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The Better the Property Photos, the Higher the Sale Price

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

Photographer_camera imageSo it looks like you better invest in a digital SLR camera or find a professional photographer to make your new best friend, at least if you want to sell a home for more money, according to a new study by Redfin, a Seattle-based real estate brokerage.

Digital SLR cameras are professional-grade cameras with detachable lenses and that tend to have more manual settings, which often help you capture higher quality photos than its cheaper point-and-shoot rival.

Redfin found in an analysis of more than 100,000 listings in the Boston metro area and Long Island, N.Y., that homes with professional photographs sold anywhere between $934 to $116,076 more than those shot from cheaper, point-and-shoot cameras. That’s probably enough to start making you feel a little insecure about your photographs if you’re not using a professional or a high-end camera.

What’s more, homes with professional photographs were found, on average, to be viewed 61 percent more online than others in that price range shot with a lower-end camera. The listings that used digital SLR cameras also commanded a 47 percent higher asking price per square foot, according to the Redfin analysis.

Digital SLR cameras, however, were only found to increase the likelihood of a sale for listings $300,000 and above. In other words, buyers don’t seem to judge a house by its photos as much for homes under $300,000.

Digital SLR cameras don’t appear to be too popular in the real estate market, even when shooting luxury listings. Eighty percent of the listing analyzed were shot with a point-and-shoot camera; only 15 percent of the listings used a digital SLR camera.

What’s most surprising, only about half of the listings in the $1 million-plus range were shot using a professional SLR camera, nearly split with low-end camera usage in that price range.

Realtor Magazine will be hosting a webinar at 3 p.m. EST on Nov. 18 on photography, “Capture Your Listings Through a Lens.” You’ll learn best practices in real estate photography, what capabilities you want in a camera, and how to digitally edit photographs. Register here.

What do you think — does it take a high-end camera or professional photographer to sell a house for higher dollar? Or do you think a point-and-shoot camera can do the job? Some real estate professionals are even using the camera on their phone to capture images of their listings for their marketing, according to the study. What do you use for your listings?

Comments
  1. I have seen real estate agents use a variety of tools to take house photos. I’ve used my iPhone camera and gotten really nice photos when the lighting is right. Definitely a high-end camera or a professional photographer is going to get better photos but I don’t think it’s always necessary. I am really interested to know more about the study. Yes, maybe these homes sold for more money but did these companies have a higher marketing budget for these homes? I certainly agree that good photos are key I just think this study may not take other factors into account.
    What I do find inexcusable is taking poor photos. For instance when I used to work in TV production we were always discouraged from taking photos of bathrooms with the toilet seat up. It looks a lot better down:)

  2. I think it’s more a matter of the skill and care of the photographer than the camera.

    A “point & shoot” camera can still take better photos than many I have seen on the MLS. The photographer needs learn to use the settings to get the best lighting, have a wide angle lens, and a good eye for the layout and subject matter. Using some photo-editing software to re-size, correct the lighting, and crop will also help a lot. This takes some practice, but you don’t need to be a graphic designer with a $5,000 camera to make a good impression with the photos.

    Taking care of the details, like picking up the dog food bowl from the kitchen floor, moving the excess magazines off the living room table, and clearing the clutter off the home office desk go a long way to making the photos more attractive. There is no excuse for bad photos!

  3. Great article. Proves my philosophy that making your listing show better than the competition and marketing it professionally pays off.
    The study on results of higher prices for homes with higher end cameras seems perfectly logical to me. I find that making my listings as attractive as possible (including using a new digital SLR $1,000 camera with a $1,000 wide angle lens) along with a good eye, photo editing, furniture placement, staging, and so on, definitely helps me sell for top dollar and quickly.
    The natural response of most agents is to make excuses for not properly investing in marketing their listings because it comes out of their own pocket. The old saying that we stick a sign in the yard, ask for price reductions, and show up for closing to get a fat check is a well earned reputation. Take a look at some of the photos and property descriptions on most listings and ask yourself if you would pay that agent $15,000 or more to sell your home.

  4. Joan Van der Veen

    I am appalled that REALTOR magazine is sponsoring information and calling it a “Scientific Study” that is done by a reduced commission agency. What are we paying our dues for? For the NAR to promote the demise of full service marketing agents??????

