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How should Real Estate Photographers Handle Christmas Trees and Other Holiday Decorations?

Published: 19/12/2014

XmasLiving-300x200Vic asks:

How should I handle Christmas trees and Christmas lights and other holiday decorations?  It's hard to ask clients to remove these decorations because they are in the middle of their holiday celebrations.  But, in a month photos with holiday decorations will look dated.  Is it worth pushing a shoot back until after the holidays?

Great question!. Yes, you are right on! Push back. Listing agents should not be including Christmas decorations in property photos. Property photos should not time stamped and having a Chrismas tree or decoration in the photo is just like having the photo time stamped. Next spring and summer when the market heats up, buyers will see the photo and value the property less since it's been on the market a long time. Buyers nowadays can find out how long a property has been on the market, but they should have to do more than look at the photos. A good listing agent will do whatever is necessary to handle this issue. It is not the photographers job to handle this or confront the homeowner. At this time of the year, the photographer should be checking up front that the listing agent has taken care of this issue. It is well worth the effort to take down or move holiday decorations.

A large number of home sellers take their property off the market between Thanksgiving and early January because they just don't want the hassle of showing their home during the holidays. This is why the listing inventory is always the lowest of the year in December. December is a great time for real estate agents and real estate photographers to go on vacation!

Larry Lohrman

15 comments on “How should Real Estate Photographers Handle Christmas Trees and Other Holiday Decorations?”

  1. I shoot my homes with a look that says, Hey, I just hit the market, buy me now before I'm gone! Ergo, I like photos with Christmas decorations, but only in December and the beginning of January. After that, I prefer that all Christmas photos be removed. The hope is that feeders like Zillow and Trulia quickly update via changes in MLS. Short of that, you have to work with the hand you've been delt, just like Larry said.

  2. I loose clients if i say i will take photos after holidays. I have two different update packages, less pictures, cheaper price but still profitable to me. It's same thing pictures with/without snow etc. First snow just came so we just planning exterior picture updates between christmas and new year.

  3. Stephen, totally agree. If my client want me to shoot something today, i will go and just say remember to update your pictures. Just warn your client but dont say i will come later. They ask somebody else.

  4. We shoot current pictures on new listings only and replace the Christmas is over. May be a good tool for Professional shooters to reminder the Client (The Realtor) would you like to update you photos now that Christmas is over. i can go back for $$$$ (Use it as a marketing tool) Last December was our best month that year. Maybe people taking listing off helped OUR listings sell with our marketing.

  5. I will always shoot the property as asked, but will recommend trying to avoid the Christmas decorations if we can. then, recommend coming back to re-shoot after the holiday. If its a front shot and their is only a wreath, I ask them to remove it for the shot. I do this for any holiday that shows seasonal decorations.

    One other issue I pain with, is the American flag hanging on the home. being a disabled Vietnam vet, It makes me feel great to see a flag flying on a home. But sometimes the flag either blocks the door, is hanging messy, or the flag is faded or worn and feel it takes away from the appearance of the home. I always explain to the realtor and owner my feelings and then shoot it as they wish. if I am on a shoot by my self, I shoot it with the flag and without. if there is an issue, I have it both ways.

  6. This is the homeowner's issue, not the photographer's. Shoot the property as-is. If they want Christmas and other religious iconography all over the house, that's their decision. A pretty dumb decision, but certainly not the photographer's job.

  7. I always advise my clients to remove religious and personalized items throughout the house. From family pictures to Christmas, Hanukah or other similar items it is best to take them out. Especially holiday related items quickly make home pictures look outdated which is the last thing I want to convey with pictures. Perception is everything when it comes to wanting to draw people into the house. Doesn't mean everyone listens.

  8. I personally shoot spaces as is. Seasonal things such as xmas trees, halloween decor or religious items etc... are really the responsibility of the agent and/or homeowner. Ultimately if it's a residential property for re-sale, most agent know that the property should be in "show" condition.

    When we book clients we send them a one-pager pdf that they can give their sellers on prepping the house for "shoot" day (stuff like: lights on, fireplaces on, swapping out energy blubs for incandescents etc AND to ensure all that if there are children and/or pets that someone is there is handle them)

    Another idea could be to team with a stager/decor consultant and offer their services as an add-on.

  9. I just had one, It really wasn't that hard to shoot 2 photos; one wide, and one zoomed in a bit to crop out the tree. The listing agent can replace the photos after the holidays. They did have enough staging sense to not over-do the decorating and to move some of the decorations out of the way while I was shooting other rooms.

  10. I agree that they shouldn't be there. I would use that opportunity to let them know at the time of the shoot that I can come back for a re-shoot in the Spring. Here in Missouri its not a bad idea to re-shoot anything in the Spring if photographed in December.

  11. I pulled a Christmas tree out into the hall in a loft building just today. I will try to shoot around Christmas decorations if they exist, but I do believe it is the realtor's decision to leave them there or not. I will re-shoot an exterior or maybe an interior or two after the holidays are over for my clients - I believe it builds good will and customer satisfaction. The past year, however, has not been an issue. Almost everything is selling fairly quickly in the St. Louis area. I like to think it's because of the photos, but I know it's the hard work of the real estate agents. Merry Christmas everybody!

  12. AS IS! I am the photographer....not the decorator. I will say though, that at this time of year and or around certain holidays, I will advise the agent making the appointment to be aware that decorations may be an issue, so talk with their clients.

    For those that think they can "move" some of the decorations....trees....around, be aware that you will be liable for any damage to the ornaments. Where I am, the decorations home owners have up are worth 10's of thousands of dollars, some irreplaceable. When working around those situations, you have to be extremely careful.

  13. I agree, they should not be there but I will still photograph and explain to the agent they will want to update after the holiday. Some sellers want to have their homes photographed during the holiday. Not a good decision, but it is up to the seller and agent.

  14. It depends on the listing and the agent. Earlier this month, I had a client ask me to specifically shoot a 2+ million dollar home with all of its beautiful Christmas decorations. I had already shot it without the decorations, but in this case, the agent wanted to showcase how amazing it looks during the holidays. Of course, she'll change out the photos later.

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