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Realtor Client Doesn’t Pay because the Home Sold before They Used the Photos

March 14th, 2018

George in NJ says:

I did a shoot today for a client who gives me plenty of work. While shooting the home, a potential buyer stopped and asked to tour the home. The potential buyer implied that they would likely make an offer later in the day in an effort to prevent the realtor from having an open house. About two hours after delivering the photos, the realtor informed me that he did receive an offer on the home. Most likely the offer will be accepted and the Realtor will not use the photos. Additionally, the Realtor hasn’t paid for the photos yet and I’m hesitant to push him for payment. This client typically pays within a week. I did everything that I was contracted to do. I think I should still be paid in full. How do others handle this type of situation?

Yes, absolutely. The property selling before the photos are used is not a reason to not pay for the photos. Any honest upstanding Realtor would pay you for the work you did in this case.

I would insist that the Realtor pay you. If he or she doesn’t, don’t do any more work for him or her. This kind of situation is where one’s integrity is tested. Most Realtors I know would pay you in this situation.

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28 Responses to “Realtor Client Doesn’t Pay because the Home Sold before They Used the Photos”

  • I agree with everything Larry said.. we don’t work for free!

  • Seriously??? First thing to do is build a back bone and grow a pair! With an attitude like I am reading, it is no wonder people would take advantage of you. You don’t even know if this is an issue…. The realtor probably is a stand up guy and expects to pay for services rendered. What ever, but I think you have bigger issues than this situation.

    Bottom line, you did the work requested, if the listing lasted an hour or 4 months, does not matter. The realtor, if they were smart, would take these images and promote himself of selling the property within hours of photographing….

  • Everything that Larry said is 110% bang-on. I’m truly not trying to be preachy here but, IMO, this is not about how to deal with a boor of an agent; and it’s not even about the extent to which you value your work or your time. The only thing this is about, is the extent to which you value yourself. Do the right thing and ask for payment. Even if you anger the client and end up losing him, so be it — some clients aren’t worth having; but your self-respect and self-worth will be in tact! And guess what? Another client will come along to replace him!

  • Simple. Get paid for your work. I would congratulate them on their quick sale and remind them to pay you. Whether they use the photos or not is irrelevant. If the client does not pay, you can choose not to work with them again. Hopefully, it doesn’t come to that. Sometimes in situations like this, your client may just be buried getting contracts in place to seal the deal and has overlooked your invoice. If that’s the case, I can understand the priority shift on their part with time-sensitive paperwork and all BUT you still need to be paid in full at the earliest convenience. Good luck

  • That’s fine they don’t have to pay… but I hope they don’t expect for me to ever pick up my phone again. I’ve had this happen to me once or twice, even before files were delivered and I was always paid in full.

  • Everything that has been said. As a vendor, you are due to be paid, period – no excuses. Realtor’s don’t like it when they are stiffed, either, and why there is such a thing as procuring cause. If they continue to refuse to pay even with a physical bill…bring their business practice to their broker’s attention who will educate them real quick as it reflects adversely on the firm itself.

  • I’ll bet if you were an appraiser, stager, or inspector you would get paid… Send an invoice with your terms of service attached and give him a week. After that, I would follow up, and send a second copy. After 30 days, start adding late fees and refuse future work until his account is up to date.

  • I have fired clients before. I figure if they decide they can screw me once, they will try it again and it’s not worth the stress.

    The last time I did so was after a time one of my very best clients hired me to shoot a home along with a twilight photo. I did the job, almost got run over in a high-speed chase because the home was on a really busy street and sunset was at rush hour. I gave them the results, charging their credit card as was the normal process.

    Two days later the realtor had her assistant call me to tell me not to be upset, but the homeowner (who is actually the builder of the home) didn’t like the twilight photo and they were going to have another photographer try again. (The homeowner was apparently under the impression that glowing HDR photos are needed in this sort of marketing). They would like a refund for the twilight photo ($150).

