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Study Finds Adding Photos Increases Residential Home Sale Price By 3.9%

Published: 14/01/2013
By: larry

WSJThere's a article in the Jan 10, 2013 WSJ by Sanette Tanaka that all real estate photographers need to read and use for their marketing. This WSJ article reports on a study done at Florida International University's Hollo School of Real Estate.

Note: The link above to the article only works if you have a subscription to WSJ online. Anyone can see the article if they google "What a Picture's Worth By Sanette Tanaka WSJ" and then click the second google link (thanks Rupert!).  The photo to the right is linked to a WSJ video that summarizes the article but doesn't seem to be restricted.

Here's the essence of what the study found:

  1. Adding at least one photo to a residential-real-estate listing increases the final sale price by up to 3.9%.
  2. Interior pictures were more effective than exterior shots, adding a 3.9% price bump vs. 1.9%.
  3. Adding photos increases the time to sell by 20.6%, meaning the house will stay on the market for an additional 16.5 days, on average.

The study was done by Ken H. Johnson, associate professor of finance at Florida International University's Hollo School of Real Estate along with coauthors Christopher Cain and Justin Benefield. The study is titled, “On the Relationship Between Property Price, Time-on-Market, and Photo Depictions in a Multiple Listing Service,” published in the Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics in 2011.

For those that haven't seen the 2010 Redfin study that the WSJ reported on this 2011 study generally confirms the fact that photos on the marketing of  increases the net sales price of residential real estate and the counter intuitive fact that photos INCREASE market time. These studies should be the center piece of real estate photographers marketing. Note that these two studies (the Redfin study and the Florida study) are the only hard data that proves that professional real estate photography more than pays for itself!

Thanks to Ted Barrow in Fort Worth, TX and John Sembrot in Trumbull, CT for pointing out this article.

20 comments on “Study Finds Adding Photos Increases Residential Home Sale Price By 3.9%”

  1. This study is worthless and doesn't give us any conclusion. They don't even make any difference between bad and good photos. They count an high end multi thousand dollars photo production as the same as a very bad quality mobile phone ones. Prices and photos have nothing to do with each other, buyers won't pay more for a property just because it has photos. Price is only made buy supply and demand and nothing more. And photos don't increase or decrease neither each. An overpriced house with the best photos in the world will never sell. An house below the market price without any photos will sell for sure.
    We all known the great importance of photos but this study is pointless and give us results that aren't even true. If it was, no one would take any photos.

  2. Going to put on my real estate cap here for a second. My buyers won't even think about seeing a property unless it has online photos. So I'm not sure what kind of science this loosely definced study undertook to gather this data, but in my market and I would imagine many across the country, NOT having photos would increase the days on market. There's truly no real way to know unless you took two almost identical homes, and splt tested them against each other. And in order to get an accurate study, you would need to A/B test dozens of properties in dozens of markets to get some sort of valid data. This may be a good marketing tool for the photographers out there if you left out the 20.6% additional days on market comment. I would never show this to a seller on a real estate listing appointment however.

  3. Snake oil. If it were true that one picture will add $39,000 to a $1,000,000 listing that we are all seriously undercharging for our services. I cannot image telling a prospective client that if we do not put up a picture of your home it will sell faster! Actually there is another study out of Colorado that shows that with 25 pictures or more you house will sell faster. You decide.
    The reality is the price is set by the agent and their client before the photographer is hired. Neither of the studies mentioned have any bearing on my market at all where less than 10% of the listings have “professional” images. Those that do, do not sell any faster or for any more money than those that don't. And for those listings that use less than “professional” images there is usually enough information in the photos about the home for a buyer to make the decision to see it.

  4. Rohnn another one of these "who needs marketing" guys, and "your house will sell itself you don't even need a realtor" Well that's true the house will sell if it's priced right. A house will sell even faster if it's priced under market and it will sell lots slower if it's over market value. but for all the houses priced properly (which the majority are) a little assistance in the form of professional marketing (read professional photography.) Will they sell Fords without TV commercials, yes so why bother? Things will sell without marketing but it has been shown again and again that marketing leads to increased sales. You say the photos provide "information" about the listing. Which infact they do. However if they provide more than information, a feeling, and emotion, then the pictures (marketing) will have a more powerful impact. That's why good realtors usually take the time to make a nice writeup describing the property. It's more than just numbers and sq ft. At the end of the day to YOU it might just be numbers of bathrooms, location and sq ft. If that's the case why do we need realtors at all. A computer could process that information quite easily. This is sarcasm I do believe we need realtors and professional marketing for real estate. Also if you're just a troll then I got suckered.

