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Can You Sell a Real Estate Photography Business?

January 17th, 2018

Mike in Nevada asks:

How does one prepare to relocate a real estate photography business to another state or city? Given that one will have to give up the hard-earned client-base when transitioning. How can I obtain factual information regarding real estate and potential competition? I was considering selling my business so that I can have some money to rebuild my clientele. Any thoughts on the matter?

Obtaining Information about Competition in Any Given City
You can find information about real estate photography competition in any city by just Googling “[city name] real estate photographers.” This will show you all of the websites of real estate photographers within [city name] and should give you much of the information to understand the competition in [city name]. Anyone who doesn’t have a website and is not marketing themselves is not going to be competition!

Selling a Real Estate Photography Business
Whether or not you can sell any real estate photography business depends upon a number of factors:

  • How much have you defined and written down your business approach and standards?
  • How large is your client database and how much information do you have about repeat customers?
  • In short, your business needs to be well defined and documented before you can sell it.

The only real estate photographer who could take over your current client base would be a photographer that does the same kind of work that you do and one that provides roughly the same level of service that you do. It is likely that a large percentage of your clients would not stick with a new owner who did different work. My guess is that a new owner would be lucky if 50% of your client base would continue working with him or her.

Does anyone have experience selling a real estate photography business?

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8 Responses to “Can You Sell a Real Estate Photography Business?”

  • I haven’t sold one but did buy the one I was working for.
    Obviously, potential buyers need to know a lot of details. Sales, pricing, packages, client contracts, client databases, style of shots, website set-up etc. etc. My experience was that a lot of those details were not available, or were not provided. It was a bit of a shot in the dark but I had the advantage of working for the business previously so was able to predict and estimate a lot of the information to make a decision whether the business was a worthwhile proposition or not.
    Mike in Nevada, if you’re reading this feel free to reach out to me if you want some specific answers on the potentials buyers viewpoint.

  • Consider hiring a photographer that you train, to shoot in the same way you do…. You pay them for their time at the property however, you edit the images or outsource the editing to one of those photo editing companies. you will have control of your product this way, keep your business and start your business at your new location. It’s really no different than you being too busy at your current location and needing to hire another photographer.

  • A few years ago I sold my window washing business. Not the same, however, legally you are just selling a client list to the prospective buyer. No client was under any contract to continue to do business with the new owner.
    How much a potential buyer is willing to pay for a list is open to different opinions.
    I agree that the best way is to break someone in and demonstrate the ability to provide equal service to that of the seller.

  • Of course you can sell anything, but for how much? I think the first question you need to ask is ‘who would want to buy it’ Ask this question because I think most RE photographers are people looking for an easy way to make money, if they knew what it takes to be successful, they would go back to the Home Depot or other similar job. They are deluded thinking they have a camera that different lenses and they are the master of it in the ‘P’ setting. and they can’t get a good paying job in an industry that appeals to them. Or like me, they got older and more and more unemployable. (I was a database programmer that contracted for Intel, Sharp, Tektronix etc. They pay $35.00 an hour less for some talented young buck that’s fluent in the new languages). So, if I am correct, you have have a broke individual looking for a new career, good luck getting
    them to buy and PAY for your business.

    How much is your business worth? Oh really, prove it. After I saw the original post I went out and found a few calculators for business worth. We are a b2b service company. With my annual billing and low overhead my business is worth 125,000 to 230,000. Got that laying around? well some of us do.

    But as mentioned above, what are they buying? a client list and that list is available from any mls. My equipment, well sure if I am retiring, but the poster said he wanted to relocate and continue. All in all, our business is worth less and less.

    If you have the books, records, and everything you have done for everyone along with the accounting you have a sale able business, otherwise your buyer is a FOOL. If I was going to sell out I think my buyer would have to be cash solvent, looking to have an established business with a ready income flow. He/She would have to trust that my clientele would continue with them. So I would settle on an amount and take them on as an unpaid employee for as long as they could handle it (6 months would be best). That long because my clientele need to meet and work with him. This would provide the opportunity for the buyer to decide if it was for them if the clientele would work with them and they thought they could grow the business. I wouldn’t buy any business with some reassurance (other than un enforceable promises) where ‘goodwill’ was part of the equation.

    I envision my buyer would be a successful person looking for a relaxed change in life with a healthy established retirement fund to draw on, or just sold a dump in California or had a spouse to back them up.

    Two cases for concern. both true. Two realtors parted ways, one agreed to pay the other $10,000 a month for a set time, a third of the way through the paying Realtor reorganized and changed the corp. Just who got screwed. Second (me) sold an established business but agreed to payments on the equipment. After not getting payed took them court and won. They filed bankruptcy and guess who got screwed.

  • I didn’t sell one, but I did buy one. One of the important issue is that the business can’t be directly linked to a specific person. If the business name is “John photo, real estate photography” you are going to have a hard time selling it to a Wayne Brewskey and have the business continue. You also need to ease the transition. The new owner should work with you and adopt your style. That prevents any abrupt changes. Both of these take time and planning.

  • Neal makes a great point. If you think you might want to sell your business in the future, you need to brand it and run it so customers are in the mindset of hiring the company rather than the person. Sole proprietorship service businesses can be very hard to sell especially creative businesses. If you have a business with a couple of employees and clients are happy to accept whichever photographer is assigned to their job, you have a better chance of selling. Keeping meticulous books will support your asking price if you aren’t asking for the moon. If all you have are bank statements, you will have to search high and low for the right buyer and need to be prepared to accept a much lower price.

    A large portfolio of registered images can also be a good asset that will help sell the business. You should register your Copyright in your own name so if you want to hang on to some of those images, there won’t be as many issues. Don’t expect that your camera gear will be worth a tremendous amount if it’s more than a year or two old. Top of the line lenses do well, but bodies don’t. A rack of beat up light stands and cases don’t engender high bids even if they are perfectly serviceable.

  • I recently relocated and had some serious thoughts about this as well. I ended up treating my clients like humans and searched out my (soon to be old) competition that had a similar style and recommend that they use them instead of the national chains. My clients were bummed I was leaving but they were appreciative that I gave them notice and a few options. A few months later I received a thank you from one of my old competitors. That made my day, I never told him I was doing so but apparently a few of my old clients said I recommended them… Pass it forward ya know? Another thought would be to reach out to someone and if your client does end up sending work their way maybe work up a referral fee or something similar. Not sure how that would work or not but we really need to stick together to keep our independent market share.

  • I will at some point. I’m 58, and am currently shooting about 1200 homes a year with a client base of over 300, with about 50 that are “regular” along with a bit of commercial interior work. At some point I will hire someone, give them a year or 2 to make sure they are a fit (and the clients know us both), then announce that I am retiring and they will be taking over. A year or so later, the new person can change the name from Henderson Images to whatever.

    The asking price will be a cash figure plus a small percentage of the profits for the year after I retire that it’s still in my name.

    Or…….I’ll die in someones front yard at 80 with a camera in my hand (more likely scenario).

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