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How Do Real Estate Photographers Deal With Rescheduling?

Published: 26/02/2015
By: larry

SchedulingRoy asked the following question about real estate photography rescheduling:

A number of times in the past I have had to deal with Realtors that are having some work done on the home (staging, repair, remodeling, clean up, landscaping, etc...) and they want to schedule me for the shoot immediately (with no time to waste) after the work is done. More often than not, the scheduled work is running off schedule so they call me to reschedule. This shows no respect for my time while they want things done at the snap of a finger. How can I communicate to them to book me when the job is 100% done without sounding like a jerk? I thought of imposing a rescheduling fee but I think they would just give the job to someone else who is more willing to flop around with their volatile scheduling.

Your question is a tough one. Having been a listing agent with my wife for a 10 years I totally appreciate the listing agents situation. Home sellers always want the property on the market yesterday! And getting all the required work done is frequently a struggle and never happens as planned. Agents wanting a shoot done "at the snap of a finger" is frankly the nature of this business.

As a listing photographer, you are on the end of a high pressure chain of schedules if there's work to be done on the property before it goes on the market. Some agents are going to be better than others with these managing these situations but the likelihood rescheduling is high.

I don't think you are going to make this problem go away by just talking to agents in the right way. It seems to me there are two choices to dealing with agent rescheduling:

  1. Establish rescheduling guidelines: If you are don't like dealing with rescheduling or you are loosing business because agents reschedule at the last minute then establish guidelines and fees that discourage this behavior. Yes, you may loose a few agents.
  2. Make rescheduling a customer service feature: If you aren't really loosing a bunch of business because of rescheduling, loosen up, be flexible and turn this issue into a customer service feature. That is, be the best in your market at dealing with rescheduling at the last minute. This is what listing agents really want and need... do a shoot when they snap their fingers! It could actually get you more business. Word gets around a real estate office quickly about contractors that are easy to deal with.

What are others experiences and approaches to dealing with rescheduling shoots.

16 comments on “How Do Real Estate Photographers Deal With Rescheduling?”

  1. Charge accordingly. Know that rescheduling is going to happen and react with good nature. Lesson learned after visiting a property 3 times for images, never mind the PP time. Nobody was a fault except me for working too cheap. Figured I made about $12 bucks an hour for the honor.

  2. Sorry to hear that, Dave! Hopefully that was just a bad experience and your willingness has been rewarded tenfold. Bend over backwards? Sure. But once they snap your back, well, it's time to drop them.

  3. We have a 24hr policy that they have to sign off on every time they place an order. We are very busy and lost appointments mean that other agents that needed fast service weren't able to fill that time slot. That said, just because we "say" that we are going to charge the fee doesn't mean that we do. We just have them sign off on the policy so they understand that we need notice as well. It's rare for us to actually charge the fee.

  4. I used to stress over it but don't anymore. I don't charge any fees or penalties and just accept that these things happen, often through no fault of the owner or agent (I would expect them to let me know as soon as they decide to postpone though). I'll do the job later so time for a cuppa - life's too short to stress and that only loses customers. C'est la vie!

  5. I agree with Dave....i don't stress at all about cancellations anymore. I will end up doing the job - so I look at it as deferred income.

  6. I think it's true that rescheduling is just going to happen in this industry. One way to insure against it is to factor in lost shoots when you are calculating your pricing. Maybe you have time to shoot X houses/week, but if you base your numbers on shooting 80% of X, it's not such a big deal if a couple reschedule. My policy is that I only charge a fee if I arrive to the property and can't shoot it because it's not ready. Your clients will appreciate the flexibility, and you can enjoy the extra time in the office to work on your business, instead of in your business. 🙂

  7. I've not had a lot of problems with this before, I hope because I try to ask a lot of questions, and if it seems like there will be a problem I remind my agents that I do provide one standard guarantee to provide a great exterior front shot, even if I have to come back later. I'm pretty good with LR and usally can at least create a great shot without going back, unless it's snowing a lot like it is right now, but it gets them thinking about me maybe coming back and that there might be additional charges so they kinda come back to reality and realize they might be creating additional charges. At least I think it works that way.

  8. I don't fret over reschedules at all... It is somewhat rare and it's amazing for customer service to be flexible... Also I use an online scheduling service for bookings. On the back end, you can allow your customers to reschedule themselves up to your cutoff. (You can make the cut off from 1hour to 72hours before the appointment - or turn off the feature altogether.)

