Can Good Real Estate Photos Cause A Quick Sale?

May 19th, 2015

anonymousIan sent me a link to this article recently:

After Nearly 8 Months, Photos Help Sell Home in 8 Days

The article alleges that:

See this house? It languished on the Orlando market for 224 days. It’s no wonder; right? That photo doesn’t exactly scream “you’ve gotta see me!”. That’s before professional photographer Harry Lim was called by the home’s new listing agent — one who understands the importance of professional photography for his listings. “I shot it on February 28 and delivered the images the next day on March 1,” said Lim. “On March 10 he told me a buyer had made an offer. So by my calculation, I believe the contract came in sometime between March 1 and March 9. To put it another way, after almost 8 months on the market, the home was under contract within 8 days after I took new photos.”

If you didn’t catch the reference it said that there was a new listing agent. My advice to Harry Lim, the real estate photographer is that making claims like this is not a great way to build credibility with listing agents! Sure good photos probably make a difference but I’m here to tell you that the listing agent and many other factors like the Price, time of year, the selling office, the buyers agent commission, the weather, amount of inventory on the local market, lending rates, loan availability make more difference than the photos and whether or not the walls are vertical! Perhaps the new photos played a role but more likely there are some other factor or factors that Harry didn’t even know about that caused the rapid sale.

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26 Responses to “Can Good Real Estate Photos Cause A Quick Sale?”

  • Actually the before photos are average for 80% of the ones we have here in Albuquerque and the agencies here love them! Another 19.5% are worse and .5% are better but the agencies don’t like the .5% at all. What they like is distortions, wild color and houses that look like they are falling over. Why is that? Because they are too cheep to pay more than $69 for them!

  • Larry, you might want to reread the Mike Bell article. Nowhere do either Mike Bell, the author, or Harry Lim, the photographer, assert that real estate photos can, as your title reads, “CAUSE a Quick Sale” (my caps). The articles title reads, “After Nearly 8 Months, Photos HELP” (my caps) “Sell Home in 8 Days”.

    The article ends with the auther quoting Lim:

    Lim is quick to give credit to the REALTOR® for the sale, but adds, “I have no doubt the photos HELPED” (my caps). “Take a look at some before and after shots.”

    “Help” and “helped” are very different than claiming the photos “Caused” the sale. I don’t think Bell or Lim made unreasonable assertions. They did not claim that the photos were the sole cause for the sale, and Lim gave primary credit to the realtor.

  • A home’s asking price is the single most important factor when selling a home. The new pics are better, but I’m sure the home had a lower price when it was re-listed.

  • Interesting in that I am in the same market and last week had a cancellation on a relatively inexpensive but fairly priced property due to accepting offer after 3 days on market. Agent used iPhone photos “just to get it listed” which is a practice I discourage. I use a slightly different approach in explaining it. Sure it may sell, but did you cost the client by not generating enough interest for multiple offers. Where professional photography excels is in making the house stand out from the competition. Realtors representing buyers typically create a search criteria that notifies the buyers of a home matching their criteria almost instantly as it hits the market. What a group to market to – actively looking for that size home, in the area desired, and within their price range. YOu want to hit them with your best shot – not the single mandatory front photo and a quick narrative “More to come.” The next time they get a notification to look at the property is a price reduction. Generate the interest for potential multiple offers.

    I also looked at the MLS for the referenced property. It looks like the original listing agent had a camera (or hired a run-n-gunner) with an UWA lens and didn’t know how to use it. They clearly didn’t know MLS setup. MFRMLS has 2 tour fields, the second of which is ‘additional’ for Realtor viewing – and can even be branded – as it isn’t distributed. The first tour was populated with the cheap free tour MFRMLS provides (first 5 photos in slide format) as a ‘benefit’ to realtors. I advise all my clients to delete it is that field is populated and insert my tour. The original Realtor had “tourthisplace” tour in the second field with the free “instatour” in the first field.

