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Should You Give Listing Photos to the Home Seller When Their Home Didn't Sell?

Published: 01/02/2019
By: larry

Alex asks:

My agent client asked me to give the listing photos to the homeowner (who decided not to sell the $4million home after all). The homeowner wants the images to blow up one of them into a large print to hang in the home (I assume this is a lie), do you give your clients free licensing to pass on the images to the homeowner?

My first question is how well does your agent client understand your photo licensing? The classic problem is many real estate photographers never take the time to write down their licensing terms or to make sure their clients and/or homeowners understand their licensing. Not having people understand your terms always leads to misunderstandings.

On the other hand, if everyone involved understands your terms, it doesn't hurt to give the homeowner the single photo they want. I don't think I'd give all the listing photos to the homeowner. Although it may make sense to license all the listing photos to the homeowner assuming they were going to use the photos to list their home in the future.

15 comments on “Should You Give Listing Photos to the Home Seller When Their Home Didn't Sell?”

  1. The agent should see the request as a danger signal that the owner may want to switch to another agent and doesn't want to tell them.

    I'm with Larry about not giving the owner the whole gallery. How likely is it that the owner wants a large print of the master bathroom or the third small bedroom? You could offer to supply a large print of the photo of their choice for a fee. It's the digital files that will be of more value. The other option is to talk with the agent about their thoughts should the owner decide to relist with somebody else. If they are resigned to losing the contract and don't care, you can license the images to the owner with the assumption that the images will be used to sell the home at a future date. With any luck, the agent hasn't told the owner what they paid for the photos and you can mark them up a bit.

  2. You are in the business of selling images.
    In this situation we have the owner of a $4 million property asking for free photos?
    You are not holding his kidneys for ransom. This is a luxury good that such a property owner can pay for.
    However this also falls into the trap of trying to suck up to wealthy people in the hopes that they will throw paying business your way in the future.
    Let me disabuse you of that notion. It.Never.Happens.

    I do agree with Ken that they are just asking for the images to give to the next agent.

  3. I agree100% with Larry, word for word. None of these scenarios are begging for black & white solutions. Tell people what you expect *upfront* and be a nice person after that. Stand up for yourself but be assured that winning the battle and loosing the war is an ever-present danger.

  4. Call their bluff. You are in the business of selling photos. Educate them on archival ink and paper. What size do they want, matte, canvas, metal, etc.? Framed or unframed. You may not have to mailorder through a national lab as depending where you are - like myself - have a local source at excellent (Costco level) pricing allowing room for your markup.

  5. I would not give them a photo or if feel pressure somehow to do so, would give them one photo sized very small, like 600px longest side or something. I would sell them the photos or better yet, sell them the "blown up" photo as a print so they get what they claim to want, you get paid, and they don't have a digital image.

  6. If the house did not sell, then NO. They can buy them if they want. If after you shoot the house, get a feeling of the owners, and the house Does Sell, but owners want a remerberance of their home then I’ll give them a CD of the images that will play on a computer, or TV, don’t think you could download any of the images from the CD. It’s a nice gesture. I would get a promise not to share the CD with anyone other than their family.

  7. Would you also allow the craftsmen that did the kitchen upgrade have those pictures for their marketing, or the Stager, or allow Getty Images use your images for free as well? If you purchase a fine art piece at an craft show you really own only the hard product of paper and wood and not the image itself. I once sold a home owner a large coffee table book of their home for $225. That house was 1.2 mil. They didn't balk and were most happy to show off the book to their friends after they downsized to a new neighborhood. Licensing how photographers make their living. We always maintain ownership and control of the image.

  8. The images I supply for the MLS are not formatted or sized for print. When presented with this same situation, I take the time to explain that there are different requirements for print and screen. Both color space and image size are different for each. I then tell the client that if they tell me exactly what they’re looking for, size, paper/canvas, etc., framed or not, I’d be happy to give them a price for the final product.

    Nine times out of ten, the discussion ends right there, proving what most think. The homeowner is probably going to use the image for something else. But, by explaining a little about what’s involved to do it properly, you avoid any argument and reinforce your image as a true professional. After all, who is better prepared to deliver a quality product than the person that captured the image, processed it, and reviews the final printed product?

    As for licensing, I again take the time to explain that my licensing agreement protects both of us. For the agent, he can simply tell the homeowner that he doesn’t have the “right” to give them the image. If need be, show the homeowner the release. It also reinforces that HE/SHE is protected from the images they paid for being used by a competitor. By shifting the burden to me, the photographer, he doesn’t have to worry about offending the homeowner. A good licensing agreement is, in fact, a win/win for all.

  9. I actually offer prints and memory books as one of my services. They are a good high profit revenue source. If the home didn't sell, I wouldn't be bothered by releasing a single digital image if they wanted to get the print elsewhere, but I would not release the whole house. I do allow the owner to download a digital copy after the home sells for free if they wish.

    Now to be honest, once the photos are online and being used to advertise the property they are extremely easy to download. You may be able to block getting the high res version, but you won't be able to block them from getting a version suitable for use on the web.

  10. @Gary, there is now a program called Topaz A.I. Gigapixel that can take a small image like the ones agents use and you can resize it to 20X24 and it will probably look as good if not better than the original.

  11. @terence, Books are great. A nice hardcover can be around $50 from Miller's or another lab, ships the next day overnight and leaves a ton of room for markup. Another photographer I work with that does family portraits gets rave reviews from customers that order a book. Ordering the first one takes some time to understand the whole process and the options, but after that they only take 30 minutes or less to get on order. That's $175ish for the half hour of work with a $225 price tag. Less is you mess up and have to redo it which is why you need that sort of margin.

    I'm working on a couple of gift books for my top customers of homes I have shot for them in 2018. They can use the books to show potential clients the quality of the photos they have made and it makes for a better presentation over using a screen. They look good, I look good, more work all around. If you are shooting $4 million dollar homes and commanding the price that should go along with properties that expensive, producing a book for the agent/broker and the owner could be a nice touch. The first book costs the most and more copies drop the price. A top agent might like having a printed book of the high value deals they do. The buyer may also want a book if the home is special as a record that stays with the home to document it over time.

  12. Most of the RE clients I don't have anymore are good riddance (sometimes mutually I'm sure). But there are a few I look back on, if I'm being honest, and regret losing. Most of those good clients lost were because of little pissing contests very similar to this one. So I guess it depends on what you think of that particular RE photo client - if they're important to you, what's wrong with tossing the seller a hero shot?

    Don't get me wrong I love making money. I recently sold the 3rd set of photos to an agent and MANY times I've sold a batch twice. And, when I catch an agent blatantly stealing from me they ALWAYS p-a-y (because these days they DO know better).

    I just don't see much about the real estate photography business that lends itself to black & white thinking.

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