  5. Valerie

    I use Obeo for just about all listings. I am amazed at some photos on listings. Horrible. Pictures of a corner of the room, a toilet, dining room table. Now more than ever professional photos pay off and my clients pay for it up front and I will reimburse if they sell the home with me. You can’t pay for them up front with sellers switching realtors because the overpriced house with outdated kitchen didn’t sell!! haha This is not a huge cost ranging anywhere from $90-200. I also get reports and other tools with each order. I also do the domain name to guide people to the tour for $20.00. ex. http://www.3DoverLane.com or http://www.164CedarCt.com.

  6. Well Joan Van der Veen, a little defensive are we? As a realtor and as someone who used to work in advertising and media, it blows me away, how some agents do not do these things. Good photography is the cornerstone and the foundation of the home marketing program. Frankly, I would much rather go to a discount brokerage who does things right than a full service, full cost agency, that pulls out their flip phones/camera. Seriously.

  7. So many photos do not include any landscaping. So what if you block a small corner of the house with a healthy plant well balanced in your photo.

    Here in Steamboat Springs, CO to get things to actually grow & thrive is a big deal

    There is something alive here! (besides mold).

  8. I use a professional photographer for every listing, he happens to be my son. Not only does he have professional grade equipment, he has the education and experience to have an “eye” for what works, especially perspective, color, and lighting. We work as a team to make sure the pictures are what we want the house to project as its’ best features. He eliminates shadows and dark spots and glare. I eliminate clutter, and show him what we need to display. We don’t show off personal property of the owner, such as a close up of nice furniture or a craft project on the wall, and we don’t show pets, people, toys or unmade beds. We try to include all rooms, but display them at their best. And we show no fuzzy or upside down or irrelevant pictures.

  9. A customer just asked me to retake her home’s photos. Her home is a little dark and my upscale digital camera’s photos were good, but not good enough. I agreed and a pro is coming next week

    We know right away when our photos aren’t the best and we should call in a pro. If we can take our own photos, I say ‘great’! I’m all about saving marketing money, but our job is to make the property as appealing as possible so it will sell NOW. So, get the very best photos and lots of them.

  10. I think there might be something missing from this “study” … how many agents do you think would bring in a professional photographer to take photos of a house that is, dark, dated and dirty? My guess is NOT many! Perhaps the reason for the higher sale price has less to do with the quality of the camera and more to do with quality of the staging/preparation of the home for sale.

  11. I have many personal examples that bear out the findings of this study. We have taken houses that have been on the market for up to 2 years. Do a light staging and take professional photos and have a contract within a few weeks and often a few days. At list or very near list price.
    Properly staged, properly photographed homes bring shoppers through the door.

  12. I use a Sony DSC “Point – Shoot” Mounted On A Vertical Stick, Then Generate My Virtual Tours With iMovie On My iMac…. Results Are Great…

  13. I make it a requirement that my sellers invest in professional photography. It by far one of the best investments they can make when they decide it’s time for the home to go on the market. With more than 90% of all home buyers starting their search online (and thousands to choose from) excellent photographs grab their attention. Your listings stand out and the get more traffic, therefore offering a stronger chance of selling at the best price!

    Recently the choice to go with a pro landed my client’s home on the front cover of a large publication that goes out to more than 60,000 people in the Wilmington, NC area (and they didn’t have to pay to be on the cover) all because the photos were so impressive.

    It pays to go pro!

  14. Carlos

    We ran a bit of a test, we have over 11 shooters, we sent them to the same property to see how they styled the room……move furniture etc.
    We then asked our major clients which they liked and why, from this and other feedback we built a model for the shooters to follow.It is amazing the difference that can be made to the look of a house by moving the furniture around.
    Definitely use professionals good pics will get more people through, and a better price for your vendor, which is what its about.
    We use a formula for shooting bracketing , then highly skilled retouch manipulate the numerous exposure to make it look amazing.

    Sure you can go the cheap way, do yourself a big favour, read up on advertising and marketing, the extra few dollars will get you the extra people through and a better price.

  15. I am a real estate agent on Cape Cod. I agree with this study, and have been working hard to improve my photography skills. I do my own pictures because I want to show a lot of pictures and I find that it is often necessary to reshoot pictures as the seasons change and as the owners make changes to their house. Often they want to get on the market right away and will do the easy staging recommendations but don’t want to wait until they have completed more dificult changes.

