Using Real Estate Photography to Leverage New Listings

Using Real Estate Photography to Leverage New Listings

Every Real Estate agent wants listings. Yes, there are those who specialize as “Buyers Agents”, but isn’t that just a polite way of saying “Agents Without Listings?”

A listing is money in the bank. If you can secure a listing, then either you will sell it, or another agent will sell it. Either way there is a payday for you. The old adage is “Nothing succeeds like success”, and in real estate, this adage is more than just true, it is the golden rule.

When you have a reputation of success, then you find clients come to you. Individuals selling their home want a successful agent that will sell in a short time frame for the maximum selling price. You always see a small group of agents with support staff, personal assistants, and a string of listings that would make King Midas envious.

Of course that’s where you want to be, but how do you build up the critical mass needed to become a powerhouse agent with many listings? If you are hoping for a simple answer with no effort and little cost, you can stop reading now. This article is not for you.

But if you want to invest your time and effort in proven methods that gain clients, then continue reading.

Let’s Look At The Money

Let’s say a home is worth $500,000, and the listing contract specifies a 6% commission (3% each to the buyers and sellers agent). The homeowner doesn’t care that the commission is split so many times that an agent only keeps a small portion of the total. The homeowner sees one thing: It is going to cost $30,000 to sell the home.

That is a lot of money. Homeowners get upset when they believe you are not doing very much for the $30,000. If your total involvement with the homeowner is to secure the listing, have a sign installed, take pictures with your cell phone, and put a lockbox on the door then you may be in danger of losing a client. You can get away with this if you sell the home quickly, but when it is on the market for a while, the homeowner starts to question your sales skills and effort.

How you market, the advertising you do, the amount you are willing to spend on promotion, the number of open houses, etc. are all extremely important. But that is not our focus. Possibly in future articles, but this article is about how you can secure listings with photography.

Intangible Sales

The hardest sales to make are intangible. The sellers don’t have anything tangible in their hands after signing a contract with you. So in the end, your entire sales approach and presentation is about intangible actions that you pledge to do for the client, and your assurance that the methods and practices you employ are proven to be effective.

Earn It

The seller is paying a huge commission; they want you to do something for them. They want to believe that they have made a wise decision and will realize close to the asking price, in a short amount of time, because they picked you, and you are effective.

Other than the lockbox and “for sale” sign, there is nothing the homeowner has other, than a pledge that they will pay you $30,000 (the seller doesn’t care that the commission does not all go to you).

You need to earn that money. That means you need to be proactive in selling the clients home. If all you do is put up the sign and enter it in the MLS, then you should never complain about flat rate brokerages that offer the same service for a very low fee. In fact, you’re driving the client to abandon you and save the lion’s share of the seller side commission split.

So you need to earn the commission in client’s eyes. I recommend that you provide some tangible items that perhaps other agents may not provide. It is through these tangible items, that you emphasize in your listing presentation, you establish yourself as more involved, more driven, more effective than your competitors.

One of the first things to do is coach the client on how to make the home presentable for showings and real estate photography. The two most important factors in selling any home are: 1) the price, and 2) the photography.

No, Your Cell Phone Does Not do a Good Enough Job

Every real estate search starts with an online search. After narrowing the price range and location, the seller is presented with images of homes. Then he or she clicks on several and peruses the real estate photography of the homes. Based solely on those pictures, the prospect either moves on or digs deeper.

You can’t control the location, size, color, layout, decorating, condition or design. You only have a small influence on the price. [As a side note, if your method for securing listings is to list for an exaggerated price, then you are setting yourself up for failure. When the home eventually sells for a much lower price, after months of being on the market and numerous price drops, the seller will not give you much credit. You were only able to sell it by reducing the price, and it took a long time. Guess who does not get a good recommendation?]

What you do control is how the home is presented and marketed. Using professional real estate photography is one of the single best things you can invest in. Whether you pay a pro like me to do it, or dedicate your own time and effort is up to you. What really matters is that the pictures are better than any the homeowner could take themselves and superbly presents each room in the home. A cellphone is not capable of the quality that pro equipment provides. If you do it yourself, invest in the equipment and learn to use it.

