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Australia Is Ahead Of The Rest Of The World In Real Estate Photography

March 13th, 2013

TwilightMagicI talk to a lot of real estate photographers and videographers in Australia and the more I know about Australia the more it becomes clear that they are way ahead of us all down there in the area of real estate photography and videography!

A couple of days ago I ran across a recent article on realestate.com.au (the equivalent of realtor.com in the US I think) that demonstrates several aspects of what I’m talking about:

  1. First of all you would never find an article like this on realtor.com or nar.com. It’s a good article and right on target. Sure it interviews real estate photographers, but realtor.com or realtor.org would NEVER do that!
  2. They report that, “the lowlight shoot is more expensive, high demand,  premium product” in Australia.
  3. They express the opinion that, “people who invest in a professional photographer do get their money back.
  4. The article says that, “the biggest trend in property photography now is video and that virtual tours are naff.
  5. Andy Romano reports that, “HD video has taken off, and says propertydigital.com.au has pioneered a drone CAM to do aerials, useful for selling the closeness of a property to the water for instance. He cites agents taking their own photos (rather than employing a professional photographer) as something that’s become really dated.
  6. Agi Magyar says she sees a new trend in Australian rental properties being photographed professionally.

This is all really radical stuff! I wish I could report that it was going on everyplace but I can’t. What is it about our Aussie friends that makes them so rational and insightful? Is it something in the water down there?

In a some what related development, Brett Clements pointed the PlatinumHD.TV website has been completely redesigned. I noticed that they have more offices than they used to! Besides Australia and NZ, they are now in London, Miami, New York and soon LA and Las Vagas. Are they trying to take over?

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12 Responses to “Australia Is Ahead Of The Rest Of The World In Real Estate Photography”

  • With so much of the entertainment industry (film and media) rooted in the US, you’d think the American culture would produce agents that understand the value of Photos and Video. Yet, it’s Australians that are leading the way. Why? Do Austrailians understand ROI better than others?

    While these companies are doing outstanding work and seem to be getting a lot of recognition for it, I wonder if there is really a demand for it, or if it’s just being celebrated over there in the more visible way. I would really like to hear a response to that question from some Aussie’s.

    The market studies we’ve conducted here in the United States, show about 25% percent of listing use professional photos (meaning good-great quality), and about 20% do some kind of virtual tour. Only about 2% do any kind of video. The lower-end properties show much lower numbers, but the higher-end stay pretty consistent with the mid range. Is it much different down-under?

    Video is definitely the new “Virtual Tour”. Done well, video has a cool factor that is very attractive, but photos always show a home off better than video. Professional Photos and Videos are the new way of doing virtual tours. They compliment each other.

  • I am from Brisbane in Qld, Australia’s 3rd biggest city and we have a good industry here. There are quite a few “photographers” in the low end undercutting everybody but once you get up above them there is plenty of work and lots of agents that appreciate great quality photos. Twilight is very busy, I would say almost more so than daytime. Some agents only shoot at twilight because they like it so much.

  • Doesn’t some of this depend on the pricing structure? From what I understand, sellers in Australia foot the bill for photography and video and maybe some of the marketing, not the agents themselves. Is that true?

    The real estate industry in America is very broken, especially when it comes to compensation, commission structures, etc. for agents. I wonder if that has more to do with this than anything else. Sellers in this country see the value of good photos, video, etc., but it’s up to their AGENT to foot the bill, which many… if not most, won’t. More and more sellers are demanding better photography, tours, etc, but most don’t. Hell, most don’t even check their listing online to see what their agent is doing… or NOT doing… (which explains why I saw a sideways photo of a toilet, toilet brush, lid open, yellow water) photo on a 6 month old, $700K condominium. They couldn’t even rotate the photo so it wasn’t sideways!

  • I’m based on the Sunshine Coast (1 hour north of Brisbane), so quite a smaller regional market to Joe Brosnan above. Most vendors understand that professional photography is ‘essential’ to get noticed on the net, where 90% of searches start. If you don’t get the buyers attention there, they’ll look elsewhere, and you’ve lost them for good. For a fee of A$170 – A$250; and more for video, you are going to get professional package for the vendor’s most expensive asset. This is miniscule in comparison to the price of the property, but some vendors still baulk at this. It’s up to the agent to ‘sell’ this service to the vendor and let the them know this is a vital necessity. What are you saying about a property, the agency and the agent when you show sub-standard images?

    It seems crazy to me to demand the agent to pay for this, when the owner can move agencies at will. From what I seen, I feel the vendors here are more proactive than what Fred Light describes above and the relationship with agents has a good communication base.

    When a good agent takes charge of the listing, they let the vendor know what’s necessary to sell their property in a timely manner, with professional photography on top of the list, and suggestions for improvement if needed. This confidence shows in the vendor’s willingness to take the suggestions and use professional photography without question. If the area you work, is slow on the uptake for professional photography, then there may be some onus on the local photographer’s to promote this service, but really it’s up to the agent to be selling this service in their client’s best interest.

  • I am an Aussie (from Sydney), but working as a Real Estate Photographer in the US of A…

    I think 4 factors have helped the Aussies become world-leaders in RE photo & video:
    1. real estate is expensive in Australia! Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane/GoldCoast are all very expensive places to buy a home or apartment (condo) — all of the studies that rate a cities’ livability and affordability show this, especially on a ratio that shows the median cost of buying a home : in terms of the number of years of medium income is required to purchase the home. Because Real Estate is so expensive, it is a very big deal to sell it and use the funds to buy the next place, so there is huge value in presenting the property to look its absolute best!

    2. because Real Estate is so expensive, it has become the primary “savings / investment” vehicle of many Australians — most of the financial eggs are in the house! So again, more reason to present it well!

