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Commentary by Gar Benedick

RISMEDIA, April 1, 2008- Pictures that are poor or less-than-flattering can turn buyers off, leading to fewer leads and offers. In real estate, good pictures–the right pictures–are worth more than a thousand words-they can be worth thousands of dollars.

According to a survey of buyers and sellers by the National Association of Realtors, 80% of the people across the country who purchased a new home last year used the Internet while researching their purchase. These buyers rated photographs as the single most useful tool in their search. Agents say the photos buyers see online are often the first, and sometimes the only, chance they may get to make a good impression.

The photograph is almost always the first element in any ad that connects with the buyer. It is the handshake, the first impression, the thing that cuts through the visual clutter to capture the buyer’s attention. Everything in the marketing campaign to sell your home relies on the quantity and quality of the photographs of your home. Photographs are needed for the MLS listing on the Web and in print, a website, brochures, flyers, photoboards, newspaper ads, possible magazine articles, real estate preview guides, blogs, etc. Many times, buyers will decide if they will visit a home, and agents will decide if they will show a property based on the strength (or weaknesses) of the photos accompanying a listing. Quality photos can and do make a difference, a big difference.

The California Association of Realtors findings show that “Multiple photographs/Slideshows” continue to be the online feature with the highest rating among all online features, followed by “Map/Directions.” Because of the nature of the Internet, more photos can be posted with your MLS Web listing and on a home website than in any other medium and for a fraction of the cost.

Point2 (point2.com) conducted a study monitoring listings over a 30-day period which clearly showed that properties which feature just one photo generated approximately five views and 1.37 leads, while listings displaying 21 or more images received over 77 views and close to 11 leads. Clearly, the listings that added 20+ photos generated nearly 10 times the number of leads and over 15 times the number of views.

Another study relating to the number of photos a listing posts compares photos to the number of Days on Market (DOM). The findings show that listings with more photos sold faster. This is the shake down on the photos to Days on Market (average) analysis.

– 1 photo = 70 DOM
– 6 photos = 40 DOM
– 16-19 photos = 36 DOM
– 20 photos max – 32 DOM

And listings with fewer photos sold for less. The Closed NET Price as a percentage of the Original Price also showed a direct correlation. (These findings are based on 2006 numbers and are again estimates.)

– 1 Photo = 91.2% of Original Price
– 6 or more = 95% of Original Price

According to these findings, a $600,000 home, sporting only one photo, could sell for as much as 3.8% LESS or a loss of over $22,000, just because there was only one photo accompanying the listing. More amazing is the fact that only 12% of agents posted the maximum 20 photos.

I received this in a recent e-mail from the Wav Group regarding the use of photos in listings. “As I am sure you know, the more photos, the better. Many MLSs are not allowing listings to be posted to the MLS without photos. In Houston Association of Realtors, you cannot add a listing without eight photos.” Other Associations will not allow a listing without at least one photo and more Associations are moving in the direction of mandatory photos.

Keep in mind that none of these reports/findings mention the quality of the photographs. If photos are the most important factor, it would follow that by having great, high quality photographs, you can be even further ahead of the game. In many cases, it is the agents themselves who are snapping the pictures and posting them on the agency website. Because of this, it is important that sellers choose an agent who will take professional looking photos or pay for a professional photographer.

Good quality real estate photographs are difficult to achieve and it should be clear that a real estate agent can’t be expected to have professional photographic skills. Agents should, however be able to recognize the difference between good and poor photos and refrain from posting poor photos where perspective buyers will see them. With that in mind, it is amazing to find all the substandard photos, which agents and sellers seem to be willing to accept when it comes to posting photos of your property to the MLS listings and into some of the advertising.

“Location, location, location” is the common catch phrase when buying a house. “Photography, photography, photography” will soon be the new advise when selling. When you look at the difference between photos taken by a professional and ones taken by brokers/agents with digital cameras, it’s not hard to see that you get what you pay for. Professional photographers use professional equipment, have the skills set to use it and they have a trained eye for making your home look its best. This is their job, they’re professionals. And paying to have professional real estate photographs, in comparison, is not really expensive when you consider the benefits.

It stands to reason then, that it is very important to have photos that are professionally presented. Some agents use only pictures taken by professional photographers, because, as one agent put it, “if the photos look shoddy or unprofessional, not only are buyers going to find your property unappealing, they’re going to associate you with being shoddy and unprofessional.”

If you’re thinking of selling your home, here are a few of things to keep in mind when it comes to photography:

– Ask prospective agents to show you samples of their photographic work or that of their professional photographer
– Request to review the photos before they are posted to the MLS, the Internet, etc.
– And, insist on the maximum number of photos or at least the maximum number of photos to properly represent your home

What does all this mean? The Internet is the most powerful tool you can use when buying and/or selling your home. According to results, photography does sell real estate. And when you choose to have high quality professional images for your marketing tools, you stand to gain by:

– Generating more interest
– Attracting more viewers/leads
– Entertaining higher offers/selling price
– Enjoying a faster sale of your home

This all translates into less stress and a smoother transition to your new home.

Your home is one of your largest and most important investments. You hire a professional real estate agent to sell your home. Are you willing to let the job of photographing your home to anyone other then a professional?

Gar Benedick is the principal of Studio Beach photography.

For more information, e-mail gar@studiobeach.com or visit http://www.studiobeach.com.

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