    I explained that since I did the work and provided the photo as per agreed that I expected to be paid for my work and asked that she reconsider asking for her money back. The realtor called the next morning and demanded to be reimbursed for the twilight session. I explained to her that I have had realtors who decided not to use my photos for whatever reason and always get paid for my work since I did it in good faith. She still demanded her card be refunded. I just happened to be shooting a really small condo for her at the moment and said I just wouldn’t charge her for the current session and I would refund the extra $50 at a later time. However, I would not be able to work for her again, since I am apparently not a good fit for her team (she mentioned that she expected her crew to “take one for the team” from time to time). I never raised my voice, never blamed her, just informed her that she would need to find a new photographer.

    This realtor gave me probably 20% of my work. I stopped shooting for her and never looked back as my schedule was still full two weeks in advance even so.

    Not worth it to deal with clients who do not support your work when you do your best to support theirs.

  • What a jerk! You worked for him, at his request. If you have an email chain or text message chain, then you have proof of a legal contract. Tell him, nicely, that he asked you to work and you deserved to be paid. If he refused, go to his broker. Realize that if you tell on him, you will likely lose him as a client. But that’s exactly what you want anyway. You don’t need clients with zero professional integrity.

    For now on, get paid up front or at the job. Period. I have ZERO problems with agents not paying me. ZERO.

  • I’m going to throw this out as a point of discussion.

    The answer depends on how the photographer is being compensated for their work. The issue also appears to be complicated by a miscommunication between you and your client. I see a least 3 possible answers.

    1) Compensation by license: The photographer retains the copyright, the the photos are licensed to the agent for a specific period of time and for specific uses. — Answer, the agent deserves a full refund. (Sorry, that does suck). If you are using this method, you need to make sure you price accordingly.

    2) Compensated for the job: The photographer transfer the copyright to the agent or provides them with a full and unlimited license. — Answer, no refund. The agent paid you for the job not the photos.

    3) Compensate by license with a setting fee: The photographer retains the copyright, the the photos are licensed to the agent for a specific period of time and for specific uses. There is a sitting fee that covers costs and maybe time for the shoot. — Answer, the agent deserves a partial refund. The photographer get the sitting fee, and refunds the licensing fee.

    My guess is that you haven’t communicated which compensation method you are using to the agent. My suggestion is method three. Figure out the breakdown between sitting fee and licensing usages fees, then call the agent.

  • I agree with the above. About 99% of my clients pay the same day as the shoot. But I do have one or two that can’t pay until later in the week. With those, we have a good working relationship. Professional.

  • I agree with Larry. But in re-reading your post, it sounds as if the realtor while saying he would not be using the photos, he did not say he would not pay for them. And the time frame suggests that not even a week has gone by since you say “I did a shoot today. . . “.

    So I think you may be jumping to the conclusion that he won’t pay you. Frankly I have a feeling that he may just be swamped and you need to call him and just express the feeling that some miscommunication may have taken place and you need to establish some clarity before assuming that overnight he has become a flake. Honey catches more flies than vinegar. So I would give polite inquiry a chance before taking drastic action and risk loosing a good client before being sure of your facts. What do lawyers say “assumes facts not in evidence.”

    Your client, if you have had a track record of a good working and payment history, may just feel terrible about being delayed on payment. If he is rushing out contracts which cranky make my head spin, then give him the benefit of the doubt. At least until you know whether your concerns are real in fact, not just in your imagination.

  • I think you’re jumping the gun here. Give him a little bit of time to pay, and if he hasn’t paid within a week or two then contact him and only take issue if he refuses to pay.

    That’s the thing in this business–it’s not just about the photos, it’s about our time on-site. I expect to get paid for my time regardless of whether or not the photos end up being used, because the time taken to shoot was time I otherwise could have used to shoot another home. But you don’t know for sure that he doesn’t plan on paying, and unless you left this out, I’m gathering that he hasn’t even indicated that he won’t pay.

