Does High Demand For Real Estate Reduce Demand For Real Estate Photography?

October 13th, 2015

LowInventoryI recently got a very interesting question from Martin in Vienna, Austria. Martin says:

I’ve been reading the PFRE Blog for two years. I´m very excited about the idea of a PFRE Business here in Vienna. Now I work fulltime as Insurance sales. I have two little girls and a wife. My Dream is to shoot the luxury House and Apartments here in Vienna, but my time is very barely.

My question is:

I´m not sure but I think the real estate sales here in Austria is a little bit difference than in the US. When I look at the listings here in Austria, I have the feeling that very few of the realtors has a professional photographer doing their photos.

If I search Real Estate Photography in Vienna, Austria I find nobody who is doing that alone. Some Photographers do architectual photography as a side job. Maybe its a new Market here in  Austria. Do you have any experience with this thesis. Or maybe other Photographers which are reading this blog too.

Since I know very little about the details of real estate photography market in Europe, I consulted my friend Oliver Zielinski in Berlin. Olli says:

In metropolitan areas like Vienna or Berlin there is currently a high damand for properties on the buyer’s side. Thus many realtors do not see any need to improve their marketing. They are satisfied with their own iphone photos quite often, what makes business for starting photographers very hard. Established photogs have their business partners and can rely on their existing RE contacts. And I have also heard about successful RE photogs who have found some other niches like interior design photography or shooting for high end construction firms. On the other hand there is of course some kind of strange “commercial awareness” with many medium and small RE businesses: They stubbornly save money by not using professional photos but at the same moment they do not see the impact of bad photos on their overall performance and their professional reputation.

Olli’s response brought to mind the phenomena I noticed  a few weeks ago about the state of the real estate market in the Seattle area. Appraiser, Alan Pope maintains a chart of the number of listings on the market in King County (greater Seattle area). Alan’s data shows the number of properties on the market in King County is at a 10 year low and the rate of sale of new properties on the market (inventory absorption) is at a 10 year high. This is similar to what Ollie describes in Berlin and Vienna, yet Seattle is one of the top markets for real estate photographers in the US (although far behind Australia).

So why the difference between in demand for real estate photography in Seattle and Vienna? In Seattle listing agents have been using real estate photography extensively for the last 10 years. They believe in it and homeowners demand real estate photography! Listing agents that don’t provide professional photography don’t get listings in Seattle! I think that for real estate photography to be popular you have to have a population of homeowners and listing agents that believe in it and it takes time for agents an homeowners to become believers.

Update 10/14: I think Jerry Miller in the comments described what the difference is between Vienna and Seattle probably is. There are to fundamental reasons to do professional real estate marketing:

  1. To sell the property for more, and
  2. For the listing agent to get more listings

In Seattle, I know both 1 and 2 are going on. Probably in Vienna there isn’t much of 2 going.

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11 Responses to “Does High Demand For Real Estate Reduce Demand For Real Estate Photography?”

  • My experience working in the Chicago area, the market is slowly shifting towards a seller’s market. Prices in many neighborhoods are back to their prerecession levels, and sale rates are rising as well. I’m not sure, but I suspect that this market change is the reason the some (3) of my top-producer clients (typically listing and selling 5 or 6 homes per month — with 40 to 50 active listings), have for the past four months, began using cheaper, low quality photographers, and even taking their own phone photos. I suspect that their mindset is “faster turnaround”, “less expense” — “my listings are still selling, why should I go the extra mile to hire professional photography?” My business is not suffering at all, since I’m getting even more work from Realtors who tend to have 5 or 6 active listings at a time, who, I think, still need to compete on the basis of their services to their sellers.

  • Gig Harbor, an hour south of Seattle is getting pretty hot in it’s typical Seattle to S Sound delayed fashion. It’s a small town teaming with elderly been-in-the-business-forever agents. Some of the most solid agents, coasting on their enormous sphere of clients, list upper-end homes with some of the crappiest camera phone photographs imaginable. They are openly proud of that, and defiant of paying for photographs. It’s pretty amusing. Half of them can’t use email properly. The other half pay their grand kids to perform the incredibly technical feat of loading the photos into the NWMLS. I’m not exaggerating, much. I’ve noticed the hotter the market is the more camera phone pictures come out. It’s frustrating because the home still sell quickly.

  • I am sure every geographical area is different and even differences between regions of metropolitan regions let alone rural and bedroom communities. So I can only speak from my own limited experience. I was just talking with a new client who tends to handle properties in the millions. We were discussing shooting a video for a large ranch. I mentioned that I had learned in starting this work that 50% of the results are to sell properties and 50% to attract sellers to use their agency to handle their listing. She said it was more like 80% to sell sellers on listing with them. What I was about to do was advertising for the broker rather than selling the property. She has to show the seller all the work she is doing on their behalf. With properties that have been sitting on the market for a year or more, she continuously has to show everything she is doing to find buyers in order to keep the listing. Photographic/marketing hand holding. Personally I am not so sure. I think the wealthy younger audience does shop over the internet witness Jon Stewart and his wife Tracy who found a farm to buy for rescue animals all over the internet in one day according to the New York Times. I get the impression that while there are plenty of realtors who like to ignore the basic tenants of advertising, those who are successful are well aware of the marketing properties of “perception” and embrace those that get them more sellers as well as buyers. But they know their audience as well and know what “perception” they need to use to attract both buyers and sellers alike.