    The other thing that stood out is that the original listing didn’t “expire” where it is open season by all realtors to re-list, but was “withdrawn” typically by the customer. Unfortunately, it was withdrawn and relisted by the other company on the same day 3/3/2015. The exclusive right to sell may have been violated with soliciting for the listing when active with another agent, particularly when you consider that professional photos were ready on day 1.

  • In my photography class to real estate agents, my first question is, “What’s the most important factor in selling a house?” The answer is PRICE. If the house isn’t priced right, the house won’t sell no matter how good the photos are. The rest of the class is spent giving examples of how better photos can help add value to the listing and tips on how to achieve better photos. Of course, each segment pretty much ends with, “or you could just hire a professional photographer and get better results with less effort.”

  • The new pictures are definitely better and between the better pictures and the quick sale, the new agent is likely the seller’s hero. Lots of studies show that ON AVERAGE a home will sell faster with professional pictures, the benefit to the agent is better looking marketing which should lead to more listings. A low listing price could have motivated the buyer or it might have been serendipity. One data point doesn’t equal anything.

    @LarryG, I also counsel my customers to have all of their marketing materials ready to hand when they publish the listing. They might sell a property in the few days before a home is ready for photos and the photographer can be scheduled, but the agent will just wind up with another gallery of crap pictures (if they took more than one and troubled themselves to roll down the car window) that won’t do them any good attracting the next listing client. If the home doesn’t sell in those few days, they’ve thrown away the huge advantage of the “new” listing. Agents concentrate on new listings each day and the consumer facing sites, Trulia, Zillow and Realtor.com, default their sorting to newest first. Bad photos could also lead buyers looking online to push the “Zap” button that’s being added to listing sites and the home may never be seen again by buyers that might have taken a closer look.

    @LarryL Your list of selling factors are all valid and also why it’s hard to believe some studies that come out. Many of the people in my area work for military contractors and defense firms. If a big new contract get awarded to one of the companies, there could be a bunch of people relocating to the area and looking for homes. If a big contract is finishing up, there may be a lot of people moving out due to transfers or moving to a new employer. I’m still quite sure that somebody selling their home is going to feel better listing with an agent that can show them that they use professional photography over an agent that takes close up pictures of the rotating ceiling fans with their cell phone.

  • One other thing of note — There is far less clutter in the house in the after.

    A quick story. Two months ago, I shot a home for a good client — 4100 sq ft, professionally decorated. But it was this “super country cluttered” motif. Think living in a cracker barrel. Two weeks later, one showing, no offers, client calls me back, and says she had the seller remove 80% of the junk. She wants a reshoot (Paid) which I do. 48 hours later, after 8 showings, house sells for full ask.

    Here’s the kicker — the BUYER calls me the next day. “Hey, we just bought the house that you photographed on Fincastle. We fell in love with the pics and then we bought it. Now we have to sell our house — and we want you to shoot it!”

    In this case at least, it appears the photos moved the needle in the way they are designed to do — they moved a motivated seller through the door.

  • Apart from being a photographer, I also have renovated & resold 7 properties. A couple of years ago I was part of a group of 4 people to invest, buy, renovate, and sell a house in the Hudson Valley (Milton NY). My partners were appraisers which held a r/e brokers’ license. They tried to sell the house for 2 months. I lost my patience and listed the house with my photos and the house sold in a week with my Ebay listing. The buyer didn’t even want to meet at the house first, just go to the attorneys and close the deal. My wife and I insisted meeting at the house, however that made no difference to the buyer, still bought the house on 3 acres. Good photos can tell the whole story and sell !!

  • Bruce, it is not necessarily the case that the home was relisted at a lower price, though that often happens. Might have been the same price or even more, if the home was made to show better by doing some repairs or remodeling or by staging it well. Also, maybe the marketing for the previous listing was just generally bad, aside from the photos, so it really never got good market exposure.

