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What Should Real Estate Photographers Charge for Rental Photos?

Published: 18/05/2018
By: larry

Mike in the Seattle area asks:

What should I charge for real estate photos that I've shot for selling the property and now the new owner wants to use my photos for their newly acquired rental property? Same amount as the listing? Twice the amount since they can reuse the photos?

My guess is that the majority of real estate photographers shooting rental property photos charge the same for shooting rentals as homes for sale and completely blow off the licensing differences. Here are some things to think about:

  1. In general, for sale photos are used for a relatively short time but the transaction value is large. Rental photos are usually used for a long time over and over but the transaction value is lower.
  2. Research your local market. See what the local expectations are. If you live in an area with lots of rentals, it certainly makes sense to treat rentals very differently. That is, charge at least twice as much and license differently. Rental owners may well push back if other photographers are not doing the same thing.
  3. You should have a different license agreement for rental photos. Rental clients are more likely to think that they own the photos and believe they can use them forever and even sell them to a new rental property owner. Are you going to transfer ownership to them, or allow them to use the photos for a specific amount of time? A discussion of the alternatives is a good place to start the pricing discussion.
  4. If they are licensed to use them for a year or so, then charge them your "home for sale rate" since some listings can last over a year.
  5. If you are going to transfer ownership to them, then my guess is that you should charge them 3 or 4 times the "for sale rate."
  6. If you are shooting a bunch of properties for the same client, a volume discount may be in order.

What are others' experiences with shooting rentals? How many are routinely charging more for rental photos and licensing them differently?

8 comments on “What Should Real Estate Photographers Charge for Rental Photos?”

  1. Is this a single family home being rented, a duplex, multiple apartments? Single family homes in some areas tend to rent for longer periods than apartments. Is the new owner somebody that rents lots of homes or somebody whose just bought their first investment property? Do you have a chance at getting more business from them in the near future?

    I'd charge at least as much as the fee the agent paid and stipulate a time period the images can be used. You can offer a discounted rate for more time or even offer a long term license if you like to a bit more. Don't go too high or they might just decide on reshooting the place with their cell phone.

  2. I shoot for a couple of different property management companies and have done for several years. I take a different approach in that I charge a flat fee and it's actually less than the typical for sale home. The reasons are 1) Their margin is much smaller than the commission for selling a house and if I charged full ticket, or double as was suggested, I simply would not have their business at all (the law of unintended consequences) 2) Of the thirty or so agents I photograph listings for, nine of them I first met when they were working for a property management company. 3) When the PMs sell the properties they own, I usually get an opportunity to re-shoot and then charge full price. 4) It keeps me busy when the market slows down and 5) most of the places are smallish and very quick shoots; there are big and high end places, too, but I'm happy with the balance.

    While it's true that property management companies will use the photos over and over, my experience has been that when the owners do any work on a place, be it fresh paint or whatever, the property management company typically has me re-shoot it.

    And finally, the two companies I work with have a good relationship between them, so they're not competing. One focuses on more up market properties and the other not so much. It could get tricky working for competing companies as the management company that gives me the most work sees it as a way of separating themselves from the competition.

    I would never want to do only rentals, but it's a nice little aside.

    And finally (part 2), often the places are empty and are very easy to fit into your schedule; other times they are occupied by renters who may be less-than-tidy and somewhat unmotivated to pick-up. I shoot as-is and don't touch their stuff. Occasionally it's not worth the bother but I get what I can and the PM will send me back when the place is empty (between renters). That gets billed as two shoots. Also, if it's a duplex, triplex, fourplex, whateverplex, I bill for each apartment.

    I realize others see charging less as foolish, but I'm happy with it; and in the long run it's helped me grow my business, which is nice.

  3. @Robert - You make excellent points! Rental management agents make so little I never see why anyone would even do the job... and this is why so many of them do such a bad job. This is why we've always managed our own rentals.

  4. @Larry, if the rental is in an apartment complex, there may only be a couple of floor plans so the manager can reuse lots of images to advertise the next vacancy they have or several of the same layout that are available with one set of images. It's hard to give one blanket answer that will work in every rental situation. There will be a huge image value difference between a single family home being rented where the images are very specific and a 100 unit complex with 3-5 floor plans. The big complex is going to get more usage from the images and amortize the cost better so it can't be assumed that there isn't the same value to property managers as there is for sales agents in every situation.

    Some of the same reasons for using a professional photographer on a sales listing apply to rentals. Getting a rental occupied as quickly as possible is key to the owner keeping a positive annual cash flow.

  5. I have shot and staged vacation rental images for three different companies plus VRBO & Airbnb, I did negotiate a price slightly below my Real Estate cost just because of the high volume, first company I hit 125 properties. These are great companies to work with since their market is year round versus the intense spring- summer real estate market, they truly fill in the gaps.

  6. My terms to real estate agents specify that the their right to use the photos to market the property expires once they have lease or sold the property. If they want to reuse the photos for another listing of the property for another sale or lease, then they pay an additional fee. This applies to a single residential or commercial unit only. Using photos to rent multiple units, such as for a rental apartment complex or an office building would entail a different, higher fee structure, which would typically account for rerenting of the units over a specified period of time. In this latter case, the client would most likely be a property management company or a property owner.

  7. We do rentals, airbnb's, and Commercial shoots. They all get charged the same price as real estate listings. The cost of my service is not reflected upon their profitability. Photos and video that I do for rentals, Airbnb listings and Commercial housing will get more bang for the dollar than a real estate listing. Where the real estate listing is a once and done deal, the others and be Evergreen. The only way it would change is if they change something drastically to the property between renters.

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