I've noticed an increasing interest it the topic of real estate photography pricing and increasing competition. I believe a major factor for this increasing interest is that in most large metropolitan areas the number of real estate photographers and, competition is increasing. The increase in real estate photographers is due to:
A common complaint I hear, from established photographers is that new photographers coming into the real estate photography business are charging less for the same product and undercutting their prices. I would not be surprised if this kind of price pressure was happening. Just yesterday a beginning real estate photographer reader told me that after buying and reading my two e-books he was out driving around a upper-end neighborhood, saw a recently listed property, called the Realtor and offered to shoot the home. The Realtor already had professionally done photographs by another photographer, but let him come shoot the home too to see what he could do. The Realtor ended up using the newbie's photographs to market the home instead of the original photographer's work. He didn't tell me the pricing details but chances are his prices were less because this was his first shoot.
It's important to not loose site of the fact that Realtors that hire you are looking for a value in their terms and don't always look at your work the same way you do. There's a lengthy discussion on this subject in the PFRE flickr discussion group. Fred Light dispenses some good advice in his commens on this thread:
1) Realtors don't care about your 'experience', your 'credentials', your 'education'.
2) Realtors don't care about WHY your photos are 'better' than someone else. They don't care about technical issues, lighting, flash vs. no flash, etc.
3) Realtors don't care what type of equipment you have or how much it costs.
For Realtors, it's not about 'the art', 'the creativity', 'the process', and you can't base your pricing on something Realtors don't care or know about. The only people that care about that are the photographers, OTHER photographers and those who really appreciate photography as ART.
Realtors care about PRICE. Realtors care that the photos look GOOD and look better than what THEY could take. It's really that simple. As long as a photographer (pro or semi pro or amateur) takes BETTER photos than the Realtor could themselves, they will get hired.
So what can you do to survive in a competitive environment? Here are some ideas:
If you are in the large busy market area you will eventually feel the pressure of competition so be thinking ahead about how to best compete.