  • I try to emphasize in my marketing that the current home market has little to do with using professional photography. If it’s a buyer’s market, an agent needs their listings to stand out and attract as many buyers as possible. In a seller’s market, an agent needs to have listings in order to earn commissions. The bottom line for listing agents is to have as many listings as they can manage in any market. Sellers that are picky about the agent they use to sell their home might also be diligent about getting their home ready to sell leading to even better pictures which makes the agent’s marketing look even better.

    Another push back I get is that many agents don’t want to use professional photography on listings under a certain dollar amount. I’ll agree with them when it’s vacant land, but for homes, they need good pictures. It’s generally true that lower priced homes (in good condition) sell more frequently than more expensive home. While it’s more work to sell more homes, selling three $150,000 homes in a week beats selling one $300,000 home every two weeks or a million dollar estate every six weeks.

  • I agree with Ken, But the reality is that a lot of agents are short sighted and only think of the marketing value of the photos for the duration of the sale. They do not have the experience to understand the value of the photos “after” the sale and all that they could do to promote themselves and their companies.

    When an agent flips that statement that the properties are selling so fast they don’t need to do anything, I think to myself…. are they looking out for the seller and getting as many offers to drive up the price as they can…or are they just taking the first offer and running with the money in their pocket. Unfortunately, I have been on the short end of that and lost over 100 grand.

  • @Jerry – Yes, I think you are right-on, the reason real estate photography is in high demand even though homes are selling many times faster than they have in the last 10 years is that a huge number of the listing agents have built a brand around doing a great job of marketing. They would never list a home that was not presented professionally online!

  • My advice from a european point-of-view, if you want to get into this market and aim for the high end market and luxury homes, cause those clients have the budget and appreciation for high quality images. Given that you can deliver top quality and you show a little flexibility (-> luxury chalets in the alps Ischgl,…) you might find your self a nice second business ;-).
    If one of the low end agents is not looking into upgrading his brand/marketing through higher quality pictures, he will remain being satisfied with his iPhone pics and it will be nearly impossible for you to convince him hiring you.
    Don’t waste your time convincing the low end agents, prepare yourself well and go for the big guys!

  • To answer the original question, “Does High Demand For Real Estate Reduce Demand For Real Estate Photography?” I believe it does (at least in hawaii) for a couple of reasons. Right now, there are less people selling, and the homes that do get onto the market typically move fast, so some agents don’t see the need to spend marketing dollars. So there are less homes to shoot and some agents are not spending the money = less real estate photo jobs. This is the case for homes under a million anyway. The super high end market continues to be its own animal here. When I started out in real estate photography in about 2005 or so, times were tough. My business really took off after the down turn. Agents started doing everything they could to get noticed. Hopefully they don’t forget that anytime soon. If you start getting less real estate photoshoots because agents don’t see the need, look to new developments and builders. They stand to make a lot of money during the good times and are more willing to spend.

  • In much of my market, homes are selling crazy fast, many for over asking (shot one house that when put on the market set a record for the highest asking price for a single family – ever – in that area…. and that went for $260K over asking in 3 days!) It’s a crazy market!

    It’s a GIVEN that houses will sell… even without good photos or video. However, the difficult part is GETTING the listing. Inventory is still too low and it’s very, very competitive to GET the listing in the first place. Agents are using pro photos, video etc. for that purpose… not specifically to sell the listing. It will probably sell regardless….. Almost weekly we’re I’m told that someone new is being “forced” to hire a photographer just to be competitive… Hiring a pro doesn’t just have to do with selling the property…. it has to do with getting the listing! And you have to sometimes educate the agents as the the REAL benefits of using a pro vs. doing it themselves. They often times just think it’s about finding a buyer….

    2014 was my best year ever… and this year we had already beat last year by mid-July! And the phone is still ringing off the hook like it did during the height of the spring market! It hasn’t let up even for a minute.

  • In Melbourne and advanced real estate photography market, I don’t believe it has an affect at all from my experience. Yes because 1 the agents know the importance of good photography means to their own personal brand and ability to get listings and yes also because they want maximum commisions / best price result for their customers. A drop in the level of photography puts them behind their competing real estate agents.

  • We have been watching our annual trends for 8 years. It has always been peculiar that our business tracks closer to the number of sales, than the number of listings. We theorize that because of the feast/famine nature of real estate photography is one of the first things cut when agents do not have adequate cash flow. As we approach our busy season (June/July) where buyers are nearly in a frenzy to buy and get settled in before school starts we get really busy…to a point. As the buyer’s market continues to heat up (especially if it reaches a white hot status) our clients with a handful of listings a year will cut back on marketing. Our most successful clients however don’t dream of putting out a listing without proper marketing, often in hot markets we get requests for photography in a panic because the home has sold and they need the images shot for their marketing before the new owners move in.

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