    I use a DSLR, wide angle and telephot lenses, tripod, external lights, and Photshop Elements and some add-on filters. I also make extensive use of PowerPoint and Excel and screen capture tools. Moving into HD Video next year. I also create single house web sites for each listings–and typicall Google searches for the house address gets a #1 – #5 hit. These web sites include a Virtual Tour, but also much more. For and example: http://www.294BayView.com. (Note, property is temporarily withdrawn.) Or Google: “294 Bay View”

    While great pictures are a key part of great marketing, and staging is also a key factor, PRICE remains the main driver of time to sell. No amount of great marketing can overcome a “make me move” price that is way to high.

  16. I love my little Sony point-&-shoot camera but my Nikon D-200 absolutely smokes it! Add to it the ability to go HDR or Exposutre Fusion and I would never think to use my Sony to shoot a house. With the increasing trend of buyers doing their own initial searches on the web, it is more important that ever to have outstanding photos that tweak the viewers interest and makes him want to come into your site to learn more.
    Now video is also becoming more and more important to reinforce the still photography!

  17. I am definetly seeing the benefit of using better images. More views online lead to more leads. However, it is a skill that isnot going to come overnight. You really need to work at it. Invest in quality equipment, the time to get get the right shots by having the property ready to photograph, and also the post processing work is important. It requires thinking and creativity. I think photography is a skill that can be an asset to an agent. As an agent if you are not willing to take the time, then hire a professional. Also having great images can have a huge impact on listing presentations.

    There are some great websites like http://www.photographyforrealestate.com that have been super helpful to me.

  18. Dave

    I would like to add that it is not just the camera (point and shoot or a dslr) but knowing how to use the camera is essential. If you take bad photos with an inexpensive camera, there is no guarantee that the photos will automatically be better with a higher quality camera – especially with architectural photography!

  19. I’ve been looking for some research along this line. GREAT! Thanks Redfin.com!

  20. For quite some time now, I have believed that good pictures sell a house faster. Buyers are more knowledgeable now and know how to search for homes. They do their homework before they call me to show them property.
    If by chance, I get a buyer who relies solely on me to select property to show, I do my homework. If I see a negative in a picture that I don’t like or if I don’t like the house in the pictures, I don’t add it in the line up of homes to show.

    Now as for taking pictures, I do have an expensive camera but I don’t think you have to have the most expensive to take good pictures. It is important to have the correct lighting. A dark picture is as bad as no picture at all.

    Finally, I much prefer to take pictures of a very clean, organized, de-cluttered home. I don’t like the shampoo bottles sitting all over the tub and shower or magnets on the fridge… It helps alot if your seller cooperates. I prefer to take pics when noone is at home. I feel more comfortable about moving some minor negatives out of the way and then putting them back in place. :) I almost refuse to post pictures with anything negative in view. For that reason, I take approx. 100 pics of every property. I include pics zooming in on the beautiful wood flooring etc… I take pictures of the community clubhouse and swimming pool, any lakes (zooming in on the ducks swimming in the water), etc…

    Good pictures sell a home and I don’t care what price range it’s in. That’s my experience! Of course your seller has to cooperate. And they don’t always.

  21. Joe

    It still baffles me how most brokers will have a professional photographer shoot the photos for their agents profile picture, but drop the ball on photos of their listings. I’m looking at offices in my area showing homes in the 700K to 1M+ range where the photos are horrible. When these brokers are approached, they say they’re happy with who they have doing the photos. Either the broker is blind, cheap or his nephew needs something to do. If I was looking to buy a home in the above price range, I wouldn’t be to impressed with a photo of a vase on an end table against a wall.

  22. I agree whole-heartedly with the general consensus that better photos result in higher sales prices. The thought is, 1)this home needs exposure to be sold 2)the better photos will get Buyer’s attention 3)The Buyer will perceive a better value because of the better photos 4) The Buyer will chose a home they can see themselves in and have pride in.

    Listing associates and brokers who establish a pattern of producing high quality marketing with professional looking photography will attract high quality Sellers who want to list their homes with that level of service. Their goal is to get it sold, at the highest possible price in the shortest amount of time.

    Good article

  23. Bryan Hilts

    I was a professional photographer long before I became a licensed realtor and of course I think all listings should have professional photography.

    But I also know that investing in a professional quality setup is not the answer by itself. Just because I own a tool belt and some cool power tools doesn’t qualify me to be a finished carpenter.

