Get More Value for Your FSBO

Hire a Professional Residential Real Estate Photographer
by Karina Gafford

I recently paid to have a new headshot taken for my LinkedIn profile. Though I did have some decent pictures from my camera phone, I wanted to provide the best first impression of myself. A photo taken by a professional photographer who would use light and scenery to the best advantage seemed like an obvious solution. Having a good headshot is akin to having good real estate photography; in both cases, the photos serve as a marketing tool to help a profile or property listing stand out from the crowd. 

For those using LinkedIn to seek employment, know that Forbes and CareerBuilder reported that 48-percent of recruiters used the site to vet candidates, making a professional photo an imperative for those seeking to market and sell themselves to employers. Now, for those seeking to market a home for sale, if you’ve been reading along with us for the past few months, you already know that photos of a home rank above every other piece of information available on the property in terms of greatest value to prospective buyers. In 2013, 83-percent of buyers placed photos as the highest value of real estate listing features. Given that increasing numbers of job seekers and professionals are hiring professional photographers to present them in their best possible light when only 48-percent of recruiters value these photos, why wouldn’t you want to do the same for the very expensive piece of property you’re trying to sell when you know that 83-percent of your prospects are interested in seeing the goods? 

Therefore, when considering how to photograph your home, if you don’t possess the professional photography skills necessary to provide the property’s best first impression to prospective buyers, then you may want to consider hiring a professional residential real estate photographer to help you get the best marketing tools for your home. Buyers accustomed to seeing glossy photos of real estate in magazines will inadvertently interpret poor-quality photos of your home to mean that your home is also poor-quality. You definitely do not want your buyers to have this impression! If you are pursuing a For Sale By Owner option, then use the same tools as the real estate agents by procuring high-quality professional photos to not only sell your home but also increase the value your home conveys.

Military spouse and residential real estate photographer Trish Alegre-Smith explained that any pictures available of your home should be reminiscent of those glossy magazine-style photos. "Professional photos are shot and edited with the detailed attention required for any commercial publication.  This applies to all properties, even your own home, when you hire a professional like me." Poor-quality photos may suggest a poor-quality home, conversely professionally taken real estate photos will convey to your prospects that your home is also high-quality. 

In the case of a FSBO, homeowners can often see their home in the rosy-tinted glasses of the years well-loved in the home, making the photography process more challenging. It’s easier for a homeowner to overlook an indent in the wall when it recalls nostalgic memories of children playing indoors during a long winter; prospects will just see the large indent that will require repair. To further complicate matters, Alegre-Smith explained, "What you see with your eyes does not always look the same through a camera’s viewfinder." 

Many camera phones do now offer the panoramic view shot that your eyes naturally see as opposed to the single frame of older cameras that tend to make rooms look smaller. As opposed to using a camera phone, Alegre-Smith explained that, "To capture the same view that a prospective buyer gets when first walking through the door or a room I use an ultra-wide angle lens and shoot on a full-frame sensor." Alegre-Smith also explained that she brings both strobe (external flash) and continuous (portable studio) lighting "to keep spaces well and evenly lit during shooting." This means that no matter how dimly lit your room nor how adverse the weather outside, your home photos will still look great!

As each property is unique, Alegre-Smith explained, "What works for others may not work for your listing." Here are some tips she suggests for working with a real estate photographer:

  • Ask to see a portfolio: Does the photographer take the time to practice her craft by shooting model homes or historic homes?

  • Stage your home: Hire a service or request help from a friend with a flair for interior design.

  • Aim for mass appeal: "Those who view your property should be able to picture it as their own…to get the best offer, you want to attract a wide range of buyers [so] avoid decor that could appear outdated or only appeal to a specific taste."

  • Ask what type of lighting the photographer uses: Will she bring additional lighting in case some of your rooms are not optimized for presenting pictures of light-filled rooms?

  • Discuss what direction your home faces: For exterior photos, to take advantage of natural light it is best to shoot photos at 6:00 – 8:00 AM or 5:00 – 8:00 PM, depending on the location of the sun.

  • Confirm local association restrictions for common area photos: Make sure that photos of pools, gyms, and other common use facilities in your neighborhood are available for photos when your photographer is present.

One concern that buyers have regarding professional real estate photography is cost. If you choose to use a real estate agent, high-quality photos should be a given; if not, make sure to ask for them as part of your real estate marketing package! Time is of the essence in a home sale, and you don’t want to waste months by losing prospects to bad photos. As those likely looking at the option of investing in professional photos of their home are pursuing a FSBO, it is important to consider the cost savings that can come with a FSBO and to not skimp on the price of some photos when you want to make your home competitive in a tough real estate market. Your home listing is co-located online with the professional photos by real estate agents, so don’t let them outshine your beautiful home with better photos! To have a better idea of cost for real estate photography, in the DC Metro area where many military families pursue FSBO options prices are roughly as follows:

  • 1,000 – 2,000 sq ft home: $150

  • Over 3,000 sq ft, or any luxury home: $300 or more.

Prices increase, Alegre-Smith explained, if both web and high-resolution images are needed. If the photographer is also producing flyers, virtual tours, or any other marketing piece, then obviously the price would go up from there.

Finally, in our recent blogs "How to Virtually Stage Your Home Even if You're Tech-Challenged" and "Should You Use Drones to Market Your Home?", you can find some tips on how to stage your home for photographs. Photoshop can improve upon the look and feel of your space, but don’t expect miracles. Don’t also expect the photographer to clean up your clutter to better stage the pictures; make sure to take some notes from the five great tips provided in the first impressions blog post, and act on them before your photographer shows up!