This is not news to anyone that has been close to the real estate business for a while. However, I thought it would be useful to talk about this subject for those building their business in real estate photography.
The message is: the real estate photography business is very cyclical because the number of listings that come on the market is very cyclical. So you should expect that your number of shots could vary by as much as 50% over a year. Here's some data from Alan Pope & Associates in the Seattle area NWMLS that shows you what to expect:
- First of all there are special factors that can make this very different from city to city and year to year so I'm talking conceptually here.
- On this chart "inventory" means number of homes on the market. This chart is for a very large area (population is ~2 million). King County is the area surrounding Seattle, WA. This chart covers a time span from 2008 through present.
- Notice how even though each year generally starts low in Jan, peaks in late spring or summer and goes back down in Nov and Dec, the differences in the shape of the chart from year to year are large. Like 2012... what's going on there?
- The other interesting thing that this chart shows that in 2008, 2009 and 2010 when the homes were hardly selling at all, there were a huge number of homes on the market. My friends in Seattle were telling me during that time that real estate photography business was great. They were busy because there were a lot of homes that needed photographing!
So the conclusion is:
- Your income from real estate photography probably will never be uniform over a years time so you should plan for that. One solution is to arrange for some temporary help during the busy season.
- You may feel like you need help during May through Aug and you may want to go on vacation from thanksgiving through new years. People just don't want to put their home on the market during the holidays.
- Just because homes aren't selling doesn't mean there won't be a demand for real estate photography... it may go up.
If you have access to your local MLS you can create these charts for your local market, but be forewarned it's harder than it looks. My wife Levi and I use to make these kind of charts by price range for the builders we represented to help them make good decisions.