Last week a prospective home seller contacted me by e-mail. She had her home on the market last year and it didn’t sell. I looked the listing over and asked a lot of questions. I think the home’s list price was too high, which is fairly common — especially last year, when prices in some areas were dropping.

The seller adjusted the price to what I think is just right and then took it off the market a couple of weeks later because of the holidays. It looks like her agent did a good job, except for one thing: The pictures of the home were not good. They were not taken with a wide-angle lens, and the lighting was poor.

I sent this prospective seller links to the marketing materials I had on the Internet for a home that I recently sold in her area. I would describe the home as modest. It was small and inexpensive. The marketing included a slide show with 15 photos of the home.

She immediately sent a note back saying that her home is not nearly as nice as the home in the photos. I replied by saying that her home is at least as nice as the home in the photos, probably nicer.

When she sees the pictures of her home that I will use for marketing she will agree, but we have not reached that stage yet. I got the appointment by showing her the marketing for another listing, and the appointment is a critical step in the process.

Photos make a big difference. It is possible to get great photos of the most modest homes. Most buyers look on the Internet for homes, and in many cases the images they see are pathetic, especially when it comes to the modestly priced starter homes.

Yet it is the demographic looking at those starter homes who will spend the most time looking on the Internet, and chances are they will have the greatest number of homes to choose from.

Listings with great photos get more showings. They get noticed by real estate agents, too. We all like to do it ourselves, but there isn’t anything about having a real estate license that makes us better photographers, and interior photography is the most challenging kind of photography. …CONTINUED

Most of the photos on the multiple listing services are so poor that it is easy to make any home stand out with above-average photos. It is also easy to impress sellers with a good set of photos. Even a photo that is "just OK" usually exceeds their expectations.

There is plenty of advice for agents on how to take better photos. It all starts with having the right equipment, which is just about any camera with a wide-angle lens. Then it is about knowing what to point the camera at and how to capture the best and most salable features of the home.

After that it comes down to processing the shots to make them crisp, sharp and as appealing as possible. The best advice I have read on the subject is hire a photographer.

Selling real estate is about grabbing eyeballs on the Internet. We have only a few seconds to wow a potential buyer with our listings. Every photo counts, and they all need to be out there working for us and for our sellers.

Most sellers don’t seem to understand this. They will immediately recognize and react to a great photo but they don’t seem to notice the bad photos.

I once had a seller send me photos that he wanted me to use and I tactfully rejected them. I believe that is part of the reason why the standards for interior photography are so low.

One of the easiest ways to blow away the competition and get a listing is through photography. It isn’t hard to make a home really stand out on the Internet, especially a starter home. Most agents don’t have the photography skills to compete and most won’t hire a pro, especially not for a lower-priced home.

It doesn’t matter how much technology we use — it can be video or still shots — bad photography is still bad photography. So far technology has not improved the property photos, it has just made it easy to generate and to deploy more bad photos.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.


What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor.

Show Comments Hide Comments


Sign up for Inman’s Morning Headlines
What you need to know to start your day with all the latest industry developments
Thank you for subscribing to Morning Headlines.
Back to top
We're giving away 3 free ICLV tickets at Connect Now next week. Register and attend live for your chance to win!REGISTER×
Log in
If you created your account with Google or Facebook
Don't have an account?
Forgot your password?
No Problem

Simply enter the email address you used to create your account and click "Reset Password". You will receive additional instructions via email.

Forgot your username? If so please contact customer support at (510) 658-9252

Password Reset Confirmation

Password Reset Instructions have been sent to

Subscribe to The Weekender
Get the week's leading headlines delivered straight to your inbox.
Top headlines from around the real estate industry. Breaking news as it happens.
15 stories covering tech, special reports, video and opinion.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
It looks like you’re already a Select Member!
To subscribe to exclusive newsletters, visit your email preferences in the account settings.
Up-to-the-minute news and interviews in your inbox, ticket discounts for Inman events and more
1-Step CheckoutPay with a credit card
By continuing, you agree to Inman’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

You will be charged . Your subscription will automatically renew for on . For more details on our payment terms and how to cancel, click here.

Interested in a group subscription?
Finish setting up your subscription