    In any case, I do think that high quality photos can market a home to help it sell faster and for more money, and I have had real estate agents and sellers tell me they think my photos helped with that, though this is hard to quantify.

  • @Larry: “…statistically over large numbers of properties, good photos make a difference…” Is there a well-designed empirical study that supports this claim? I’ve seen a Redfin.com analysis of this based upon a large set of collected EXIF data. This methodology, however, is highly problematic and unreliable since it doesn’t control for confounding factors, thus the results are not usable in any predictive way.

    @Ken: “Lots of studies show that ON AVERAGE a home will sell faster with professional pictures…” Any well-designed studies that you can cite? It intuitively makes sense to me that ‘good’ photos would help real estate sales (for whatever reason), but my intuition here is irrelevant; I’m more interested in the empirical evidence that supports these claims.

  • @Gary – Excuse my precise sounding language (I fixed it)! No, there’s absolutely no way to PROVE that photos have any effect on home sales but the average home seller, home buyer or agent realizes that photos make a difference.

  • @Larry: Ah… My apologies. I didn’t mean to take exception to your language, but just wanted any information that supported the role of photography in real estate sales. One agent I shoot for always shows exceptionally great care and diligence in handling and presenting each of his client’s properties. From his efforts, I’ve (anecdotally) sensed that good real estate photos convey–among other things–a special care in handling the property. Seems to me that, conversely, poorly-done real estate photos inadvertently communicate a ‘carelessness’ on the part of the agent which, on its own, may be sufficient to cause potential buyers to look elsewhere.

  • It’s sad listening to some of you minimize the impact of your work.

  • I agree with Dean. Why minimize our work?
    We are in this because: 1) We all love photography 2) We believe good RE photography can make a difference in the presentation of a property. 3) Good RE Agents know good photography can make a difference and help to bring in the traffic.
    Since I started this business last October I know for sure that I have one property that sold strictly because of the pictures. The agent reported this to me and is now convinced that good pictures make a difference.

  • @Tom & Dean – I think you guys are missing the point that Gary made that I was responding to. This point comes up EVERY time I or anyone else claims that good real estate photography has a positive effect on the sale of the listing. The point is that even though there are studies (the Redfin study and others) that show a strong correlation between the use of professional photography to market listings and the increased net sales price, this cannot be considered scientific proof that it was due to professional photography. That is, it’s just statistics, not proof because there are so many other variables that aren’t being accounted for.

    This is the whole point of my post. When you make claims about the effects of professional real estate photography be aware that there are a huge number of other factors involved and don’t go overboard claiming photos are the only factor that sells listing.

    My point of view is that you don’t need scientific proof and a perfectly designed scientific measurement technique. Anyone with half a brain can daily see and understands the effects of visual images on marketing.

  • “Dam you’re good. I got an offer the very next day and we are now opening escrow on Monday!!!!” This message was from a listing agent who’s listing I recently shot.

    It had been on the market for 67 days with little action. I shot the house and it was re-listed by the same agent, at the same price, and in the same conditions. An offer was received and accepted 3 days after the new images and listing appeared. Was it my images? No. In my opinion, it was re-listing the home WITH new images. People had seen the property’s old listing images for over 2 months and it was a stale listing. When it was re-listed with fresh images, buyers saw the property differently and were attracted to it.

    Old listing:
    http://paragonmls.sandicor.com/publink/default.aspx?GUID=650e8aa6-bd45-4fe8-b5dd-16291d17b2d2&Report=Yes

    New listing:
    http://paragonmls.sandicor.com/publink/default.aspx?GUID=78bdab2f-ba7c-4c38-b858-c3331601d850&Report=Yes

    The agent did correct the acreage on the new listing but that is the only change I am seeing.

    I know this is far from a typical scenario. But, it does happen.