  5. The study does not conclude that quality images will increase the price. With that said, I do believe that better quality images help a property owner have an increased chance of showings of their property over bad images.
    Not sure I want to use this as third party influence.

  6. I too am baffled by the study's findings that having photos on a listing INCREASES market time. I would have expected the opposite. However, the increase in sales price makes some sense to me. As Pedro mentions, real estate is all about supply and demand. If you can get more people interested in a listing (a/k/a increase demand) through effective use of photography then it would make sense that the property would sell for a higher price.

  7. FYI if you want to read this article (or just about any WSJ article) without a WSJ subscription, instead of clicking on the link above search Google for the article headline and follow the link from Google. You'll get the entire article because WSJ participates in Google's "first click free" program which requires that anyone coming to paywall articles from a Google search be allowed to read the entire article, without having to register or pay. It doesn't work on every article, but it does work on most including this one.

  8. It not possible to tell from the WSJ article how the conclusions were drawn. There are many reasons why a home is not photographed, one of which is that they already have a buyer. It wouldn't take many of those to completely distort the results. Also, in the last couple of years higher end home have been selling slower than the more affordable lower end properties. Given that more higher end homes are photographed, that could be another source of the longer selling time.

  9. Here's the major flaw in this study. It does not distinguish between resale listings and new home sales. Here's my logic. Resale homes get listed, with photos, and normally go into the MLS right away. New homes (built from the ground up, as models or spec homes) will be input into the MLS without photos as soon as construction begins. They can sit in the MLS without photos for months, until the home reaches a stage of finish that can be photographed, then photos will be added to the MLS. This can represent a large number of homes at any given time in any market. So the conclusion of this study may be accurate as it relates to days on market and the presence of photos. When you pull data from a local MLS to be analyzed, you have to strip out new home sales because they will always skew the results. Here's why.

    Ex. 1 - Resale home - listed Jan 1, goes into MLS with photos, list price $400,000 sells in 60 days for $384,000. (Homeowners will to negotiate.)
    Ex. 2 - New home - construction begins Jan 1 and is input into MLS. Price $400,000. July 1, home is completed, is photographed and photos added to MLS. 180 days on market with no photos. Now the marketing begins with photos, home sells in another 60 days for $398,000. 240 total days on market and it sells for the just under list price because builders don't like to negotiate.

    Anyone disagree?

  10. Meaning less on many counts. i worked as a professional photographer. For the last 25 years i have been a real estate agent selling upper tier beach homes. to add to what has been said prior... i know BAD photos or lack of the RIGHT photos, just like bad descriptions, can seriously hurt the sale of a good property with the right price.

  11. On the increased market time thing- notice that the 2010 Redfin study, done in a completely different way also found there was an increased market time (although they almost don't mention the finding). I agree, increased market time is counter intuitive but when two independent studies find similar results it's harder to dismiss. I agree with Terry, I wouldn't stress the increased market time because there's not a good story on why it's happening.

    It appears that the control listings used for this study used NO photos. I wish they would have used listings with 1 or 2 exterior photos on their control listings, this is a more likely minimum effort listing.

    I still like the Redfin study the best because it compares listings marketed with photos shot by DSLRs to listings not shot with DSLR. Although clearly not perfect, it partially compares professional and professional-like to typical listing photos.

  12. @Aric - Thanks for the explanation! This explains why some times I can get to the article and sometimes I can't.

    @Mark - Excellent point!