    With that said, I find it weird that he’d call and inform you he won’t be using the photos more than likely. An offer is NOT a contract. It only becomes a contract when the offer is accepted and all parties sign it, and only then is it binding both those parties to the terms therein. It doesn’t matter whether he thinks the offer will be accepted or not, the fact is that at the time he spoke with you about it the offer had not been accepted and signed yet. As such, he would have better served himself AND THE SELLER by putting it on the market anyway with the photos in case the offer fell through. It could even fall through when it’s a signed contract depending on your state’s option period. In fact, many states, mine included, have laws governing the listing agreements between realtor and seller. Our listing agreements here in Texas have a term, IIRC, that states, basically, that the realtor will market the property, including entering it on the MLS. Many realtors here don’t even allow a home to be shown before it’s in the MLS because it isn’t legally “available” until it hits the MLS. Thus, even if an offer is made on a property that is “coming soon,” it STILL has to be at least marketed on the MLS and the appropriate status of the sale indicated. Finally, it probably wasn’t your prerogative to allow a buyer into the home assuming it wasn’t yet legally being offered for sale. This is important–you’re the photographer, the house (assumed) wasn’t on the market yet, and buyers don’t get to just cruise by and essentially invite themselves into a home that isn’t yet truly for sale, especially with a photographer there. I would’ve called the realtor about this and otherwise told them to call the realtor to set up an appointment to view the home. Even if you are a licensed realtor, it wasn’t your house to allow people inside.

    TL;DR: The realtor himself can’t even know for sure that this offer WILL be accepted, or if the sale will go through SHOULD the offer be accepted; he probably should put it on the market anyway because of this (or may be required to do so) unless it’s a pocket listing–which it shouldn’t be if he hired you to take photos, because it means he intended to market the property. In this event it will take only a few minutes of his time to upload the photos you took so they will be there in case the offer doesn’t come to fruition. That notwithstanding, it’s doubtful you should have allowed a buyer into a home that wasn’t yours and (again, I assume) wasn’t yet available for sale.

  • Years ago, l decided to try out photographing homes for realtors (at the time I was in the GIS industry). I sent out an email to about 50 agents…. 27 photos for 50.00$. The first person to respond, had a poor experience with another photographer and needed me to follow her out to a muliti million dollar estate an 1/2 hour out of town… Can you meet me in about 40min. to go out there… We only had 2 hours on site until dark… I shot a huge 2 story, south west style home, a large guest house, 7 more apartment like guest areas all made to look like an old western town each had a theme… General Store, Saloon, Black Smith etc. A million plus covered arena and out door open air arena… I picked out 75 photos, put them on a thumb drive…. Made a invoice for 150.00$ for the photos, plus 50.00$ for Travel… 200.00$ Total. Remember This was My First Paid Shoot! She looked at the photos and love them, but told me the clients had decided not to sell and she would not be using them for a listing… but would like to keep them to show other agents. She looked at the invoice for 200$ and wrote me a check for 475.00$.

  • Ignore all of the above. Send the bill to their principle broker and demand to be paid, when they say it’s the broker, tell them like hell it is, the principle broker owns the listing and they pay the broker. The principle wants you to think they aren’t responsible but they are. And if the brokerage is a national, send a bill up the line. The non paying broker will crawl to you with apologies. (I have been a licensed broker for 44 years).

  • Not an “One Up On You kind of guy” . This happened a few weeks ago. As I was taking the images the realtor was having the seller sign the contract for a full price offer. I kept working. By the time I was done the contracts were signed. I congratulated the agent. I offered a travel & time invoice and not edit the images. He still wanted the images. He paid for the images in a week and has since called me to do another home.

  • I realize what is missing from your post – the elapsed time between when you did the shoot “I did a shoot today . . .” and when you delivered the finished photos. Logically you would have delivered the photos the same day? In which case, it is too soon to assume you won’t be paid. If over a week has elapsed, then a reminder would be in order. We have such a personal chemistry relationship with clients it would be a shame to over react without talking with your client first.

  • So what does the OP’s contract say? There’s no reason to be speculating about any aspect of this, everything is completely spelled out in the contract.
    Maybe Larry can ask the OP to share what the contract says….