  • I was surprised that a $170k listening I shot in a Cleveland suburb last month sold in only two days and for “way more than the asking price” according to the Howard Hanna agent selling the property. The homeowner specifically listed with the agent because he saw photos I did for him last year and requested the same photographer.

    It’s still hard to say how much photos had to do for sure, but two days AND for more than asking price says something.

  • @Gary E. Karcz, I’ve always been able to poke holes in the studies that show homes sell faster and for more money with pro photos as most of them don’t also publish their methodology. In the case of Redfin’s study, just using exif data is going to be rife with problems. I do think in aggregate that there is a strong correlation given that all of the studies are showing similar results. I have the NAR buyers survey from 2014 that asked buyers specifically how important pictures were to them and 90+% of respondents stated that pictures were “important” to “very important”. The survey didn’t test for picture quality, but if buyers feel that pictures are important, I would guess that better quality photos would be preferred.

    Since News Corp bought the Realtor.com service and denied Listhub syndication to Trulia and Zillow, I’ve signed up for notifications of new listings in the area to keep up on the market and agents. The thing I have noticed is that their pictures are tiny. Some from the MLS transfer over at their max of 767 pixels wide, but many are 300px wide or smaller. Anybody working with agents that have an account at Realtor.com and are uploading photos directly?

  • Buying and selling RE is an “Emotional” experience. What do photographs do? Illicit emotion, that’s what. Not scientific enough? Creating a “Feeling” is what this is about (imo). If clients think good photography makes a difference, to hell you better too. This industry is growing and it’s all up from here for those who can put it all together. Which is more than just good photography.

  • Ask to an international makeup brand, they will sell more lipsticks if do they use a professional product photographer?, or maybe if use iphone pictures? Till now i dont saw large ads with amateur images.

    Bests
    Greg

  • Regarding studies that “prove” that homes with professional photos have quicker sales for more money: I think that is true. However, I believe the reason for faster sales for more money is not the photos themselves. There are just too many variables in the real estate market. Nevertheless, we all know that agents, not images, sell homes. I believe that, in general, the best agents are using professional photographers, and their knowledge, skills, commitment, networking, etc. achieve faster sales for more money. Great images is just part of their approach to a successful business.

  • If you read my original blog post I stated:

    “Now, I can’t say the photos alone sold the home; credit must be given to the Realtor.”

    Of course there were other factors involved and one of them was the photography.

    Here’s my original post: http://harrylimphotoblog.com/2015/03/12/after-nearly-8-months-photos-help-sell-home-in-8-days/

    If we are going to sit here and, as others have pointed out, minimize our work then why are any of us in this business? Maybe we should just hang up our cameras and go try to save the world.

  • Hi Harry- Yes, I saw where you give credit to the Realtor… but most of the impact and message of the post comes from the title of the post and the photos. I’d the last person on the planet that will claim that Professional photos like yours don’t make a difference but my point is that you lose credibility with many Realtors when you claim that the photos are the main factor that sold the property because there are a huge number of other more important factors that have a higher probability of selling that property that you are not even aware of.

  • Harry Lim: I agree entirely with you. Larry is misquoting you and mischaracterizing what you said in order to make a ‘straw man’ argument.

  • Over on the Real Estate Photography Facebook group, someone just posted this about one of his photos:

    “The real estate agent didn’t see the value of professional photography (the home had been on the market for 60 days) The homeowner hired me and it was under contract in 3 days.”

    Someone must have spiked the punch! 🙂

    As for the impact of the post title, I worked in broadcast news for 10 years. I know how to write a lead. Isn’t that what a headline is supposed to do; draw you in? I was very careful in writing it and thus made sure to include the word “help” – as in: just one factor not the main one. Perhaps the title should have been “Various market conditions, pure kismet plus other factors we cannot nail down for sure help sell a home.”

  • Not to beat a dead horse but just got this email from a client who’s home I shot 13 days ago: “Just wanted you to know we sold our home. They said the new pictures convinced them to come take a look at the house…thank you!!!!”

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