    3. selling real estate via Auction is very common in Australia, so you need to attract as many qualified potential buyers quickly before the Auction date to make sure you achieve the desired price. Compared to letting a listing sit on the market for an extended amount of time.

    4. @Fred’s point — yes, it is very common for the seller to pay the marketing fees. As an example, a friend sold his $600K beach-glimpse 1 bedroom apartment (nice place, but a mid-tier property for that suburb of Sydney). The Agent hired (at the sellers’ expense) 3 people to come in and help with the marketing: 1) a photographer, 2) a floor-planner, 3) a copyrighter — who sat in the apartment and wrote the verbiage. Then the seller agrees to an advertising package that they themselves pay for.

    So yes, Australia is ahead in terms of the mind-set of hiring professionals to market real estate for sale, and that is great for RE photos etc! But, I cant afford to buy a home in Sydney, but I own one in the USA.

  • I’m in the Uk, on the who pays , vendor or agent issue, something that a couple of my agents have started that seems to work well for all concerned. The vendor pays for the photography up front, the agent refunds the cost from his fee on completion.

    The agent gains because he gets a better shot at selling the property with no risk. The vendor gains because he gets a better shot at selling with no extra cost.

  • This is an interesting article I stumbled upon today. It’s funny because I live in the US and when I bought a new house last year I inquired through my realtor about what the chances of getting work as a realtor photographer was in my area. He said none! I was shocked! He went on to explain that home sales are so slow in our area that it doesn’t make sense financially to hire out a photographer. Any realtor can just go and snap a shot with their own compact camera. Well, I didn’t say anything at the time but wish I had… that all of the photos I saw online when searching for my house were horrible! When I took a chance to see a house in person, it was completely different than the bad photo that was online. I agree with the article, you should make your money back by hiring a professional, it would have inspired me to go out and look at more houses!

  • Fred and Andrew are exactly right, it is all about who is paying for the photography and the price of the listing. I think most sellers here think that the listing agent is going to take care of everything, while for most agents photography fees are an additional cost of business, with no certainty of additional income. Under the current structure, professional photography and video is a listing tool to generate more listing business, just like yard signs, riders, flyers, QR codes and etc. The top agents prefer it that way and would probably resist the idea of sellers taking on this part of the marketing of their home.
    BTW, what is a typical listing fee on a home sold in Australia? Here it is approx 6% split 4 ways.

  • In the US where the agent is footing the bill they are reluctant to risk any more than they have to especially as Tracy pointed out the seller can change agents at will. Also the attitude of many sellers here in the US is “The agent is making plenty of money from this sale, they can darn well pay for the marketing or I will find someone who is hungrier.” The sad truth is that there are a lot of hungrier agents helping reinforce our culture of price being the only measure of value.

  • I’m an Aussie working in Melbourne where Real Estate is (Ridiculously?) expensive. The person selling the home pays for all the advertising but a good agent will show them that they will easily recoup any investment in quality marketing. In fact in a lot of cases a modest investment in marketing can return a ten fold profit…. Much to the vendor’s pleasure and surprise. I also offer agent presented video expose’s which are certainly gaining momentum. Statistics are beginning to emerge that show that Australian properties that use video marketing experience up to FOUR times more enquiries than those that don’t and sell much faster. Once again the top agents are able to easily convince vendors of the benefits of a modest investment in quality marketing. Certainly there is a “race to the bottom” happening where fly by night photographers are undercutting and making it difficult for all. There is also great disparity in quality with many photographers submitting work where they haven’t even straightened the photos for example!! A great many agents don’t seem to be able to tell the difference between good and bad photography.

    The bottom line is that the internet is the first port of call for buyers. If you can’t hook them there you’ve lost them so quality photography and video are of paramount importance.
    I guess that’s just the way things have evolved here.

  • I’m in Newcastle, the 2nd largest regional area in Australia, just 120km north of Sydney. There is a mix between sellers and agents paying for photography, but most often it is the sellers here. The more prolific agents rarely offer their clients an option – their marketing package includes professional photography, and often a floor-planner, for the internet – their sale figures, and confidence in their marketing strategy, speak for themselves. And as James said, the sellers rarely baulk at the relatively small cost, are always thrilled to see the results of the shoot, and are more than satisfied with the speed of sale and usually higher sale price.

    There are some agents who still believe that only the high end listings need professional images, so it is up to the photographers to alter that point of view. Mid-range listings are the majority, so to stand out from the rest, the seller needs an edge – which is where we come in. My agents are well aware of it, and always use professional images for all levels. Re the cheaper/undercutting photographers – it’s always disappointing to see a regular agent jump ship for a lower-priced shoot, but in most cases, better service and higher quality usually guide them back in the end.

    Essentially, to gain listings the agents have to sell themselves, and with a more professional (and glossier!) marketing package, they usually win. When the property sells within a good time range, and gets a good price, then the seller is happy, and word-of-mouth is the best advertising anyone can get!!

  • Hi everyone – thanks for the article and comments:)

    Agi Magyar, who is quoted in the article referred to, is one of the photographers here at Australian property photography company Top Snap (I’m the General Manager). Here at Top Snap we did some research last year asking over 600 real estate agents about their use of property photography and marketing tools. 99% of them said categorically that property photography is essential when listing property. Not only does it help them present the property in its best light (which goes without saying really!), many agents said that using professional photography/marketing tools in their listings also helps to position them as quality agency offering professionally marketed listings, thereby in turn helping to attract future listings to their agency. So really what they are saying is that it’s a win-win – both for the vendor (as it helps them attract more interest/competition and thereby hopefully drive up sales prices) and the agent in that they get to maintain a high profile in their local market in order to keep on attracting more listings.

    Thanks and keep up the good work – we love your site!