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Should Real Estate Photographers Get An Associate MLS Membership?

Published: 29/09/2016

joinmlsPeggy in Alabama says:

I have been asked by a few realtors if I would consider offering the service to upload the photos for them as an add on.

I just can't imagine I would recoup the cost of an associate membership to do this, not to mention my time. Do any of you offer this service?

Yes, I agree, I would stay away from uploading photos to your client's listings. Besides not being able to recover your costs, my concern would be more related to having photographers accessing their clients MLS accounts. In the office I worked in, the office support staff had special accounts that allowed them to upload photos to any agent account in their office. This is more appropriate than having photographers do it. Brokerages should carefully control access to MLS accounts!

A far more useful reason for a photographer to get an associate MLS membership would be to be able to get an MLS key box key and to shoot listings without the listing agent being present to give the photographer access to the property. This can be a huge advantage. It saves the agent a lot of time.

Larry Lohrman

11 comments on “Should Real Estate Photographers Get An Associate MLS Membership?”

  1. I agree with the comments. Getting a membership is expensive and in most states does not give you permission to log in to other agents accounts in order to upload photos. Here in Northern Illinois, we (I) have a direct feed service where I put a zip file with the photos and a text file with a virtual tour link, identified for the agent and the listing number, on my website and they pick it up and add them to the appropriate listing. There was a one-time set up charge ($250?). As an agent, having a lock box key card is convenient, but for 80% of my jobs, the agent or homeowner is present anyway.

  2. MLSListings . com on the California central coast charges affiliates a quarterly fee to upload the virtual tour links and the images for the agents. I do not participate in that program. It takes up too much time for the agent to tell you the image number and the order they want the images on the MLS. This same MLS does not allow anyone but the agents to have the Supra E Key. Many agents put up combo boxes for inspectors and photographers to gain access to their listings.

  3. As an Affiliate Member of the Kanawha Valley Board of REALTORS, in addition to Supra Ekey access, I enjoy three other big benefits of membership: placement of marketing materials in the Board office, the opportunity to have a booth at the yearly continuing education event for agents, and the ability to use my Board's logo on my website.

    Agents going to the Board office to do training, pick up and return lockboxes, and do other business there see my post card/rate card every time they walk in the door. At the yearly Education Fair, I purchase booth space, put my work on display, and have the chance to personally see 600+ agents who attend to maintain their annual CE credits. The Ed Fair also lets me network with other affiliate members (lenders, home inspectors, contractors, etc.) who can make recommendations or referrals to their clients.

    Having the blessing of the Board to use their logo on my website adds credibility and raises my business' perception of professionalism in the eyes of Member agents. Or so I'm told!

  4. Total waste of time, earnings and sanity. If the agent needs the photos loaded for them, then charge a posting fee and require they provide their mls login and password. Load the photos and let them organize them after the fact.

    We tried the “Affiliate route” many years ago and while you are “allowed” to place marketing materials at the office and “Allowed” to PAY for a booth space at the “Shows” (which they hound you to participate in all the time), it proved to be a losing proposition. The only winners were the mls franchise owners.

    Unfortunately the Mls franchises cater to the cheapest services that they can offer and if anyone looks at the “Mls photo services” offered (if you can find them), they will see the rates and quality of the 1970’s.

  5. Actually in light of questions like one Larry got a few days in "What are the rules of selling a license to images with posters or art on the walls homes?" I don't think I would ever want to upload photos directly.
    With so many lawyers popping out of colleges......I just want to take a selection of photos....and leave it up to the agent to upload what they want / deem appropriate / etc.

