Should Real Estate Photographers Write Text for Listings?

May 5th, 2017

Daniel in New Jersey asked:

I’m curious to know if any photographers are writing listing descriptions for their agents as an add-on? I’ve recently been contacted by an agent who was interested in this service and gave me some figures as to what he was willing to pay. I must admit, I’m a bit tempted. I know there are agencies/freelancers who write listing descriptions so outsourcing it is definitely an option. However, I guess the main issue that comes up is getting into the details of the property. How old is the furnace? Have the windows been recently replaced? The roof, etc… A photographer obviously gets a good first-hand look at the property but beyond that we typically don’t know much. If there is anyone out here offering these services I’m curious as to how they are going about it.

As an ex-listing agent working for 10 years with my wife in the Seattle Eastside market, I find it outrageous that listing agents would ask photographers to write listing text! Although, I’m not at all surprised that some lazy agents would come up with this idea.

When my wife and I got a listing, we would sit down with the sellers at the property and discuss all aspects of the property being listed. This is all information that goes into filling out the listing form and describing and disclosing information about the property. The listing agent is legally responsible for the accuracy of all the information that goes into the listing so I find it irresponsible to have someone else other than the listing agent creating the listing. This is why listing agents are licensed!

My advice to real estate photographers being asked to do this is to tell the agent HELL NO you are not going to write the text for the listing unless you also become licensed, go to the listing appointment with the sellers, and split the listing commission with them!

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12 Responses to “Should Real Estate Photographers Write Text for Listings?”

  • I work in the Vancouver, Canada area – along with stills and video I also do the 4 page feature brochures for some of my realtor clients – usually because English is their second or third language. There are many Chinese realtors in
    Vancouver. For a few I rewrite their 1-paragraph listing description – quick because they’ve included the details they want, I just edit it. I charge them $50. takes me 10-15 minutes. I won’t write them from scratch as I doubt most realtors would pay enough to make
    it worth while – hard enough to squeeze in the brochure layouts some weeks.

  • If they want them to sound the same as my other clients from other agencies AND want to pay me what is worth, sure why not! Either or both of those are non-starters and they decline. Each of my tours start with the generic “Welcome to your new home in (subdivision/neighborhood)” because I had to fill in a heading – which they are free to change, but few do. If I wrote full scripts of property, thy would be equally generic. While I don’t have the non-native speaker issue noted earlier (and sadly, spelling/grammar may not ne limited to non-native) I do review what they wrote with the listing but that is value added gratis. I have to come back a day or two later (trained them to email me when they list it) where I finish the tour with copy/paste their narrative and the MLS# into the tour and link to who changed their policy and is now free to all realtors but not automatic linkage. While I don’t contact them on grammar/spelling, if I see they put the branded version of the tour in or placed it in the wrong tour field (locally, we have Tour 1 and Tour 2) I am on the phone to them, and they are appreciative.

    Back to the primary issue, it is their listing and the narrative write-up is one of the most intimate reflections of their professional relationship to the seller. They know the house and they know seller and what is important to them to address in the narrative like no one else can. The seller sees (locally, required to have a copy) and a cold generic narrative could potentially devalue that relationship. Also, as an original written content, it is covered under the same copyright laws as photography which we know they notoriously don’t understand, but they own the copyright to their written content that they are the author of.

  • Had one a few years ago that required this. Must admit, the problem I had with it was that it meant you had to add a lot more time on site to do the work. Most people in my experience are surprised by how long interiors photography takes and do not always allow enough time for it. This meant that if you had to do photographs, floor plan and then written description as well, you were really struggling for time and having to rush, which is not ideal.

    That said, I have nothing against it in principle.

    A more efficient method however was that the agent would be on site at the same time to do the description, and possibly the DEA to do the Energy Performance Certificate as well (not sure what the equivalent if this is in the US). Then everything would be done in one go with minimal disruption to the client.

  • I often edit the agents description to correct for punctuation, misspellings, mis-use of words, etc. Generally, I just “clean up” what they have written to make it more understandable. It’s easy for me as I was a newspaper editor a long time ago. I never charge for doing so.

  • Who is the responsible party if you mis-identify a feature? To me doing the agent’s work is inviting a lawsuit.

  • So…..What do they want next? Sorry, I would add more, but I have to run….Holding an open house for one of my clients……….

  • @Jerry – LOL. Yea, holding open houses would be another great add-on!

  • Your opening up a can of worms and agree with Stephan M.
    This is the realtors expertise. Period.

  • I have agents that want me to write and ad narration to video. It’s a bit too time consuming BUT, if they are willing to pay. I write it with a smile. The hard part is telling those agents that think this should be included free with a video walk through that …. it’s not.

  • @Jerry – Perhaps you will get lucky at the open house and meet someone who wants to sell their home. That way you can schedule the photoshoot while you are filling out the listing agreement for the Realtor. (I’m joking)

    @Ken – (getting serious). In video, I charge more for voiceover – but I don’t write it from scratch. While I don’t require the Realtor to write it as I want to control the timing, I have them outline key points for each room or area that will be part of the video. Three pricing tiers…Walkthrough to music only, Voiceover video with music, Actors (lifestyle) or owner’s (interview).

  • There’s no problem if someone pays you to write copy for them. This happens everyday. The agent would take all the responsibility for the publicly posted property description. If he/she wasn’t happy with it in any way, don’t post it. I’d personally do this if my quote got accepted. It probably would not be accepted because I don’t want to do this so my quote would be very high… too many bad memories of having to write papers in school being dredged up for me, haha.

  • This is simply crazy. We are photographers. Not creative copy writers. Perfect your photographic craft, grow, and become an exceptional photographer.

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