PLAYING THE ANGLES Lucie Thompson, an agent at the Corcoran Group in Palm Beach, Fla., photographed a house on Jupiter Island, left. The company later hired a professional photographer, Robert Brantley, to shoot the same house. The results, right, speak for themselves.
IN real estate, a picture can be worth more than a thousand words. Much, much more. When selling properties online, agents and Web designers say that the pictures buyers see of houses and apartments for sale are often the first - and sometimes the only - chance for a seller to make a good impression. Less-than-flattering pictures can turn buyers off and lead to lonely open houses.
Enlarge This Image Top, Meredieth Maxfield; bottom, Lauren Brown
MORE DEPTH AND CONTEXT Meredith Maxfield, a sales associate with the Briggs-Freeman Real Estate Brokerage in Dallas, took the top picture of this dining room. Then she brought in Lauren Brown, a professional photographer, who stepped back to show the archway and staircase in the adjoining hall.
“Good photos will grab people’s attention and help you sell a home,” said Jacky Teplitzky, an executive vice president of Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate in New York. “Bad pictures will absolutely give you trouble, because you won’t have any calls on it, and nobody will come to see it.”
Eighty percent of people across the country who bought a new home last year used the Internet while house hunting, and they rated photographs as the most useful tool in their search, according to a survey of buyers and sellers by the National Association of Realtors. The survey also found that 24 percent of home buyers got their first glimpses of their new homes on the Web, up from a mere 2 percent in 1997.
In many cases, it is the agents themselves who are snapping the pictures and posting them on the agency Web site. Because of this, it is important that sellers choosing an agent know who will take and pay for the pictures and whether a professional photographer is available.
“It’s so important to have photos that are professionally presented,” said Rosalind Clarke, a senior sales associate with the Corcoran Group in Palm Beach, Fla.
She added that she uses only pictures taken by professional photographers, because “if things look shoddy or unprofessional, not only are buyers going to find the property unappealing, they’re going to associate you with being shoddy and unprofessional.”
Real estate agents who represent large and expensive homes say that virtual tours, which to provide a 360-degree view of a room, are another crucial tool for attracting buyers. “They’re a really great way of seeing a property without actually being there,” said Meredith Maxfield, a sales associate with the Briggs-Freeman Real Estate Brokerage in Dallas.
The Realtors’ association survey found that when it comes to Web features that buyers considered “very useful,” 83 percent cited pictures, 81 percent cited detailed property information and 60 percent cited virtual tours.
New York City is something of an anomaly in this case. Real estate agents here generally agree that floor plans are more useful than virtual tours, because understanding the way rooms flow within an apartment’s limited space is often more important than getting a panorama of any single room.
But there is little point in having good photographs or beautifully written prose describing a home if you don’t have a Web site that is easy to find and easy to use — and this holds true whether you’re using a broker who will list your home on an agency Web site or you’re trying to sell your home yourself and are creating your own Web site or listing your home on a site like Craigslist.
“The key to any successful Web site is to make it easy to find what you want; otherwise, the user will just go away,” said Staci Roberts Beam, the director of Web communications at Northwestern University. “So in the case of a real estate site, make sure the architecture of the site tells you that even if it takes three or four clicks, you’ll eventually get to see an affordable house in a place where you might want to live.”
Unless you are selling your home yourself, your real estate agent will ultimately decide which photographs will go up on the agency’s Web site, but agencies vary greatly in their policies on pictures. Some send their agents and brokers out armed with digital cameras, but others use only pictures taken by professionals. Still other agencies let brokers decide whether to take their own pictures or pay a fee to use the agency’s recommended photographers.
All of which explains why there is such a wide range in the quality of photos found on real estate Web sites.
“When you look at the difference between professional photos and ones taken by brokers with digital cameras, it’s not hard to see that you get what you pay for,” said Lauren Cangiano, a senior vice president of Halstead Property in New York.
Halstead uses only professional photos, and its agents reimburse the agency from their commissions after the properties have sold. The same pictures will be used on information sheets, in the agency’s storefront windows and in advertising brochures.
"Your virtual tours make it much easier for me to get noticed
and attract new clients” - Bert
Oey, Alain Pinel Realtors, Sunnyvale
"We really appreciate your attention to detail and excellent customer service." - Ed
Lafosse, Lafosse Asset Management, Los Gatos