An Example of Great Online Real Estate Marketing

September 21st, 2010

For the last several days I’ve been talking to Bill Silver, a Realtor in Harwich Port, MA who specializes in Cape Cod vacation properties. Bill does all his own photography and uses some unique and innovative techniques.

After the first tour Bill showed me I noticed that his photography had a distinctive look. It took me a while to put my figure out exactly what he was doing for lighting. This tour that Bill did for his stager really caught my attention. Can you tell what lighting technique he is using? You don’t see this every day particularly by an agent that does their own photography. Can you say BIG LIGHTs? Yes, Bill is using two 500 watt hot lights plus a 250 watt when needed. Bill admits that this approach takes longer than other approaches but since he’s the listing agent so there’s no one to rush him. He says he doesn’t always get away with taking so much time when he’s shooting his wife’s listings.

Not only is he using big lights but, if you notice the windows on most of his shots are crisp and clear with the view completely visible. Just like there is no glass! You don’t get window pull like this even with hot lights! Bill takes the time to “hand layer” the windows in Photoshop Elements! For those that don’t know about “hand layering” windows see my post on this subject here. Bill says he does an extensive amount of post processing, removing reflections, punching up the colors and layering.

A unique approach that Bill uses (seen in this tour) is that he puts text marketing descriptions on the bottom of each photo. Yes, I know, not the most elegant looking but when you think about the fact that this text get propagated around the Net to all the real estate sites that get the photos this is a pretty powerful concept. I don’t think most agents pay enough attention to writing marketing copy to go along with the photo. You can communicate a lot more with a few well chosen words on the photos.

Bill also does his own floor plans that he draws in PowerPoint. Pretty impressive marketing. Here is the listing site for one of his current listings. Don’t let anyone tell you that there aren’t agents out there that understand the importance of great online marketing. It’s pretty clear that Bill does! Thanks Bill for letting me share your work.

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10 Responses to “An Example of Great Online Real Estate Marketing”

  • Tour has no front photo!

  • Not bad …… for a … Realtor 😉

    I have often thought of no text on the photo as missed opportunity for clarification and presentation. The black and yellow is not my cup of tea. It is not easy to do text on the photo with a LR3 workflow. There was a plugin I used in LR2 that did not work the way I wanted it to and was left behind. I am going to look again at trying to get some text into the process.

    I can only say that it all looks good, but a White Label account on PFRE Tour would make it all look a lot better.

  • Really not a huge fan of masking windows to the point where it looks as if they don’t even exist/ “just like their is no glass”. From a consumer standpoint, it SCREAMS fake, which makes me wonder what else is untruthful in the photo or being manipulated. This impression/subjective opinion is shared with allot of consumers I have spoken and conducted surveys with.

    We need more Realtors like Bill. It’s clear he goes well above and beyond for his clients. Great use of lighting, promotion and floorplan integration. I really like the idea of using a Powerpoint for floor plans as slide’s can be made describing each room/facility with informational pop-up’s and the slide’s can now even be streamed and embedded in websites without the viewer needing powerpoint!

  • He uses those hot lights really well. I’d like to see a lighting diagram or two.

  • Pretty impressive. Hand layering the windows is a great approach, but you can take it to far. Fake is not the look that consumers are looking for. Bill has done a good job.

  • @dbltapp- Here is Bills description of his setup:
    “The light stands are not always on both sides of the camera. Sometimes they are on the same side but pointing at different angles. Sometimes I even place one in another room—so a picture that includes that room can show it with some light. Sometimes I only use one light, especially in small rooms like bathrooms etc. There are even some shots that I don’t use a light. But the good thing about using these lights is that you can see the lighting effect before you take the picture.

    Even with that I still screw up. One of the pictures I uploaded today (a small sitting room with two chairs and a blue wall) was very much OVER lighted. Most of the wall came out WHITE. I had to make it blue by hand. I wish I knew more about Photoshop.

    The light stands I use cost about $75 each and the bulbs cost about $6 each. I was told that they would only last about 1 hour of ON time but that has not been the case at all. I typically get 20-30 hours out of each bulb. They are hard to find. They cannot be bought on Cape Cod and only two stores in the Greater Boston area carry them—and one is often out of stock. I try to carry several replacements at all times.”

  • Seeing that Bill is the agent, he would be the one to come up with or approve the copy. Thinking of the extra time to add copy if all had to go back and forth between the agent…. The extra time in post can be appreciated. It hurts to limit what you do on an image some times. There is the time factor caused by what an agent is willing to pay and their (client) imposed dead lines. One could spend hours or be very good at photoshop and photography.. Just getting started on tours myself. As I listen to my agents -” a slide show tour is not much more than what they can see and print off from the MLS”. A good point. Explaining the larger photo didn’t seem to make an impression on the agents. I have provided them though.

    Here is where I’m at in the evolution of the tour: Those videos are available to the agents on my website for MLS linking (zero branding). Next will come floor planes. They will have to be interactive to set me apart of the competition in town.

  • Kudos to agents that do their own photography, especially when they do it well. As an agent myself I know there are many advantages of doing your own photography and tours. You can do things like take more time in post because what is really on the line is your reputation, not to mention the commission. Another thing I have noticed is that these agents typically don’t just do good photography, all of their marketing is unique, if not borderline innovative. I know there is a stigma associated with being an agent, whether your talking about photography or just sales in general. It’s good to see people like Bill getting recognized for the sum of their work and not lumped in with the same old crowd of “Old Pro” real estate agents.

  • You know, up to a point, I think it is great for the rest of the real estate photographers that there are some real estate agents out there who are quite capable real estate photographers. I think it raises the general awareness of realtors about the importance of quality listing photos. Fortunately for the rest of us, there are not that many realtors who have the time and talent to do high-quality photography themselves. And, even if technology eventually makes it easier for the average realtor to do better basic documentary photos, at the upper-mid-range and high end of the market, which is what I mainly aim to cater to, there is simply no replacing an experienced and well-trained eye with technology, at least not until computers really start to function more like human brains, but that is still a very long way off.

  • So Bill plugs these lights in at the homeowners residence? I’ve thought of doing that, but was not so sure they would be happy about that. Bill puts a ton of work into this – showing his interest in properly marketing his properties. There was one shot of a bedroom which had a vanity mirror – the shade in the mirror is down quite a bit more than in the window – I had to chuckle a bit. Great work overall!

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