Kris Steels was asking about the issue of getting access to homes for photographing and raise some questions that I've not discussed on the blog although I've discussed this issue with several folks via e-mail. So I thought it would be a good subject to bring up for folks just starting out in RE photography. Here is Kris's question:
I'm not sure if you've already covered this on your blog; but when I searched the archives, I couldn't find any similar topics.
How do other real estate photographers access the homes their shooting? I applied for membership with my local Realtor's Association; but was denied a DisplayKey to access the electronic lock-boxes.
The $%&**(# Realtor's Association may as well have thrown my camera into Lake Michigan. I'm angry and frustrated beyond words, as this is going to be a HUGE problem for me. My greatest selling point was the convenience for the Realtor to NOT have to return to the home to take the photos. Do you have any suggestions?
Here is my answer to Kris:
As you've probably found out to have lock-box access you need to have a RE license or some appraisers get keybox access if they have an appraisers license. All this is state and MLS regulated so rules vary from state to state and from MLS to MLS. There is no way around this requirement in WA and OR that I know of.
For the last 10 years I've been a licensed assistant for my wife... this has got me around the requirement. There are some RE photographers that do this, however, you have to find a brokerage to "hang" your license and typically this will be a monthly fee that the broker charges for liability insurance, desk space etc. Licensed agents also pay over $100/mo to MLS to be a member, and over $100/mo to the company that runs the Lock-box system (ours is Supra). So as you can see the cost to have lock-box access mounts up. If you are not doing photography full time you could find a successful agent or team of agents that need an assistant and be an assistant part time and photograph part time. Sometimes agents that have assistants pay for some or all of their assistant's license expenses.
Another alternative is to convince agents to let you schedule directly with the home owner. I think this would be very workable however, some agents sell home sellers on the concept that the Realtor will "take care of all the details" so some may be hesitant to do this. Technically since you are a contractor that the Realtor is hiring they have responsibly for you in the sense of liability. In MLS it is against the rules to let a contractor in the home and leave.
Feel free to add suggestions for Kris or site your experiences in this area this is a problem that we all have to deal with.