September is Marketing and Branding Month at Inman. Tips for better branding and in-depth features on how to take advantage of marketing tools provided by Zillow, Redfin and other platforms are all in the works in addition to insights from experts. You’ll find it all at Inman, as well as our two-day virtual, flagship event, Your Playbook for the Fall Market, in October.

Real estate agents spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about closing gifts. Or should I say, not thinking about closing gifts? From gift cards to cutting boards, it seems like everyone scrambles for something to hand over without putting much thought into adding any real value. 

One thing I advocate as a closing gift may surprise you since it’s something you normally associate with the seller side of a transaction, not the buyer side. It’s a professional photography package, and depending on the size and price of the home, it could include high-resolution still photos, videography or Matterport photography.

In the event of a burglary or a natural disaster, it’s the closing gift that could be priceless.

I actually became an advocate for this gift when I had a listing that was broken into. The marketing photos became a critical part of the backup for the homeowners’ claim on the insurance and police reports. We were able to use the photos to detail what was missing, right down to the designer bedding that was on the bed.

Keeping accurate visual records is just as important as keeping accurate financial and legal records, and real estate professionals are uniquely positioned to provide assistance with this process.

In our Southern California market, where wildfires have become an unfortunate year-round reality, I’ve written about the importance of post-move-in photography in the sphere of influence letter that I provide to our agents on the topic of fire season in Ventura County, and I recommend it to my agents as a value-add for their buyer clients. 

Best practices for capturing and securing images of the home and its possessions

Whether you provide a photo session as a closing gift or help to facilitate it as a service for your clients, here are some things to keep in mind.

1. Schedule professional photography or videography after move-in so that you can include furnishings, artwork and other items once they’re in place within the space. That will help to give a sense of scale and size which may be important to establish value.

2. Renovations that are being done on the home could have a big impact on valuation. Make sure that your homeowners are capturing new images to reflect the renovated space, that you’re providing an updated valuation, and that they’re talking to their insurance professional about changes in their insurance needs once renovations are completed.

3. Have the photographer or videographer focus on items of special importance. These could include high-dollar-value memorabilia, first-edition books, artwork or objets d’art, jewelry, or other items that are particularly rare or those where the authenticity may come into question.

Have them focus on family photos, as well. These can sometimes be re-created from a high-resolution image in the event of loss or catastrophic damage.

4. Make sure that there are digital copies of the photos and videos in a cloud-based storage system like Google Drive or Dropbox. If you have older clients who might still be storing their documentation on thumb drives or CDs, reach out to them and remind them to make this switch.

5. Even if you don’t provide photography as a closing gift, let your past clients and sphere of influence know how important this process is and talk to your trusted real estate photographer and videographer about a special negotiated rate for your clients.

Real estate photography isn’t just about marketing. In the event that the worst occurs, it could offer a way to help a family rebuild their most cherished memories.

Troy Palmquist is the founder and broker of DOORA Properties in Southern California. Follow him on Instagram or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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