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Being a Real Estate Photographer vs. Being a Listing Agent

August 12th, 2018

Eric asked:

Recently, my wife became a listing agent and would like the same professional images that I provide for all of my other agent clients. Larry, when you worked for your wife, did you offer your photography services to your wife free, at a discount, or at list price?

Frankly, during the 10 years I shot all my wife’s listings, it never even occurred to me that I should charge her anything! Moreover, during that time, I shot only for her most of the time; she didn’t want me shooting for anyone else. Back in the early 2000’s, photography was a big competitive advantage and only a handful of listing agents were doing it.

But it sounds like my situation was different than yours. When I retired from Boeing in 1999 and joined my wife’s real estate team, she was already an established top listing agent on Seattle’s east side so I got my real estate license and we became a husband and wife team. I did more than photography. I was in charge of all the listings and we were listing 20 to 50 homes a year. Once a listing agreement was signed, I did everything– photography, put up the sign, track the showings, and give feedback to listing customers–all relations with the listing customer, etc. Once we got an offer, she took over again because she was very experienced in that part of the transaction. Because she was already established in the market, we operated under her name and I was just part of her backroom team.

There are many successful husband and wife real estate agent teams. This is because it is common for each spouse to be good at different parts of the business and be good at working as a team. My wife was the “people person,” good at selling and relating to people, and I’m more of a techie geek, good at the technical stuff. For a successful real estate team, you need both. At the time, both of our kids had left home so we could dedicate full time to our business. This is a big factor since real estate fills up your whole life!

For any real estate photographer that has the chance to become part of husband and wife real estate listing team, I highly recommend it! If you are successful, you will make far more money listing homes than being a photographer. However, being successful as a real estate agent is hard! The top 5 – 10% are making most of the money in the industry. I would say your first priority ought to be seeing if you can be a successful husband and wife real estate team. Real estate photography is a good complement business while you find out if you can make it as a listing team.

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5 Responses to “Being a Real Estate Photographer vs. Being a Listing Agent”

  • It really depends on your relationship with your wife. It also can depend on what your and your wife’s tax situation is. If her income is very high and yours isn’t then tax wise it might make sense. On the personal level for the sake of the marriage, because money can be a defining issue, sit down and discuss the benefits and disadvantages of charging her.

  • Charge your wife?!

    YES!

    Double!

  • Bill makes a good point. Normally I would say that a husband and wife are a team in everything, but for tax purposes, it might make sense to operate independently. At least break out photography items for accounting, that way you can easily see how it’s impacting the bottom line and how much budget you should or can allocate to it each year.

    In my area there are two large families that have brokerages and do very well. Not everybody in them is a licensed agent, but they each have a role in the business. It can be harder to pull off yet more financially rewarding if it does work out.

  • Interesting question. Unless there is some tax benefit, I think the answer is obvious. Why would you charged your wife for photos? I started in real estate a year before my wife joined me. We now own our own boutique brokerage and have 16 agents working at our firm. I personally sell around $10 million per year. I take all my own photographs and also shoot and edit my own videos. This helps me to build rapport with our sellers. At the bottom of the last recession we never made less than $185K per year. So…I would never shoot real estate photos for anyone but our sellers. Larry is right that real estate can be incredibly time-consuming. But I work for myself and only work with buyers and sellers that I feel good about working with. For those of us who work hard at it, the real estate business has huge financial rewards. Larry is also correct that 20% of us sell 80% of the real estate.

  • Thanks for the replies, all! Your thoughts are appreciated!

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