August is Listings Tech theme month at Inman. All month, we’re digging into listing technology, a conversation which spans portals to single-listing sites, landing pages, 3-D tours, photography, videos, promotion and more.
We’ve all shaken our heads at truly terrible listing photos. You know the ones — blurry, poorly composed, or few and far between. Of course, some are even worse — photos of a random corner or door frame or a filthy kitchen, strange and nonsensical.
If you take time and care with your listing presentations, you may think that these are anomalies, the exception rather than the rule. Now, however, a new study commissioned by Australian real estate image enhancement company BoxBrownie, finds that the “vast majority” of listings use poorly executed amateur photography (70 percent), forego a virtual tour (94 percent) and don’t include a floorplan (84 percent).
In many ways, this seems counterintuitive. One of the big stories of the pandemic was that it was driving the rapid adoption of visual storytelling and virtual tours in real estate, paving the way for the buyer boom that followed. However, BoxBrownie’s study findings tell a very different story.
In addition, the low-inventory, high-demand market may have contributed to an environment where agents are getting listings onto the market as rapidly as possible, then fielding multiple offers even without professional images. While understandable, this is ultimately short-sighted and can undermine the professional reputation of agents and brokers for the long term.
According to Boca Raton’s Paul Saperstein of eXp Realty’s Saperstein Group, professional photos are “the first impression” of his brand. He provides professional photography to his team free of charge, ensuring that all of the marketing for the Saperstein Group remains consistent.
What follows are basic best practices for each of the major elements of visual marketing campaigns. Whether you’re a newbie or an experienced agent, understanding what constitutes professional services and results can go a long way in ensuring that your visual marketing enhances your reputation.
BoxBrownie general manager Peter Schravemade said that during his workshops and appearances throughout the U.S., 80 percent of agents in his informal polls claimed to use professional photography on every listing. However, the study’s findings were vastly different.
This could, of course, be because the types of agents who attend industry events and professional conferences tend to put more emphasis on best practices and marketing. However, It could also be because of a fundamental misunderstanding of what constitutes truly professional real estate photos.
According to Schravemade, professional photographers focus on three primary aspects of presentation:
- The preparation of the property for the photo shoot.
- The angles, equipment and techniques involved in the shoot itself.
- The editing of the images to align the photos with the way the property appears during an in-person visit.
Using this formula as a guide, then, best practices would include the following:
- Work with sellers to ensure that the home is ready for photography. This includes cleanup, decluttering and other steps to ensure that the home shows at its best. No photographer, no matter how talented, can make a messy home look good in photos.
- Understand the principles of good composition to show the home’s spaces. Focus on various angles of the whole room rather than individual items.
- Not every selling point can be effectively conveyed through your photos. For example, you’re better off highlighting upgraded appliances by mentioning them in the property description, not with a close-up of the appliance or its nameplate. Similarly, you can’t convey the quality of flooring or cabinetry with a close-up of that element. Instead, show how it works to enhance the room and mention specifics of brand or material in the description.
- When working with professional photographers, make sure they understand and, if possible, specialize in shooting homes. Real estate photography is its own area of specialization with its own rules. Check your photographer’s gallery for a variety of home shoots to gauge experience and effectiveness.
- While professional editing can do many things — like turning a daytime exterior shut into a sunset shot or improving the lighting in a home — make sure that your photographer does not misrepresent the property through enhanced editing techniques. One good rule of thumb is, “Would this change cost the homeowner money in real life?” If so, it is probably too much.
- No matter how beautiful your photos, if they are added to the MLS in a jumbled or incoherent way, they won’t be nearly as effective. Consider making photos into a virtual walkthrough, entering through the front door, then showing spaces as you come to them throughout the home. Finish with the rear exterior spaces, then add context with drone shots.
Omaha agent Amber Tkaczuk believes in the power of professional photography and always uses it, along with professional staging and copywriting, for her listings.
“I believe my clients deserve top-notch, professional service,” she said. “They have hired me to do a job; the last thing I want to do is take photos of their home with my iPhone. I value my reputation as a Realtor; when their home looks good, I look good and vice versa.”
Digital floor plans offer an important advantage to potential buyers, helping them understand the layout of the home in a way that is not always possible through photos or even a video walkthrough. According to NAR’s report on real estate in a digital age, more than half of buyers found floor plans useful when gathering information about potential properties.
Contemporary floor plan generators can create detailed floor plans that are accurate to within a narrow margin of error. These scanners offer agents the capability of making real estate images more interactive, thus truly maximizing the impact of each listing’s visual marketing.
In addition, virtual floor plans offer the ability to provide more meaningful information about the listing in a format that is more safe and convenient than traditional open houses. This has been important throughout the pandemic and promises to continue to offer advantages in the post-pandemic market.
According to Craig C. Rowe, technology columnist at Inman, “Floor plans are not only easy to do now, they’re essential for buyers to take in the full picture of a home. When 3D tours and high-end photography are already in place, I think buyers are expecting floor plans.”
Rowe finds that sometimes improper lighting or less than clear photography can be misleading. That’s why floor plans are so important as a tool to help viewers “position themselves in a home.”
Floorplans contribute to what Rowe calls a “data ecosystem,” including metadata from photos and video tours to nearby traffic and geographic information. “Floorplans contribute to this and to online search effectiveness, so why not create as much digital content for a listing as you can when the opportunity is there to do it?” he said.
Video tours offer even more opportunity to recreate the feeling of an open house or private showing from a distance. A well-thought-out video tour takes potential buyers through the property and helps them to understand the way it works — and whether or not it will work for their family.
Here are some do’s and don’ts for optimizing video tours:
- Don’t confuse video tours with a video-version of the listing’s still photography. This is a frustrating and all-to0-common strategy that does little or nothing to enhance the marketing of your listing. Work with a videographer to create a video that is its own unique element in your presentation.
- If you choose to DIY your video tour, do make sure to optimize the technical capabilities of your iPhone. Choose the correct settings and the right lens to ensure professional-looking results.
- Do familiarize yourself with a number of providers to find the one that’s right for your timeline and your budget. Connect with the one that you like best before you have a new listing in the pipeline. This way you won’t find yourself trying to get up to speed under a time crunch but will be able to reach out with confidence.
- Do practice your narration and act as the host of your video tours. This gives you the opportunity to highlight your personality and professionalism as well as your listing.
- Do understand the rules regarding branding in your video tours. Consider having two versions — one branded to post on your social media and YouTube channels and one unbranded for your MLS.
Ultimately, the way that you present your client’s listing says everything about your brand and the services you offer. By utilizing best practices in every aspect of your marketing, even when you don’t have to do so to get it sold, you’re really marketing yourself and the difference you can make. That will give you a competitive advantage both now and in the future when the market is tougher to navigate.
Christy Murdock is a Realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant and the owner of Writing Real Estate. She is also the creator of the online course Crafting the Property Description: The Step-by-Step Formula for Reluctant Real Estate Writers. Follow Writing Real Estate on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.