How Do You Make Sure a Property Is Ready to Photograph When You Arrive?

January 25th, 2018

ClarkListingGary in Chicago asked:

Is there a good way to handle homeowners that are not really ready and expect you to stage each room Telling the homeowner I’m on a schedule resulted in a request to come back, expecting the agent to pay. I wound up spending three times as much time and had to skip the video tour because the crap from one room was in the next.

First, there are a number of ground rules that you need to make sure everyone involved understands:

  1. When you (the photographer) arrive, the property must be ready to shoot.
  2. You are a photographer, not a stager but you may make small changes that don’t take a lot of time.
  3. Since the listing agent has a contract with the homeowner to market the property, it is the listing agent’s responsibility to make sure the property is ready when the photographer arrives.

Here are the steps I recommend to make sure this happens:

  • Have all your terms of service written down.
  • Have a discussion with new clients to make sure they understand your terms of service and your cancellation policy if a property is not ready to shoot.
  • When you first arrive at the property, do a quick walk-through to make sure the property is ready for your shoot.
  • Then, before you shoot, explain to whomever is present (agent, homeowner, or both) what your time constraints are and what you expect of them during the shoot (probably to just say out of your way).

I’ve seen from working with my wife as a listing agent for 10 years that managing home sellers and getting them to do what is in their best interest is probably one of the most challenging aspects of being a listing agent. Some agents are good at it but many are not!

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9 Responses to “How Do You Make Sure a Property Is Ready to Photograph When You Arrive?”

  • I find being proactive is the best solution my agents give the seller a copy of the pamphlet I prepared. The most important part of which is on the front page, top right. I give therm a “what’s in it for me” reason to get tidy and get creative. It works very well and I’ve never had a client st that they haven’t appreciated the tips.

  • I just shoot it as it, with only minor adjustments that only take less than a minute. I’ve never once had an agent complain to ME that the pictures looked bad. They understand that it’s difficult to get the occupants of a home to stage their home for sale. It’s very bad when the people are renters.

  • We have a link to our prep/expectations page that goes out with all of appointment confirmations. We try to instruct the agent to review and also forward to seller. Feel free to check it out here:

  • I agree with all above and Larry’s points. I have a photo prep tip sheet I supply all my clients, often sending it a couple times a year. I also try to do a pre-shoot walk through with my client to identify issues, although that it is not always possible. So if I find after all this that a property is still not read to shoot, I call my client if they are not at the location and discuss the issues. Sometimes we reschedule and sometimes, mostly, my client says I understand, just do your best. Never had any complaints with the results since my clients were forewarned as to what to expect.

    The biggest problem has been with elderly owners who don’t have the energy to pack away a lifetime of memories and don’t even see a fridge covered with photos and magnets as “clutter”. Nor papers, folders and cell phone chargers piled high on the desk in the spare room as clutter. So I try to leave those rooms with the most problems to last to give the home owner time to do their best to hide or store all the stuff that is just so normal to them that they just don’t see it anymore. Sometimes I will take a quick shot and show them why it is distracting to the overall room perception. That can help as well.

    But if it is just impossible with kids toys all over the place inside and out, clothing strewn around especially in kids room, I just won’t shoot it. But that has been very seldom.

  • I think the more time and care you take with each shoot the less you’ll walk into a messy home. It does seem a bit backwards, but that’s the way it’s gone for me. My brokers know good photos *really do* work and they put significant pressure on their sellers to prep the home. If I arrive to a disaster (usually an occupied rental) I just shoot it as is – and often they get re-shot after the occupant vacates – at full price. Instructing folks how to clean their home feels very condescending to me.

  • I don’t think it’s a good plan to instruct people how to clean their home either. But many people have no idea how much fun it can be to be creative nor how important it is to prepare. Hence there are sites dedicated to ‘bad agents’ photos’.

  • We have a 4 page flyer that is emailed to the listing agent when the appointment is scheduled so they can forward it to the seller. It tells them what to expect about arrival times, how long it might take, removal of pets, and etc. The agents love it. It makes them (and us) look more professional. We also offer slick copies of this flyer to the agents we work with so they can include it in their listing presentations.

  • Sounds like this is FSBO. If it isn’t, shame on the listing agent. The majority of my business is with agents, and I feel it’s their responsibility to communicate with the owner/tenant/both about what needs to be done. Most of the time the houses are clutter-free or staged and ready to go. I’ve only had really messy homes when they’ve got tenants. Again, shame on the listing agent for not telling the owner to make sure it’s ready. If the house is a shambles, I’ll still shoot it and charge my normal fee. If they want it re-shot, I’ll charge my normal fee.

  • Showed up at a million dollar + disaster today. Sent the Realtor a Photography Prep pdf along with the shoot confirmation and it was obvious he didn’t read it or forward it to his client. (This was a new client for me)

    I did a walk-through with the homeowner to explain how to prepare and explained that at this price point here in the Midwest, it’s in their best interest to reschedule.

    In hindsight, I should have had the Realtor sign off on my terms.

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