PART ONE – THE DO'S
Since long before the internet was invented, real estate agents have relied on pictures to pique the interest of prospective homebuyers. From window displays, newspaper ads and client handouts, properties would be listed with less emphasis on spec and more concentration on the visual presentation of the home.
Even if clients lived in the neighbourhood and were easily able to see at least the outside of the property itself, back-in-the-day homebuyers would generally insist on seeing the printed listing with extra pictures – I know this because I'm old enough to remember!
The reason it all seemed so much easier then was because competition in localities was generally restricted to the agents based there. Now of course, you can list property in a completely different country and there are no boundaries or ‘patches' for estate agents – at least at the listing stage!
Pictures are crucial to making a sale because buyers haven't got time to use their imagination!
Perhaps it's something to do with the psychology behind spending a huge amount of money on what will become your home that can make prospective homebuyers blind to a property's potential. After all, this momentous decision is often made after just a few visits to a property without the opportunity to test-drive it as a home. People deliberate longer over a car purchase than they do a property they may wish to live in!
That's why it's important to appeal to the buyers' sense of sight when they first clap eyes on your listings! When buyers can clearly see if a home ticks all their boxes, they are much more likely to want to view it and ultimately take things further.
STIMULATE THE BUYER'S VISUAL SENSES!
Back to the current time and global interweb-dependency means we're completely over-loaded with information, with estate agents having to compete for attention more than ever before. In some senses that makes it harder for agents to sell property than in the old days – when things seemed easy in comparison. Now there's the oracle that is Google, the ultimate tool for homebuyers in the 21st century! They don't even need to leave their sofa to browse property on the other side of the world – and that's scary because estate agents have even less time to capture buyers' interest.
So how can you make sure your properties stand out in the crowd and get noticed by prospective buyers?
When listing a property online you have to be aware that you are working exclusively with the prospects' sense of sight. If you list your property without a picture at all, it just won't get noticed. If you list your property with poor-quality pictures that don't enhance its selling points to the max, it won't get noticed for long! The biggest change the internet has brought to the modern day consumer is CHOICE. Nowadays, we know that if we don't see what we like on one website, there'll be another where we will. That means buyers aren't prepared to hang around a real estate website if they aren't seeing what they want almost immediately.
BUYERS WANT IMMEDIATE VISUAL GRATIFICATION!
The Golden Rules I've devised harp back to the good old days when pictures were the marketing tool used by estate agents to attract buyer interest. To make the most of your photos, I would personally advise buying a digital SLR camera dedicated for the job as they are pretty cheap now and a more professional alternative to cameras on smart phones. Of course, if budget is an issue, you can still take great high-resolution pictures with your smartphone although it's harder to manipulate the camera's light settings and the pictures are likely to need more editing.
Real Estate Photography – The Do's
- Emphasise the frontage: Remember that buyers are judgemental and form strong opinions about the exterior appearance of a property. Don't believe all that ‘never judge a book by its cover' baloney – the human race can't help itself! Bear in mind that this is the picture that will convince a buyer to take a closer look. Remove any distracting items like rubbish bins, vehicles or even rows of muddy wellies by the front door and try and fit the whole house in the picture. If you're photographing an apartment, the outside of the block is as important as the inside – its appearance makes a statement about the owner (and prospective owner) after all.
- Invite viewers inside: The focal point of the property's main photo should be the front door. Professionals suggest taking a picture with the front door ajar so that viewers are able to visualise themselves walking through it. It also sets the tone for the rest of the property. If the entrance hall is a dark space, switch the lights on to give a welcoming glow.
- Photograph the property's selling points: Every property has certain features that prospective buyers are looking for. Take pictures to emphasise and highlight those features and capture its selling points rather than just mentioning them in the listing. Remember that your buyers are at the initial stage where they are only responding to visual stimulus.
- Is the property ready for its close-up Mr DeMille? Give your vendor plenty of notice that you are taking some pictures of their home for the listing and advise them of ways they can make the most out of the photo-shoot. Unnecessary clutter should be cleared away; the property should be clean and any ‘quirky' touches with the décor would be better to cover up or lose altogether. Too much of an owner's personality shining through in listing pictures and you risk alienating a prospective buyer who may not share the same taste.
- Make the most of the seasons: If it's summer, fling open the curtains and let the natural light in. Light is always a great way of enhancing interior spaces but do be careful you don't get any blinding glare obscuring what's inside the property. If sunlight needs to be filtered, use sheer fabric curtains that will absorb the glare without robbing you of light. If its winter, get a cosy feel into your pictures with a glowing fire, warm blankets, throws on sofas and plenty of warming lamplight.
- Show off the views: If the property has a view that is a selling point, you need to feature it. When you do, take the picture from an area of the house that particularly enjoys the view. That creates the impression the viewer is checking out the landscape from the terrace or porch themselves and makes them feel more ‘at home'. If there's a pretty garden, take a shot from the terrace, balcony or decking area and bring the outside space into the home.
- Define the characteristics: Archways, sweeping staircases, feature windows, wooden floors, galleried landings, nooks and crannies are features in a property a buyer wants to see. The architectural touches that make the home saleable should be highlighted in photographs and mentioned again in the listing. It's a simple way of making a property stand out in a crowd, so get those features in some close-ups.
- Take shots from the doorway: Stand in the doorway when you take a picture of a room and you'll get the best angle. It'll also continue the theme of drawing the prospect into the property, showing them exactly what they see when entering the room. It also reduces the chance of furniture being in the way or too close to the camera which can make spaces look smaller. Even if you have to move a sofa to get more floor action into your shot, it's worth it – the more floor you can see in a room picture, the larger it looks!
- Add a splash of colour: Although it's true that neutral shades are probably the most broadly appealing in terms of interior décor, in listing pictures a little burst of vibrant colour can be a good thing. Obviously don't go mental and let loose on the walls Banksy-style!! A few brightly coloured scatter cushions or a floral display will suffice. Just a touch of something that indicates the property is a home rather than a furnished building and makes your pictures pop a little to the viewers' eye.
- Keep it real: There's no point in grabbing the buyer's attention with a picture that gives a misleading view of the property. If it's next door to an absolute carbuncle of a building, include that in your frontage shot. If you get the buyer to the door and they see things they weren't aware of beforehand, it'll most likely kick-start a negative viewing
- More is more: Probably the best thing about listing properties on the internet is that there is no limit to how many pictures you can use for each property. Without the limitations of print, it's possible to have a slideshow, gallery or even video with your listings now. The stats show that viewers will spend longer checking out a property the more images there are. The better those images are, the more likely buyer interest will be piqued into action.
In many senses, the internet revolution has made visual representation of property even more crucial than in the old days. Even at the top end of the property market; there are Asian buyers who have spent vast fortunes on homes in the UK and US without even crossing the threshold before sealing the deal! With a wider audience than could've been imagined 20 years ago has come a higher level of competition and it's much harder to stand out from the crowd.
Ultimately, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain from going back to the old principal of luring buyers with image-heavy listings. Just having a website doesn't give you a presence on the internet but top-quality, highly visual listings will – guaranteed!