  13. @supraman
    I am a real estate broker, if someone wants to market their house to the maximum amount of people they need to be listed on the MLS, they need to go through an agent to do it. A house will not sell itself. Today most buyers are bringing listings to agents they have found themselves, they are doing it based on information provided in the photos and the writeup of properties they have seen online. They really don't care about walls not being perfectly vertical, proper white balance, or a decent window pull as long as they can determine this is a home that is a nice fit for their family.
    One more point, if photos will bring 3.9% more in price, your phones should be ringing off of the hook. In the end the consumer decides.

  14. I'm not able to see the article so my understanding comes from the comments I've read. I would be very surprised if more photos itself increases the days on market. As Pedro pointed out, price has more influence over DOM than any other factor related to the listing. It is often said, “Any will sell…. at the right price.”
    I would, however, expect good photos to have some influence over DOM and sales price. A great looking property with poor or no photos won’t get any more attention than the average property. A nice home with photos that make it look nice will get more showings than a similar property with bad or no photos. More showings translate to greater demand thereby effectively raising the value of the property. This, of course, is theory. It would be nice if we could have a study that would verify the principle.

  15. Common sense goes a very long way. Unfortunately, common sense is fairly uncommon, especially among many realtors. Most of them do poorly in wrting, spelling, communicating, and certainly in photography. As to days on the market, they may be saying that a listing will stay longer with the listing agent that has had or done photography, especially if it was done professionally. At least that has been my experience.

    Ask yourself, do people have the time to run around looking at places they have no or little idea about, or do they opt to view it first in photos on the internet, then ask to see them in person? Come on, realtors, let loose of a little cash and get the job done properly. There is no better place to find really bad examples of terrible photography than on real estate agent's sites.

    If you really think about it, don't you think it absurd that agents will not spend money for professionally done photos on a house that can bring them commissions of thousands of dollars? Talk about putting the horse before the cart, many realtors are attempting to sell homes pretty much "sight unseen", and I assure you, that rarely, if ever, works.

    Put it all into perspective. Today's good real estate photographers work for far less than the job is worth, and most realtors cry all the way to the bank.

  16. The other reason it could take a little longer is with the additional information attract multiple buyers . You then have multiple offer negotiation.

  17. Gotta love the tips...@ 1:39 in the video

    "...anything unsightly is removed..." - in photoshop!

    Seems this might be a bit dishonest. Remove it before taking the photo or change the angle I understand.

  18. @Rohnn
    I agree with everything you said up to this point: "They really don’t care about walls not being perfectly vertical, proper white balance, or a decent window pull as long as they can determine this is a home that is a nice fit for their family." Which is the opposite of everything you said before. By your logic why would you need professional photography for anything? Are TV commercials and print ads in magazines "snake oil" Why would those help sell products but nice photos of houses not? I'm still confused on your reasoning. Is it marketing in general that you think is ineffective? or just when it comes to houses?

    As for ringing off the hook of every client I've worked for I've gotten repeat business from. The challenge is always in educating new clients.

  19. Again just ancedotal information. I shoot commodity priced photos generally 20-30 per home. I shoot fast with one speedlight, D5100, tripod, sp700, sigma 10-20mm. all interiors on 10mm. I am way too cheap. $69 for 20 and $79 for 25 photos. They get a slide tour page on my site linked to MLS and Realtor. com, if they have enhanced service. I stay busy year round.
    1. My agents hire me because they believe my photos help sell homes faster. Price is fully in their court, not mine.
    2. Sellers that I talk to that are looking to buy tell me they only look at homes that have photos. They also tell me bad photos turn them off. I have never had one tell me photos did not matter,
    2. Sellers often tell me that knowing they were getting pro photos entered into the choice of agents.
    3. My agents often list expired listings from sellers who had bad or no photos for 6 months on MLS. Some of these are 400K to 1mil. plus listings.
    4. My clients include the #1 Remax agent in Missouri and 4 of the top 10 Remax agents in Missouri. Combined they sell 300 plus properties per year.
    5. Brokers tend to be anti-Pro. The very top agents are sold on very good photos.
    IMO. You probably don't need the photos that win the contests here. But you need very good photos.
    Comment on the study, it's complete BS. My photos sell homes faster, IMO. Price is ultimately determined by the buyer, when he makes an acceptable offer.

  20. I'd like to read the original study, not the Wall Street summary of it. But, has anybody been able to find a copy of that study to read?

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