Buying blind is still the preserve of the bold property investor or brave auction buyer. For the rest of the home moving market, a decision to view a property – that miniscule window in time when assumptions are made and the heart rules the head – can hang on the quality of the photographs.
Snap judgements are the very start of a property transaction. The time it takes between seeing a photograph and deciding to pursue a property has been the subject of much research; it’s estimated that a property has just 2.7 seconds to make a first impression on property portals.
A picture says a thousand words
It’s an old adage but a true one. In fact, the instant impact of photographs, both in print and online, has compelled one agent to change the way it populates its particulars. “We have limited the writing to a brief description about the house and location, and focus mainly on good quality, large photos,” says Emily James, the Associate Partner at James Dean Estate Agents. “We believe people photos, the floor plan and price. If the photos aren’t good, people won’t click on the property for further details or to book a viewing.”
People don’t really read the text, they make a decision to view based on photos, floor plan and price. If the photos aren’t good, they won’t click for further details or to book a viewing. Emily James, James Dean.
Think you’re David Bailey?
Many agents actually enjoy taking their own photographs but the DIY approach does need a level of skill and a bit more than the latest iPhone. Agents are guilty of many photo faux pas, with not using the right lens, eschewing a tripod, capturing ‘blown’ windows and not getting the light levels right among the most common.
“To get the best shots, agents need a camera with a wide angle lens, therefore a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) model is best,” says Tim Wright, Co-founder and Product Lead for PropertyBOX. “The benefits are obvious – high-resolution images, a high dynamic range and image stabilisation. A combination of the entry-level Canon D4000 (approx £250) and the Sigma 10-20mm wide-angle lens (approx £320) is ample.”
Pimp my photo
The beauty of today’s photographs is their digital existence and their ability to be corrected using software, which gives agents a helping hand when factors are beyond their control or Mother Nature casts thunderclouds behind a property. It goes without saying that agents need to be mindful of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs) and the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008 (BPRs) but some alterations can be made thanks to advanced photo editing.
“It’s possible to change grey skies to blue and remove unsightly objects such as bins, cars and even rival agent’s boards,” says Stuart Willis, Partner at My Photo Genie. “We can also turn a day shot into a dusk or night time one, add in a virtual for sale or to let board, and watermark images to stop others stealing your photos without credit,” adds Stuart.
Raising your own photo game
If, despite your best intentions, your photographs are below par, there are a number of property-focused training courses aimed at agents. “Buying the right kit isn’t going to fix the issue of poor photography,” says Tim. “Training on how to use camera equipment is more important,” in a case of ‘all the gear and no idea’.
PhotoBOX, Doctor Photo and My Photo Genie – the latter via its spinoff, The Property Photography Academy – can all educate agents on how to take better photographs as well as edit out mistakes and misadventures. Their advice and master classes cover aspects such as what type of camera to buy, which lens to use for different rooms and how to use a hot-shoe spirit level for correct verticals.
DIY not working? Go pro
Some agents are flummoxed struggle with exposure settings – if the compromised output is hampering marketing efforts, hiring a professional property photographer may be the way forward. “Poor quality photography can devalue a brand and means the agent isn’t doing everything possible to achieve the best price for the vendor or landlord,” says Tom Claridge, the Co-Founder and Operations Director at FocalAgent. “Brilliant visual content also powers everything – Google, an agent’s own website, the portals, the press and social media, so bad photos can impact them more than they think.”
Having great looking marketing online, including pro photos, floor plans and videos, makes a property 31% more likely to sell or 44% more likely to check in for lettings. Tom Claridge, FocalAgent.
Tom highlights the time saved by sending in a pro: “On average, FocalAgent customers get an extra three hours back in their diaries for every property where they use us. We integrate systems so that the photos, with floor plans and videos, go straight into the customer’s back-end system – saving time uploading and downloading files.”
Are pro-photos a return on investment?
It’s a resounding yes from McEwan Fraser Legal, who won gold in the Marketing Campaign of the Year category at The Negotiator’s 2018 awards. “We employ a team of professional photographers and the results can be seen across all the main portals, on our own website, in brochures, on social media platforms and in various publications. Many clients who have switched agents to our agency have found a huge difference in the number of enquiries and offers they receive, and this is undoubtedly due to the high-quality marketing materials that we provide,” says Terri Borthwick.
While anecdotal evidence from agents pinpoints professional photographs as a reason for success, the FocalAgent team has financially quantified the advantage. “For every £1 spent with FocalAgent, our customers can expect a £4 return on investment,” adds Tom. “Having great looking marketing online, including pro photos, floor plans and videos, makes a property 31 per cent more likely to sell or 44 per cent more likely to check in for lettings (based on data of over X thousand properties). Our customers also achieve, on average, between one to three per cent more for their property”.
Filling the void – digital home staging
The Home Staging Association’s survey of property professionals in 2018 and found that 70 per cent of estate agents said a dressed property increased the offer value between three and six per cent. Upad found that when professional photos were taken of a furnished room, it generated six times more enquiries than amateur shots of an empty room. Physically home staging a property, however, can be a costly and time consuming exercise, wiping out profit margins in the process. There is an alternative – services exist where agents send off photos of empty rooms and they come back as fully furnished spaces with 3D rendered, photo-realistic furniture. “Virtual stage is available at a fraction of the cost of moving it real items of furniture,” says John Durrant, MD, Doctor Photo and author of the RICS Guide to Property Photography. “Our virtual staging service adds perspective and a sense of lifestyle to what would normally be uninspiring and faceless room.”
Up, up and away
Taking property imagery to the next level is aerial photography, which can be a great asset if a property sits in a large plot of land, enjoys a unique location or for new home developments.
Agents need to ensure a drone operator has Permission for Commercial Operation from the CAA and abides by the ‘dronecode’, as they’re using a drone for commercial gain. Katherine Pope, Fat Crow Photography.
Katherine Pope, the owner of property specialist Fat Crow Photography, is often commissioned by agents to take aerial photos by drone or pole, “Pole photography is ideal if there’s an obstruction at the front of a property, or tight angles and there’s no legislation to abide by. While drone results are stunning, agents need to ensure its drone operator gets Permission for Commercial Operation from the Civil Aviation Authority and abides by the ‘drone code’, as they’re using a drone for commercial gain.