top of mind
Putting a Lens on Listing Photos
Is limiting professional photography to upscale listings
a form of ‘financial profiling’?
Some of the real estate practitioners
who use my photography services tell
me they hire a professional photographer
for listing photos only when the home
“deserves” it. Usually, that means if the
home is expensive, they’ll spend marketing dollars on high-end photos.
I see many cases where the quality
of the online listing photos for different
properties represented by the same
agent varies greatly. Some listings show
sharp, clean images of orderly homes.
Other listings’ photos feature cluttered interiors and are out of focus and under- or
overexposed. Typically, the listings with
better photos command a higher sale
price. Does this say something about the
agents representing these listings? Are
they offering a higher standard of service
for clients with more property wealth?
Picking and choosing when to use
professional photos based on the price of
a listing is a form of what I call “financial
profiling.” It suggests that you might work
harder for clients of a certain income
level. While such disparate treatment
may not constitute discrimination under
the law or the Code of Ethics, I believe
it’s unfair. We all know that better photos
draw more buyer attention. You’re basically steering business toward certain
clients and away from others if you apply
unequal standards for listing photos. That
has a deleterious effect on the clients who
get the short end of the stick.
Of course, you don’t have to use pro-
fessional photographers in your business.
Any practitioner can use a point-and-shoot camera to take listing photos. But
if that’s how you’d handle some listings,
perhaps it should be how you handle all
listings to avoid unequal levels of service.
While few would agree that nonprofessional listing photos would suffice for
a $10 million property, I would argue they
shouldn’t be acceptable for a $100,000
property either. The owner of the
lower-priced home is no less deserving
of your highest level of service than the
owner of the luxury property.
I don’t deny that professional photography services can be expensive.
Cost control is probably a big reason
many professionals choose not to hire
a photographer for every listing. That’s
not a good reason to apply professional
photography standards only to selected
listings. Practitioners factor the costs of
many marketing materials into their budgets that they consider nonnegotiable:
business cards, yard signs, brochures
and mailers, and online ads, among
others. Why should professional photography be any different? Isn’t it also a part
of your marketing plan?
This thinking also applies to drones,
which are expected to soar in popularity
once the Federal Aviation Administra-
tion releases rules for their commercial
use this year. Aerial photography using
drones won’t make sense for every prop-
erty, but for those where it does, avoid
disparate treatment based on property
Many of my photography customers
have found a way to incorporate the
cost into their budgets, even if cash
flow issues require an alternate payment method. Some have their clients
pay for photography services and then
reimburse them at closing. Others cover
the shoot with a business credit card to
maintain cash flow until closing.
As a real estate professional, it’s your
job to make sure no one gets shortchanged in the transaction. That requires
being fair to all clients in the way you
market their homes. There’s both a professional and a moral obligation to treat
all clients the same and give 100 percent
of your effort to market their home,
irrespective of the commission you earn
at closing. Applying an equal standard for
all listings when it comes to photography
would also strengthen the image and
perception of the real estate industry.
I once heard someone say, “Pursue
excellence, and success will follow.” Let’s
look at that through the lens of how we
service our clients.
Art Moreno Jr., ABR, is
broker-owner of The Art of
Realty in El Paso, Texas. He is
also a photographer and owner
of the MLS Camera Guy, a
photography service. [ firstname.lastname@example.org]
Note: Opinions expressed in “Commentary” do not necessarily reflect the position of the National Association of REALTORS® or REALTOR® Magazine.
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