Home sellers quickly realize that it takes a team to move a house.
You’ll need a real estate agent, an attorney, and perhaps a professional home stager. Be sure your team also includes a real estate photographer. For a relatively small upfront cost, professional-grade photos of your home can attract more buyers, help you sell faster and get you closer to your asking price.
That makes a good photographer an incredibly valuable partner during your home’s sale. Here’s what you need to know about hiring one.
You Leave Money on the Table by Not Hiring a Good Photographer
“Professional real estate photography is a powerful tool that is crucial for the speedy sale of any home,” says the team at Arnold Street Media. “… By hiring a professional real estate photographer, you can assure that your home’s finest assets will be advertised, while its less-than-stellar corners will be made to appear beautiful.”
This is a near-essential service, too. Let’s do the math to see why:
The team at SmartShoot, a platform that connects photographers and videographers with clients across the country, says real estate photographers generally charge $500 to $1,000 per per property.
After editing and post-production, you will walk away with 15 to 20 standard-sized photos of your home’s interior and exterior (panoramas and virtual tours will cost extra).
What’s the return on that investment? Well, according to real estate journalist Angela Colley, who cites internal research from real estate photography provider IMOTO, listings with professional photos sell 50 percent faster and 39 percent closer to the original listing price.
Let’s apply that to a hypothetical home we used in our guide to home staging. That home was on the market for $200,000 and cost the owners $2,000 for every month it went unsold. If the home sold in two months rather than three, as Colley’s numbers predict, then a $1,000 photo shoot could save $2,000. That’s already a net gain of $1,000.
Now, imagine the photos have a moderate impact on the final price. Say the house sells for $185,000 instead of $180,000 — that’s a further net gain of $5,000.
This math works across most price points and scenarios, too. In almost every case, home sellers more than make back the initial cost of hiring a real estate photographer.
A Real Estate Agent With a Fancy Camera Won’t Cut It
Sometimes, real estate agents hire professional photographers themselves. But sometimes, they try to DIY the photos, and the results are very, very seldom as good as what a pro would deliver.
“Many agents fancy themselves photographers merely because they bought a high-end camera and taught themselves how to use it,” says Market Leader’s Shannon O’Brien. “There is an art, however, to good photography. The skilled professional knows how to use composition, color and lighting to make a photo more appealing. Owning a great camera makes one no more a professional photographer than owning a Wolf range makes one a professional chef.”
How to Tell a So-So Home Photographer From a Real Pro
Granted, the majority of home sellers have never hired a real estate photographer to shoot their homes before. So, unless a friend or family member has someone whom they can recommend, selecting the right photographer can feel like an intimidating task.
How do you judge whether a photographer’s portfolio is actually any good?
A good guide to follow when assessing someone’s work, architectural photographer Rindert Van Den Toren says, is to look for someone who tells an honest story with his or her photos. A photographer who relies on gimmicks such as ultra-wide angle lenses or excessive Photoshopping is actually short-changing the house for the sake of the photo.
What you actually need are photos that draw the viewer’s eye to a home’s key features through solid composition and good but natural-looking lighting.
“Making a room look bigger, brighter or in general more attractive than it actually is is detrimental to the homeowner actually selling the house,” he says. That’s because prospective buyers, when they come to visit, will ultimately be let down when the reality of the home fails to match their expectations.
“That is not to say that you should not do everything in your power to present the home in the best possible light, but always stay true to the realities of the house,” Van Den Toren says. “Any house has its own specific rooms, angles and views that make it unique, and those should be your main selling points and the focus of the photographer.”
Make Sure the Photographer Shoots Your Staged Home
Finally, you want your photographer to capture an idealized image of your home, the one you or a professional stager creates on behalf of potential buyers.
This might sound obvious when reading now, but in all the busyness that surrounds a home’s sell it can be easy to book a photographer without first confirming your schedule. So, book the photographer for a time when your home will be staged.
“Remember how important emotion is in the purchase decision,” says Laura Ure, CEO of Keenability. “An empty home yields no emotion, but a poorly furnished home is equally bad. … If the home is empty, hire a good staging company. An empty home will never sell for the same amount as a staged home.”
images by: Alexandre Chambon, ©Rindert Van Den Toren