Partnering with Real Estate Professionals

Photography: sfadden

Marketing is a neverending business. As soon as you win one client, you know it won’t be long before you need to pick up another. That’s why it makes sense to ensure that your marketing plan contains streams that are set up to bring in repeat business.

One of the best ways to do that is by partnering with someone who has a constant need for photography services.

In the past, we’ve suggested teaming up with Realtors. Photographers can do a much better job of photographing homes than they can, and when a property is sold for a six- or seven-figure sum – delivering a handy commission to the Realtor – it’s in the agent’s interest to make sure that the marketing material looks professional. That’s a steady stream of demand for photographers who are in a position to make the most of it. Every time a Realtor has a new property to sell, you’d have a new job.

Realtors Sell, Photographers Shoot

We’re not the only one pointing out the advantages of this sort of teamwork though. Some real estate experts are telling their colleagues that they should be making more use of professional photography too.

“Many Realtors take their own photos of their listings instead of letting a professional photographer take them. In my opinion, this is a mistake.” property expert Adam Waldman wrote on the real estate network Active Rain. ” [T]here may be a number of Realtors out there that take outstanding photos.  Generally speaking though, this is not the case.”

In his article, Adam provides two examples of properties which were being offered with amateur photos. The offers had expired from real estate’s Multiple Listing Service so Adam had the properties re-shot using a professional photographer who made the rooms appear bigger and the appearance of the homes more attractive. He ended up selling both properties for near the asking price.

According to Adam, this is not a strategy that should be limited to high-value real estate.

“All properties can benefit from professional photography as long as the people will de-clutter the home, and make it show-ready,” Adam told us. “Professional photos show a room in a way that most Realtors can’t capture, regardless of whether the home is a starter home or a mansion.”

So if the benefits of professional photography to all real estate professionals are so clear, why aren’t more of them making use of it? Adam suggests that cost is one factor and control another. Realtors feel that they’re capable of taking the pictures themselves and they know what sort of images they want.

It’ll Cost you a Bagel

The challenge for photographers then is to persuade them that they can take images that are much more effective than any the Realtor can shoot. Adam suggests that offering a free trial or a discounted introductory rate can help, but food could be a good way to get your foot in the door too.

“If possible, [photographers] should see if they can present their services in meetings at local real estate offices,” Adam said. “Usually when a guest presents their services, they will bring in breakfast for the agents (bagels, pastries, juice, coffee, etc.).  Those with a limited budget may want to visit agents during an open house to start to build a relationship.”

For any talented photographer, showing images that impress shouldn’t be a problem. Much harder will be to produce a quote that is competitive and clearly cost-effective. The budget for small properties will clearly be more limited than that for larger homes so Adam recommends a rate based on the number of rooms. In his article though, he also points out that the amount that he paid for a shoot came to less than a two-day listing in a newspaper – and that included the fee for the photographer converting the images into a virtual tour.

While you might not want to pitch that low, alternative marketing methods used by Realtors could provide useful points of comparison. While the Realtors are chewing on your breakfast bagels, for example, you could point out that the cost of your shoot would come to less than the price of an online listing – or the celebratory dinner after the contract is signed. The profits might not be huge but the work would be regular and could also provide opportunities for upselling other services to real estate companies – such as executive portraits or flyers – and to the homeowners too.

Of course, these days, those celebratory dinners are rarer than ever. With home prices and sales tumbling, real estate professionals are likely to be watching their pennies. But that just means that it’s more important than ever for them to market their homes professionally and close as many deals as possible for as high a price as possible – an argument a canny photographer should use.

“In my opinion, it is an excellent time for photographers to be marketing their services,” Adam said. ” Of course, in a slower economy, some agents may think of a professional photographer as a luxury, whereas I see them as a necessity.”

[tags] real estate photography [/tags]

9 comments for this post.

  1. Embassy Pro Books Said:

    Some suggest that real estate professionals are some of the toughest to deal with so you must be picky about who you work with so you don't end up getting more than you bargain for in terms of a tough client.

  2. Ian Watt Said:

    Photographs are everything. All my marketing begins with hiring a great photographer. Buyers see the photos on the MLS and want more information and then next thing you know they are on my website, on the website they see the videos, floor plans and maps etc, perhaps even another listing (of course with great photos as well). And every step of the way they are seeing the IanWatt brand which leads to familiarity and comfort, and finally leads to a new client and hopefully it leads the sale. But remember it all started with a great photographer and a great photographer, I’m not. It’s the best money you can invest in a listing. Ian

  3. MattT Said:

    I'm a pretty good photographer with connections to the realty biz in my area, so I think I could make a go of this. But I have no idea what I would charge. Suggestions? Resources?


  4. Anonymouse Said:

    Here's your resource:

  5. MattT Said:

    Well, that was embarrassingly obvious. Thanks, Anonymouse!

  6. Embassy Pro Books Said:

    It's true when they say a picture is worth a thousand words. People often balk at the prices charged by professional photographers but fail to see the benefits a well taken photo can provide. It can make a difference between a mediocre and phenomenal turnout at open houses.

  7. boomboom Said:

    Might be different in other parts of the world but unfortunately Estate Agents in the UK just won't go for it.

    I personally think that the best way to show any home or other property at it's best is to use a properly photographed "Spherical" 360 Degree Panoramic Image.

    All the Estate Agents I've approached immediately state "we don't need anything like that" or "we could just do that ourselves".

    When a 360 image does appear (rare in the UK) it's always the limited narrow angle horizontal "one shot" panorama where you can't look up or down.

    UK Estate Agents are more than happy to take your money but seem to have a big problem with spending.

    Proper "Spherical" 360 degree x 360 degree shots can be taken for a comparable price as conventional photography if the 360 photographer is a specialist and has his workflow sorted out.

  8. Joanna M Said:

    I started out shooting listings as a contract photographer for a large provider of virtual tours and MLS photos. These were merely exerior shots taken with a Kodak DC260. This lasted over 2 years until the end of April '08 when Trend discontinued their contract. Since then, a colleague and I have contacted realtors in our area for 12-stills packages and managed to pick up several accounts although it could be a lot better. We started out charging a lower price in order to get started but have since raised our price and are still getting new assignments. Our equipment consists of Canon 350D Rebel XT cameras, Sigma 10-20mm wide angle lenses, and Vivitar and Metz hand held flashes which work well for interiors. Exterior shots are taken with Sigma 18-50mm lenses and the images are processed in Photoshop and put on disk for delivery to agents.
    Marketing is a big part of generating new business, I design the flyers and my partner prints them out and we deliver them to agencies for distribution to their agents. It's very time-consuming but it works. I think if the RE market ever stabilizes this could become a very lucrative business.

  9. Michael Said:

    I suspect that the agents who take their own photos don't KNOW how bad their images are. So they naturally don't understand the advantages of using a pro.

    It would help to educate the real estate industry at large if we all used the following reasoning, until it became common real estate lore:

    "How much is high quality photography worth? How much would having your property sell, due to high quality photography, save you in terms of the first price reduction? Thousands? Or more like tens of thousands?!"

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