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How to Find Vacation Rental Property Owners to Shoot Property Photos For?

December 19th, 2017

Don in Florida asks:

I shoot vacation rentals and was wondering about the ethics of using the “contact owner” option on VRBO.com for introducing my services to vacation rental owners. I wasn’t sure if this violated and agreements or was frowned upon. Do you have any suggestions for locating and contacting such clients?

I don’t see any problem with using the owner contact feature of VRBO.com to contact owners. Having been a past rental property owner, that’s what rental owners expect.

Here are some other things to consider for anyone who shoots rental properties:

  1. Shooting rentals is very different from shooting for a resale listing agent! A top resale listing agent may have 50 to 100 listings to shoot every year whereas a rental owner needs only one shoot every several years. You’ll need way more clients when you shoot rentals than you would shooting resale listings.
  2. Because of item #1, I would charge more to shoot a rental property than a resale listing. The property owners are going to use the photos for years.
  3. There are rental agencies that handle all aspects of vacation rentals for the property owner including photography for marketing the property. Find these operations and shoot for them.
  4. Find out all the popular property rental websites used in your geographical area. Don’t forget Zillow.com and Craigslist.org. When we had rentals a few years ago, the Seattle area Zillow.com and Craigslist.org were the most popular ways to rent property.

Does anyone else have any advice on shooting rental properties?

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7 Responses to “How to Find Vacation Rental Property Owners to Shoot Property Photos For?”

  • I market to vacation rental managers and owners. Sometimes you will find that a RE sales office in a resort town will also manage rental properties either under the same business or a subsidiary. Agents may also be property managers so always point out that you photograph rentals too. There is a resort area a few hours from me and I am pitching that I can photograph a listing for sale and also several rentals on the same trip for a good package price. A vacation rental can be 5-10 images of the property and some community/attraction images which makes them pretty easy to knock out.

    I agree that images for rental properties need to be priced higher given the extended nature of their use. If you are making 20 images for a sale at $200 and 10 images of a rental for $200, that’s double. You also have to take into consideration the value of the property and the typical in-season rental price. A $400,000 house in a fancy ski resort town that rents for $2,500/week will be worth spending more than a $80,000 summer cabin that rents for $400/week. The trick is to not price yourself out of the market and also limit what the images can be used for. If the rental ends up being put up for sale, there should be additional licensing and probably a whole new set of images made. If you happen to like visiting the resort area, you might be able to do some trades to get your foot in the door with a property manager.

    I’ve had no luck with marketing to the long term rental market.

  • IMHO (as someone who has been in the vacation rental business for almost 15 years) the ‘contact owner’ button on VRBO.com and all other vacation rentals websites is there to be used for the sole purpose of making an enquiry about renting the property in question.
    Soliciting for business by using this button is likely to firstly annoy the heck out of the owner (or managing agent) of the property and, secondly, to cause your email address to be blocked entirely from that website.
    Vacation rental owners always look forward to receiving genuine enquiries, but when they open an ‘enquiry’ only to find that somebody is trying to sell them a service, you can imagine the frustration caused …

    These days, savvy vacation rental owners update their property photos regularly so that they are always more or less up to date. (Renters often ask how old the photos are when they are considering renting a property.)
    So, fewer and fewer owners use the same photos for ‘several years’. This means that if you have vacation rental clients (either owners or agents) you could well end up doing at least annual shoots of their properties.

    When shooting vacation rental properties, they need to be ‘staged’ differently than for RE properties – which means additional time in setting up the property prior to shooting. This should be reflected in the price charged.

  • I have been shooting more and more VRBO/Airbnb rentals for the last couple of years. You can become a “partner” and advertise your business on the homeaway.com (parent company of VRBO) site:
    https://partners.homeaway.com/homeowner/more. I did so more than a year ago, however I can’t attribute any business to it. I think the majority of business comes from word-of-mouth referrals and google.

    Be very careful about soliciting the owners directly. Homeaway is very protective of their rental clients. I’ve tried a number of ways to solicit business from them – joining their blog and writing short posts about photography, volunteering to write for their blog, and advertising. Be advised they don’t like any form of advertising on their blogs – even the mention of your website address, and it is easy to rile them up and quickly get banned from the blogs.

    I submitted a number of blog posts for their consideration and they liked them all and wanted me to write for them. However, they prohibited any mention of my business or website address and wouldn’t pay a dime for the posts. I finally gave up, although I still advertise on their “partner” site (no cost to do so).

    I’ve tried to contact Airbnb a few times to see what I could do there, but came up empty-handed everytime.

  • I agree with Sean. Filling out the form to get a photo shoot of a vacation owner’s property is about as un-cool, un-professional as it gets. I own vacation rental property in Colorado and when I get an email from someone asking to shoot my 360 (which I already did myself) its nothing short of annoying.

    BEST PRACTICE for you: Get the address. Print up 1,000 nice 5 x 7 post cards and mail them out. Step Two: Go to Google AdWords Express and spend $200/mo on AdWords. Or go to AdBlade.com and create a banner ad and spend $200 – $300 a month on banner ads.

    Step Four: Go to the BizJournals and sign up. Pay the $99 annual and get the weekly publication sent to you. Set your preferences online and watch the wonderful leads come to your mail box every week.

    We know a few things about the hospitality industry and we like to teach what we know. We shoot for over 70 property management companies, including direct for Wyndham Extra Holidays (vacation ownership), VRBO, Sands Corp, all of the Choice Hotels locations, AirBnB, HomeAway, Inspirato, Jet Setter and Luxury Retreats. We’re celebrating our 20th year in business in January.

  • Not sure about your locations but where I live we have 3 major vacation rental companies, I shoot for two of them.

  • Also, with the rental companies, I use a stager and do the wine glasses, food, candles etc. Had to buy some props but it gets used over and over.

  • Hi Bill. I live in Florida and have shot for Kokopelli in New Mexico, I wouldnt be surprised if you’ve shot for them. Love your work! You’re right about getting with the rentals companies, they’re the big whales of this sector.

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