    Check out the Before and After shot with the view thru the window in my blog. The shot on the left is what a typical digital SLR will produce and the shot on the right is what a professional can produce thru proper lighting and better than average editing skills.

    http://bryanhilts.com/blog/?p=40

  24. I agree quality photography makes a home stand out. As a semi pro-photographer, I think back o the day I got a DSLR camera and the huge jump in the quality of my photos. I would love to use a point and click but its just not the same and we use it a a selling point to list with us.

  25. I read this article when it was first posted, and I agreed strongly with it. Since then, I’ve had a chance to step into the arena. In fact, last week I worked with a real estate agent, taking shots of his property using my DSLR and off-camera strobes to control the lighting; simultaneously, he took the same shots with his DSLR (only, shooting in Full Auto mode). Afterward we compared our images, and he was astounded at how superior mine were.
    It’s not only important to use a good camera, but it is essential to control the light and balance the light flowing in windows with the indoor light. This actually does a better job of representing what our eye sees when looking at a property. Even the best DSLR is still incapable of capturing the image that will capture your client; it takes a skilled photographer who knows how to layer in light to show potential buyers what there is to see when they visit the property!

  26. I am amazed how many bad photos there are online to promote listings. The real estate industry is selling people’s most valuable assets. That means as a real estate agent you are marketing these properties. Marketing 101 says the quickest and most successful sale is a combination of location, price, packaging (condition & showcasing) and promotion (includes photography). When selling a property the real estate professional has no control over the location, but has control over the other 3 factors. I observe that the majority of the listings is marketed purely on price rather than seeing these factors being related to each other. With over 94% of buyers looking online first to decide whether they want to visit a property, it is critical to have the photographs stand out from the competition to draw the traffic into your listing. This is where staging a property and the photos make the big different. It all starts with the first impression.

    I was surprised reading through all the prior comments that the focus was on the camera being used. Give the same camera to a good professional and a non-professional photographer and have them take photos of the same room – there will be a big difference in the quality of the photos. Professional photographers know what angle to take the photo from to avoid awkward distortions, they know how to bring mood into a photograph, they have additional lighting equipment, they have in depth knowledge of different photographic techniques such as HDR photography to ensure even lighting, they know about the perfect composition of the photo, and know how to make after-shot corrections if needed. Unless you are a real estate agent who has invested in equipment, is really deeply involved with photography and has learned about and practiced these techniques for quite some time, the photos of a good professional photographer will always be superior and worth every penny in promoting the most valuable asset of your client – regardless of the price point of the property.

    Further to consider – a photo can only get as good as what is in front of the camera. Before taking the photos a property should be staged to showcase the property in its’ best light.

  27. I’m curious, the Realtors that do pay for professional photographers, what are you paying, versus what are you getting? Unfortunately, for most professional architectural and interior photographers, getting $50 an image, or $200 for “unlimited shots” of an entire average home, simply isn’t worth taking the lens cap off for. Travel and shooting and importing and editing and delivering can add up to enough work that the average retail clerk makes more per hour than we would.

    Our investment in technology and software (totalling tens of thousands of dollars), our initial education and ongoing professional development, and business necessities like general liability insurance (who knocked over the homeowners priceless vase while staging?) make it a losing proposition to take jobs priced as low as I’ve heard offered by some realtors.

    I’m not complaining – I’m trying to understand within what market strata do photographers and realtors best complement each others professional services. I’d honestly like to know, what price do the high end realtors out there feel is appropriate for a truly professional photographer (not just shot with a $1000 “professional” SLR) and what difference has it made in your listings.

  28. Roger

    I agree with everything in this article. I would also recommend that a thorough exterior cleaning makes a great first impression. One commonly overlooked aspect is a dirty or stained roof. A simple roof cleaning pays dividends when it comes to the quick sale of your clients property.

  29. Rob

    Although I would almost always agree that you should have great professional looking pictures of your listings, there are exceptions, such as when the property looks like crap and there is no amount of staging that will make it look good.

  30. Thanks for finally writing about > The Better the Property Photos,
    the Higher the Sale Price < Loved it!

  31. I recently sold an acreage that was absolutely gorgeous and was exactly what my clients were looking for. However, we almost avoided even seeing this property because of the pictures the realtor had posted on the MLS. They were horrible with dark shadows which made it look like the home was a fixer upper, when i fact it was in great condition. Pro pictures are the only way to go.

  32. Ken

    Using professional photography to sell a particular home is less than half of the equation. When a seller asks you (the agent), “Why should I list with you?” You can show them an example of your high standard of marketing. It’s much easier to collect up all of the sales awards if you have all of the listings.

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