Technology

Real estate agents who outsource listing photos earn twice as much as others

Study finds disconnect between agents' words and actions when it comes to professional photography
  • Agents may be underinvesting in professional property photography.
  • Agents who always use third-party photographers earn twice as much commission as those who don't, according to a recent study.
  • One of the study's co-publishers is a third-party photography provider.

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Real estate agents who always use professional third-party photographers earn twice as much gross commission income (GCI) as agents who never use professional third-party photographers.

That’s according to a recent study co-published by real estate consultancy and research firm Real Trends and Virtuance, a real estate photography company.

Although the study’s key finding conspicuously dovetails with the value proposition of Virtuance, the report still seems to provide some evidence that agents may be underinvesting in photography — and it highlights what may be a disconnect between agents’ words and actions when it comes to using high-quality photos.

More than 9 out of 10 agents are passionate about the importance of professional photography, but only half always use third-party professional photographers, according to the study, which is based on a survey of more than 400 top-producing agents and brokerages.

Thirty-five percent of agents, meanwhile, sometimes use professional photographers, while the remaining 15 percent either never use professional photographers or use in-house photographers, according to the study.

Those agents who never delegate photography to specialists — either to in-house or third-party photographers — tend to snap and edit their own photos.

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Screen shot showing image that appears in Virtuance and Real Trends' report on professional property photography.

Screen shot showing image that appears in Virtuance and Real Trends’ report on professional property photography.

The report cast this as a poor business strategy, arguing that the cost of lost time outweighs the savings gained by handling photography independently.

The study didn’t provide direct evidence to corroborate this conclusion, but it quoted one broker as saying, “If I were still taking my own photos I would be losing money. [An agent] needs to spend 75 percent of his or her day in income-producing activities.”

The return on investment of professional photography has jumped dramatically with the emergence of new technology, the report claims.

Agents may have had to fork over somewhere around $1,000 for professional property photos 10 years ago, but agents and brokerages who responded to the survey reported paying an average of $160 for property photos, according to the study.

The report’s most striking finding lends further credence to the view that delegating listing photography can pay off.

Agents who always use a third-party professional photographer earn $8,683 per transaction, more than double the $4,292 that agents who never use third-party photographers rake in per transaction, the study found.

This, of course, does not mean that agents who begin outsourcing listing photography are likely to double their income. A range of factors impact agents’ income, including the price point they specialize in and their market’s median price and inventory.

While acknowledging those factors, the study said, “we feel that the agents and brokers who participated in our study experienced similar market conditions in terms of inventory levels and low interest rates during 2014.”

Email Teke Wiggin.