NEW YORK — Good photography is still one of the most important factors when promoting a listing, said panelists during a session at the Real Estate Connect conference last week.
"Photography is the most important thing you can do online. Don’t just show the house, show lifestyle," said Paul Boomsma, president of Luxury Portfolio Fine Property Collection.
"Whenever possible, capitalize on the view," he added.
Photos taken at twilight also make homes look more dramatic, he said: "Dusk shots make every house ‘magazine ready.’ "
Quantity matters — the higher the number of photos, the more clicks a listing receives, said Max Pigman, vice president at Realtor.com.
"Don’t just upload your listings online — market them!" Pigman said. He recommended populating a listing with several photos; a video tour; and agent contact information, including a phone number that is routed to several phones using a service like Google Voice.
Quality also matters, said Sara Bonert, director of broker services at Zillow.com.
The iPad shows photos in high definition, so a photo might look good on an iPhone but grainy on an iPad’s bigger screen, Bonert said.
Even if not everyone has an iPad now, it and other devices that show images in high definition will only continue to grow, she said.
Another idea was to compile slide shows to draw viewers in. For example, real estate website FrontDoor recently featured a "Homes with Dreamy Bathrooms" slide show on its home page.
After photos draw in the viewers, good copywriting is essential, panelists said.
"I encourage you to take a step back from the cliché-ridden ‘this is a charming house’ and emphasize a feature: ‘this is a master bedroom to die for,’ " said Kelly Roarke, vice president at Scripps Networks Digital, which owns FrontDoor.com.
She recommended highlighting a top photo and a top feature when merchandising listings.
Agents should also remember to tag a home’s style in photos — in a FrontDoor audience survey, respondents said home style was one of the top property features they preferred to search by, Roarke said. FrontDoor has incorporated an "architectural personality" quiz in an effort to match consumers with one of 24 different home styles the company has identified.
Photos, slide shows and videos are also a great way to highlight a property’s most interesting features in blogs and social media, Boomsma said.
"Blogging is a really great way to incorporate really bizarre things about a house," he said.
Agents should also sell themselves, promoting both their personality and experience, speakers said.
"People are certainly shopping listings, but also increasingly shopping for agents themselves," Bonert said.
"It’s important to start thinking about merchandising yourself as well as the listing. If nothing else, see what profiles are saying about you."
When uploading a listing to Zillow, Bonert emphasized that listings that display a specific address (rather than just a city or street) are five times more likely to come up in search results, get six times the amount of page views, and get six times the amount of e-mail contact leads.
A listing without an address can’t be displayed on a map and can’t be sent to Google, Bonert said. Because Zillow’s mobile application is GPS-based, a no-address listing will also not show up on the app, she added.
Though the majority of real estate-related traffic still comes from desktop or laptop computers, agents should not ignore the phenomenal growth of smart phone adoption in the past year, Pigman said.
Realtor.com’s app has been downloaded more than 3 million times and about 20,000 for-sale home listings are viewed on the app per hour, he said.
In general, U.S. residents send almost 5 billion text messages a day, he added. And, though not everyone knows about QR ("Quick Response") codes, mobile bar code scanning increased 700 percent in 2010, he said.
"Just because people don’t know about them doesn’t mean they’re not useful for marketing. Yard signs with QR codes makes heads turn," said Alan Pinstein, founder of real estate marketing site Neybor.
One caveat is to make sure the code is big enough and scans properly before reprinting it on marketing materials, Pinstein said.