The Value of High Quality Photos for Real Estate Listings

In previous writings for Rain City Guide on the subject of real estate photography, I’ve emphasized more of a ‘how to’ or ‘how to improve’ approach for Realtor’s who photograph their own listings. I want to shift my emphasis toward raising awareness regarding the value of high quality photography for listings and actually learning to recognize the difference between a bad photographic presentation of a listing and a really good one. Or to put it another way, acknowledging a poor photo presentation when it is and hopefully doing something about it. As a photographer who works almost exclusively with Realtors, I am continuously mystified by the disregard by so many Realtors locally and nationwide who seem to be clueless regarding the photos used to market their listing. To simply purchase a ‘point and shoot’ digital camera and walk around your seller’s home snapping away and expecting a satisfactory result is simply not going to cut it. In most cases there is more to it than that and unless you consider photography a hobby and worth time invested in the necessary skill development, you might be much better off hiring a professional photographer to shoot your listing. Many of the best Realtors do use professional photographers and they’re not fools.

This is a comment from my previous article by a St. Louis Realtor that deserves a more prominent view.

First time poster here: Glad to see some recognition of this problem! The most important thing an agent can do for their sellers today is to get lots of superior images up on the web. Here in St. Louis I am continually astounded at the plethora of dark, awful images, and “what were they thinking” photos of toilets, ceiling fans, etc, or NO PHOTOS at all! How do these [realtors] even get listings?

For most of my listings, I take a lot of my own photos, as I have a background in photography and image correction, so I have hi-res images for color flyers, but I ALSO have a great local photographer who comes in and shoots a batch of wonderful web-ready wideangle shots and virtual tours…

It’s worth the investment (typical agent–“you mean you actually PAY someone to shoot your listings? That costs MONEY!”) My business would be a lot less successful without quality photos.

And this is taken from a follow up email from Shannon. “It would help the profession if we all did better than this, although I’m happy many of my local competitors are still so bad at it!

This is really a great article by Norm Fisher, a Saskatoon realtor, with a virtual tour of some of the photos that were taken from the Saskatoon mls. “The Unbelievably Bad Real Estate Photography Hall of Fame”. Click on the links in the article to be taken to the virtual tour page. Norm’s humorous audio narration of the tour are really worth a visit.

A typical comment from a friend who have done an internet search for a home makes comments like, “I sure see a lot of dark, out of focus, awful photos’. Are they hiding something they don’t want me to see?”

I am getting calls from Realtors with listings from low end houses and small condos to spacious multi-million dollar homes. One might think that even a very basic home that is in decent condition deserves to be marketed well. If I’m the seller of a modest home, the sale of my home and the potential price is certainly important to me. I’d like to know that my Realtor is doing a professional job of marketing my home and taking care of the details. Lousy shots do not inspire confidence in the agent and the points a Realtor might earn by producing a good photographic presentation, or in many cases, simply hiring a professional photographer, are going to make it more likely that I’m going to be a happy customer. Happy customers equal referrals. And where are Realtors without referrals?

I’d like to conclude with one of my favorite photos of 2006, taken from a listing near Greenlake. This is one of the most ‘kid friendly, family friendly’ homes I’ve ever seen and it was a delight to see and photograph this whimsical, artsy abode. Doesn’t everyone wish they had swing and a chalkboard wall in their living room when they were kids?

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What to Look For In Your Real Estate Blog Stats

I’m sad to report that we weren’t made an unbelievable offer for RCG, and we have no plans to change our name to either “Google’s Rain City Guide” or “Rain Zity Guide”. 😉

And now that it is April 2nd, I thought I’d get back to work by giving some advice on what to look for in the stats of your business blog.

It can be useful to know answers to questions like: Who is visiting my site? Where they are coming from? Am I giving them what they want? And (assuming you’re running a business blog), is anyone buying the product/service that I’m selling? To get at these answers, I turn to one of three different stat programs (all of them free!):

  • awstats came installed by my internet service provider (ISP) and offers the best look at long term trends for me because I’ve had has been running the entire time I’ve had RCG. It always shows slightly higher stats than the other programs because it picks up everyone who visits the site and not just those who load the whole page and/or have javascript installed. For better or worse, my host only updates the awstats once a day, and they get aggregated by month so that I can’t really make head’s or tails out of what is going on “right now” using this stat program.
  • MapStats has some interesting features that make it very useful for blogging. It not only maps all of the users out based on their IP address, but it also let’s me know where the latest visitors are coming from (i.e. what links they clicked on and/or what search term they used to get to RCG). It is updated every few minutes making it very useful in seeing what’s happing in the hear-and-now.
  • Google Analytics is an amazingly comprehensive stat program that is probably better suited for sites 100 or 1000 times bigger than RCG (or at least sites that have a staff with time to pour over all the information it gives!). It includes tons of interactive charts and you allow you to reference and cross-reference by date and referrer (and ad program if you do that kind of thing). Like awstats, it has the disadvantage that it only updates once a day, and like MapStats it misses out on people who don’t have javascript installed and running. But the charts are amazing. To give you an idea of some of the things you can see with Google Analytics, I’ve included a chart of the “loyalty” of RCG readers:

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(You can read the chart as saying “In March, 10,254 visitors came only once while 743 visitors have been to Rain City Guide more than 200 times.)

Interestingly, the loyalty chart reminds me of something said by Niki Parekh of HouseValues at the MIT Forum that has resonated with me. The topic was how real estate agent using HouseValues system have to be patient because it can take months, if not years, between the time when a home owner contacts HouseValues looking for a home valuation report and the time when when they are ready to sell their home.

The relevance to the loyalty chart is that I have this not-too-small hope that more and more of the home buyers and sellers who read Rain City Guide regularly will begin to take advantage of Anna’s referral service when they are actually ready to buy and/or sell a home. While a dozen or so people contacted Anna in March, there is still plenty of room for this service to grow, and I was glad to hear Niki highlight the importance of keeping a long-term view of things.

More Stat Fun
On a related note, I’d feel like I was hiding something if I didn’t give an update on our statistics at the beginning of the month (jan, feb). Here are the same two stat charts updated to include data for March:

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One last thing
And finally, Happy Belated Birthday to Merv’s blog in Virginia . If you want a little background on why Merv has been so successful at real estate blogging, check out the interview I did with him back in December.