional image, no up front costs, more sales in less time, higher sales prices and they look like the hero to the seller.

    Benefits to the photographer are: they don’t have to enforce the copyright on the second agent who gets the listing because the seller owns the license on the photos for marketing; higher service fees because sellers will pay them; increased business because not just the top 5% of agents are your market, every agent is your market because they may not have the money, but they can sell your services.

    Then the photographer is also a hero in the agent’s eyes because they helped the agent with their business. Now who wouldn’t want to raise their prices and get more business?

  • @Lee- I like your proposal! This is the best marketing idea I’ve heard in years. Every home seller I’ve met would gladly pay for a professional, the problem has always been figuring out how to market to the home seller without getting cross wise with the agent… your proposal fixes that, it gets the agent involved in the marketing process.

  • Lee is right. It is more personal to the seller and in the scheme of things very affordable and desirable.

    I’m pushing exactly that, having the agent / broker offer my services to the seller as an option for the seller to buy. The biggest side effect has been that I am getting more lower value properties to photograph and they are getting huge click through rates, more viewings and more offers. Guess what ! the agents / brokers are seeing this and are extremely motivated to push the virtues of their sellers having me. Two of my agents have me on every property they list. Now even if they cann’t persuade the seller to fork out they do so themselves.

    Like Lee says, your approach to the agent / broker is less threatening, you are no longer trying to sell him something, he is getting the better marketing he needs at no cost to himself. Why wouldn’t he push it. I’ve had brochures printed for the agent to give out for me (him).

  • But what if the homeowners say no? Are they consigning themselves to inferior photos? I would think good photos included in the marketing package would be the better selling point (for the prospective agent).

    Otherwise, should the home not sell promptly the homeowners may blame the agent for using inferior photos, knowing (because of the provided brochure) that better photos could have made a difference (even if that wasn’t really the problem at all, e.g., priced too high, low demand, better competition in the market, etc.).

    It seems to put the agent in a no-win situation (pay more or else).

  • […] Here is the key message that sells real estate photography. […]