    If you're not already using an online booking service - I've tried both Square Appointments (too expensive and glitchy calendar that doesn't push all changes to my iPhone) and Schedulista. I'm a big fan of Schedulista. It costs me $19 a month and there is no long term commitment. It's really like having a scheduling assistant and my agents LOVE that if they get a listing contract at 11pm... they can just go online and book me. If you want to try it out free for a month - here's my referral link:

  9. I have a client that has repeatedly scheduled me for photography that I've shown for, only to find out the property is far from ready. The last time, they gave me the wrong code for the lockbox. I called the office managers cell phone directly telling them of the situation. Since I left a message and it was later in the afternoon, I decided to come home. When I arrived home, I noticed a text giving the correct code.

    After going back to photograph a few days later, I put a minimal charge of $35 to cover my time and fuel (I charge $50 for cancellations before 24 hours of scheduled time which is on my website and have notified the company of my policy). Again, trying to be nice.

    They acted as I was the jerk in the situation and have not called me again. I guess I don't have to deal with their disorganization any longer!

  10. I just had something like this happen yesterday. I arrived at the property only to find out that the agent gave me the wrong key. I shot the exteriors and then politely asked the agent if he would give me an extra $10 for gas on the reschedule. He upped it to $20 for the trouble.
    I think cancellations are so typical especially for fix & flips not to mention weather. "Comes with the territory."

  11. I can't say I ever found cancellations to be particularly stressful or fretful. They're a part of doing photography.

    That said, I always charged a cancellation fee equal to the cost of the shoot, if the cancellation was under 24 hours. I lost exactly one customer over that policy.
    My attitude was (and remains) that if my clients want me to commit myself to them, then they are going to have to commit to me, too. When you book me for a shoot, I'm absolutely, without fail, showing up to make photographs. I don't call in sick, I don't forget, I have backup equipment. I see no reason not to expect the same level of accountability from my clients.

    I was always prepared to waive my cancellation fee in the event of dying mothers, natural disasters, etc., but the overwhelming majority of cancellations were the agent's failure to adequately manage their contractors or their homeowners. Calling the homeowner the morning of the shoot to find out whether they had cleaned up over the weekend is utterly negligent -- and I'm not taking the financial responsibility for it.

    I communicated my policy with every agent/brokerage I worked with, and made sure they were OK with it. The basic message was, don't book me for a shoot unless you're serious about it. Worked a charm - no stress involved.

  12. The bottom line is that 90% of the time the reason for the reschedule is the result of poor work habits by the agents by not previewing the property before the photographer gets there. Our policy is that the property will be ready to go when we get there, not almost or "we'll move things around as you go" etc. The agent is responsible making sure that is done, not take the word of a client that has a different perception on "what is ready".

    That said, shit happens, when it does, we make an honest effort to deal with it but let the agent know that the time and extra effort was done as a curtsey and not part of the contract work order.

    Those RE photographers with experience know that there is a pattern with agents that builds over time. You know which ones are always on top of things and those that are not. If I see a bad habit forming with one, I will have a "come to Jesus" talk and make it clear that while I appreciate their business, their lack of their attention is affecting my business and something will have to be worked out.

  13. I keep it simple. I have a fifty dollar fee for re-trips, due to unpreparedness or short notice cancellations. If it's a long term and good standing client, and they just need to reschedule, then I won't hold them accountable. But no matter who it is, if I make a trip and the property is not ready for any reason, I penalize them. If you don't hold people accountable, they will walk all over you. Many businesses will penalize you for last minute cancellations. by not doing so one's time is devalued. In an attempt to build a portfolio and retain clients,photographers have compromised their integrity. I've had a number of situations where the property was not completely refurbished and ready for photography. It was the property management's poor scheduling which resulted in this unpreparedness.

  14. We have a similar policy as Ryan for 24 hour notice that basically says we will charge a cancelation fee. However, like many of the post we don't apply these charges to most of our clients. We do keep our policy out there consistantly and will mention and resend our terms of service documents each time it happens and we will actually charge habitual clients. Because we communicate our terms the few times we did charge the cancelation fee the realtor paid with no complaint. If we go to the property and they cancel a reshoot fee is applied.

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