I have seen Realtors invest in equipment and take courses to learn how to best photograph homes. For some the investment is a waste and the expensive equipment is not used correctly, still yielding poor results. Some agents actually become good photographers and do their own work. For the most part though, agents tend to do whatever is cheapest and easiest.

Add Value that the Client can See!

When you are in a crowd of contenders for a listing, and the homeowner perceives that you are the one who will put the most effort into selling the home, then you are the one that wins the contract. I used to keep a slideshow on my tablet to show potential clients the way my listings look versus the competition. I also always tried to keep the clients from shooting themselves in the foot with a too-high asking price.

I also made sure that the client had some tangible items that other didn’t provide. For example, a business card with a photo of the home, a URL to a webpage about the home (virtual tour) the address, and a QR code. I gave enough to the homeowner that they could participate by placing the cards on various bulletin boards that they had access to. I also made attractive single sheet flyers, and left both the flyers and cards in the clients home in clear plastic display holders. They were left with the client for prospects to take during showings. They were helpful in securing sales, but most importantly, I gave something tangible to the seller; something that other agents did not give.

There are many independent studies that show homes sell faster and at a higher price when a professional photographer is used. I always kept these handy as well.

When you go through your listing presentation, you are saying the same things as other agents. It is what you do that is both different and positive that secures a listing. When you show sample MLS photos of other agents, and then compare with yours, you make an impact. I have secured many listing based on the photography, online virtual tour and brochures.

Fortunately, pro photographers are affordable. Use that fact that you are employing a professional photographer as part of the presentation. The seller wants to feel good about spending so much in commissions. Everything you do that adds perceived value helps to win the listing.

Nothing succeeds like success. This method works, and it works well.

But I Cannot Afford It

I struggled with including this last bit. It is so important that I felt it must be included.

If you say you cannot afford a professional photographer, then you should not be listing homes. As mentioned earlier, agents that list the home and hope somebody sells it are driving sellers to the flat-fee brokers who will provide all of the service you do (virtually none), and save themselves thousands, or tens of thousands. Would you take your car to a mechanic that can’t afford tools? Or a Doctor that can’t afford an office?

Every listing presentation I have ever seen justifies the cost of a using a broker by saying things like “It doesn’t cost anything, your house sells quicker and at a higher price when you use a brokerage, more than making up for the commission”. Heed your own words, and provide the services needed that are proven to sell homes faster, and for more money. If you can’t do more for the client than list it, then you do them, and the profession, a disservice.

About the author

Who am I to advise you? I am sure there many with better qualifications, but I sold real estate in the state of Illinois for years. My market was primarily mid-luxury to luxury homes ($600,000 – $3,000,000). I made a comfortable living (until the market bottomed…), and enjoyed what I did. I also both listed and sold many of these homes. That’s right, I received both the sellers and buyers commission.

I came into real estate by need: I needed an income, and even with 3 degrees, there were no decent jobs to be found. Through chance I wound up as a new real estate agent. My broker promised the world, but at the end of the day, it was all up to me to secure listings.

The recipe that worked for me, in spades, was to be the real estate agent that I would want to sell my home.

That last sentence is your pathway to success. Don’t just acknowledge it, live it.

I became the agent that did more than put listing in the MLS and wait. Every seller I talked to had stories about this agent or that agent and how they disappeared after the listing was secured. Everyone wants value for their money. Show your clients that your service offers more, and does it better.

Mike Cartwright

Mike Cartwright

Mike Cartwright is the principal photographer and has many years of experience shooting mid-level and high end homes. His Father was also a Photographer, and Mike started shooting and developing while still in grade school. His photos are published, has won awards, and have contributed to the sales of many homes. When it comes to architectural photography, Mike is a seasoned pro who can get the right lighting and angles to make your project "pop"!

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