  6. As both an agent and a photographer I use the "MLS won't let me" excuse when asked. That said, I do doublecheck their work as I copy/paste their narrative into the tour (which technically they could do within the tour's client backoffice) and add the MLS# which Tourbuzz autosyncs to (they can't do.) Occasionally will find they put the branded link in (fineable offence) or the tour in the wrong field (Tour2) which goes nowhere and call them to get it corrected. As an agent, I can't even access other agent's MLS in my own office, much less other brokerages...and thus my excuse. While the broker provides an office assistant that will set up a listing, I've done my own since day one and all agent's had to go to a mandatory listing training class at MLS, it amazes me how many agents don't know how and I have to coach them where to put the link or load photos. In the local MLS, there is a pop-up that advises of fineable offences on branding that you have to acknowledge before photos are uploaded that they would be responsible for - and one of the reasons only the broker, office assistant or their personal assistant can have access. On a more practical level, if you deliver 30 photos and MLS only allows 25...which 25 do you choose, then have them on the phone about one you left out. Thanks but no thanks. If they don't know how to set up a listing (which I doubt) then learn, or use the office assistant or hire one. Reality is, when they take a listing, they have to fill in the info sheet (property details) that matches the order of the MLS input fields and has the owner's signature on it, becoming part of the official file. That is the reason I don't use an assistant as I have already done the work - including later composing the narrative from the key points I put on the worksheet that the property owner signed.

    Really question if getting an affiliate membership would give you benefits beyond a key and marketing. Really doubt that would give you backoffice access to every agent at multiple brokerages out there as it is so highly controlled. Guessing the agent requesting it isn't fully aware of the MLS system when they request something that seems like a good idea, but in reality you couldn't do with the affiliate membership.

  7. Before one pays for associate membership expecting MLS access, make sure your MLS provides MLS access to associate members. My local association does not provide MLS or lockbox access to associate members. However, they do provide MLS access, without charge, to office staff. And up until recently, they allowed staff to have a lockbox key. As a photographer, that would be the way to go. You will need staff access to each of your REALTOR clients. But at the end of the day, I too don't see how that could be very efficient.

    I'm a REALTOR member with MLS and lockbox access. Some of my REALTOR clients appreciate me getting the job done without them having to meet me. I would upload the photos for them if there was an efficient way, but my MLS doesn't provide such a method without logging in as the agent. And these guys are so lazy, they wouldn't mind giving me their login credentials, but I'm not willing to take on that liability. Besides, it's against the rules.

  8. In my opinion having a real estate brokers license and being a member of my local board which i have done since 2001 is the BEST investment i made in my business as a real estate photographer. It's such a selling point over others in your market to say to a prospective new client by the way I am a licensed broker and have Supra lockbox privileges which makes us working together very productive. After I (photographer) learn what the new client likes and does not like in terms of marketing their listings you're off. I shoot 90% of my homes for clients without them being there because we have a relationship and they are out taking care of other clients. It's a huge win win for everybody. The cost and expense of maintaining your license is nothing compared to how productive you can be and how many more jobs you can get.

  9. Even more than possibly getting lock box access is being able to attend association functions and member lists. While more established agents may skip attending meetings, newer agents are more likely to attend to network. "If you want to hunt bears, go where there are bears."

  10. After carrying a brokers license for the last 2 years while shooting properties full time I've come to the conclusion there's so many pros and cons I'll likely just let my license lapse.

    The convince of looking up brokers and their information is amazing. Having a Lockbox key is rarely nessisary. Scouting the mls for better photos, unfaithful clients or business opportunities is a time waster like no other....

    My (young in this business) advise is to focus on what you're good at, what ya brought to the party... A subscription to the mls is a *monster* distraction.

  11. I sold real estate for over 25 years before I became a real estate photographer and stager. I have maintained my licensed because as mentioned above, it allows me access to the properties with the agents permission, provides me access to agent lists, and also allows me access to meetings and association updates. I also have a Vendor Account with my board that only allows me to upload photos and attach tours. This has been a vital part of my business and has helped us grow to the top of our field in our area. Different things work in different markets but I would not think of doing it any other way. We provide the agents with 1 photo to upload their listing to the mls, then they send us the mls number and we upload the rest of the photos. It makes for a smooth and seamless process and keeps our customers happy. We market ourselves as a marketing tool for our customers (Real Estate Professionals).

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