There have been several questions recently about collecting payment. Alex in Ohio asked:
I have heard about real estate photographers charging at time of sale instead of requiring payment at time of shoot. What are your thoughts on this? It makes sense because no one gets paid till the home sells, why would the photographer be different? But, how would you know that the house is sold and request payment? What if the seller switches real estate agents? What if they take the home off the market or other foreseeable outcomes?
Getting paid at closing is a nightmare! No, it doesn't make sense for photographers to wait to get paid until closing. The photographers job is complete when the photos are delivered. The listing agent's job isn't finished until closing. Deferred payment is a nightmare for all the reasons you raise and for the accounts receivable tracking it problem it creates.
If you get paid at closing it means you have to track the status of all the shoots you've done to make sure you are getting paid! You can't just leave it up to agents to remember to pay you. Many real estate photographers have problems getting agents to pay if they give them 30 days to pay.
My experience is that most contractors that deal with real estate agents (home inspectors in particular) insist on payment at the time their services are provided. This is why a large percentage of real estate photographers use squareup.com to take credit cards at the time of the shoot. This completely eliminates the job of tracking your accounts receivable which can be a significant.
Another option is payment before delivery. The paymenttab.com service can automate this or you can just email an invoice with a payment button on the invoice (PayPal and Square can both do this) and you don't deliver the photos before the invoice is paid.
Do yourself a favor, get payment up at the shoot or when photos are delivered! This will simplify your life.