  • Sorry that happened to you. The agent sounds like a looser. I’d politely demand payment and if they’re still stuck on stupid would dump them like the steaming lump of $*** they’re acting like. That’s extremely selfish and unprofessional. Your time is valuable and you deserve the compensation for setting aside the time to accommodate them, regardless of anyone stopping by and indicating a desire to put in an offer. They need to understand you could have been working another project and gotten paid for it but since you allocated tune to them they’re responsible for the FULL payment they would have paid. I’d like to call them up and chew them out for you. What a crock! Almost nothing more do despise than a selfish cheapskate real estate agent. Unfortunately the world is FULL of them. Avoid them like the plague, fool me once and that’s it, there will NOT be a 2nd occasion.

  • The OP did the shoot ‘today’ but is concerned about payment? Has the client even done anything wrong yet?

  • Hold the phone…

    First off I didn’t realize that the question had even posted since it was sent to Larry three weeks ago. With that I’m playing catch up on the responses… but had to stop at Jerry Miller’s response about getting a backbone… seriously?

    For the record, I DID ask for payment and did receive it. This is a client that I’ve had a long, fruitful relationship with. In MOST cases, clients pay at the time of the shoot. Some have cards on file and I charge them when I deliver photos. That is my policy. This client is an exception and is granted a week to pay and usually pays sooner. The comment was written HOURS after I delivered his photos… not days or weeks. I wasn’t whining about little old me and how I was taken advantage of… he would have paid regardless, as contrary to Jerry’s comment, I do in fact have a backbone. Since starting my business 7 years ago I had never had this happen before… I was just asking if others had.

  • My apologies to all those who left constructive and positive feedback… Thank you!

    I agree wholeheartedly that I do not work for free. My terms of service are clear as are my payment terms. If an agent were to refuse to pay for work that they had contracted with me, I certainly would no longer work with them.

    Thanks again

  • I’ve shot a property that sold before photos were delivered and was still of course paid. He simply said “If I list it again, I’ll already have great pictures! How much do I owe you?”

    I’d wait a week or two and try not to stress about it, I’m sure they’ll pay you.

    Also, I would recommend making payment do upon delivery so that there’s less of an opportunity for you to be stressed out, if possible.

  • Well George Bellace,

    While I was holding the phone and I read your post again to be sure I did not get it wrong….”Additionally, the Realtor hasn’t paid for the photos yet and I’m hesitant to push him for payment. This client typically pays within a week. I did everything that I was contracted to do. I think I should still be paid in full. How do others handle this type of situation?”

    No where in that post did it state:
    “For the record, I DID ask for payment and did receive it.”

    Maybe the issue was in the way your post was edited by Larry for the blog, but honestly…..it does sound like you are whinning
    Still holding the phone….

  • Larry,

    Why did this even make the blog …?

    This was written in the “anticipation” of a “potential” problem regarding an ongoing client who pays typically within one week.

    Where’s the problem?

    There was none, as GB (the originator) later reported … he did get paid.

  • Yes! You deserve to get paid! You did as you were requested, you did the work. I bet that agent would insist on being paid if something similar happened to him.
    I’ve had, several times, houses being sold before the pictures were ever delivered and my agents Paid as they were supposed to. I have great agents!

  • If I have performed as agreed, I expect to be paid at the rate specified in my written agreement with the client. Regardless of whether the client actually ends up needing to use the photos, I have expended time, talent and other resources to produce work the client could use and I have potentially turned away other work to do that for the client. Also, bear in mind that, even if an agent sells the property before they can use the photos to market it, agents often use the photos after sale to illustrate their past listings; so they will still get some usage out of the photos to market themselves for future business, which in any case is often a primary reason that agents use professional photographers.

  • Our invoices go out the morning of the photo shoot and there is an email that also goes out that says “Payment is due at time of Photo Shoot and No Photos are Released Without Payment”. You spent your time and resources to go to the appointment regardless if the property ever goes on the market. This has happened from time to time, Sellers decides not to list, home sells before it hits the market. We still get paid. Good luck… hope you can get paid for your services.

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