Real Estate Photos–Smartphones vs. Cameras

I see it all the time, real estate photos that are blurry, show poorly lit rooms and do little to highlight what makes the home special. The culprit? Often, it’s a smartphone. Yes, their technology has come a long way, but for real estate photos their photo quality still can’t compare to that of a higher-end camera.

I don’t get it. Why would someone advertise a product and not make it look as attractive as possible? Cars, food, vacations—they’re all made to look great. A house for sale is no different, it’s a product looking for a buyer.

I believe strongly in the need to have high quality real estate photos before putting a house on the market. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a great listing photo can be worth a thousand online views.

According to the National Association of Realtors, 92 percent of home buyers use the internet as part of their home search. Real estate photos are often the first thing they look at. It’s where they generally make their decision to move forward.

It’s easy to see why. We live in a visual age. The median age of first-time home buyers is 33. For buyers of all homes it’s 47. People in these age groups grew up in an era where images carry more weight than words. Websites, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram–this is the visual language we communicate in. And now, with photography software like Photoshop and Lightroom becoming more commonplace, people are used to a certain level of quality when viewing a product. If your home looks less enticing than similar homes on the market, guess who’s going to receive more showings?

I know, there are websites dedicated to using smartphones for real estate photography, and the samples they show are impressive. But most people don’t have the skill to replicate what’s shown on the websites.

Smartphone photos are fine for informally sending photos back and forth between agent and buyer, but they can’t measure up to the quality of pictures taken by an experienced photographer with a good camera.  Even if an image appears clear on your phone, don’t expect it will look that good on a larger screen.

Poor quality real estate photos can also send up a red flag to buyers. Whether true or not, they can suggest something about an owner’s pride in their home and the care it’s received. On the flip side, well-lit, nicely staged photos say, “I care about my home and keeping it in good condition”.

Here are some other interesting stats about the value of high-quality listing photos from the Center for REALTOR® Development (CRD)

  • Homes with high quality real estate photos sell 32 percent faster.
  • Homes with more photos sell faster, too. A home with one photo spends an average 70 days on the market, but a home with 20 photos spends 32 days on the market.
  • For homes in the $200,000 to $1-million range, those that include high-quality photography in their listings sell for $3,000-$11,000 more.

There are two paths to better real estate photos: hire a photographer or shoot it yourself. While today’s cameras are easier to use than ever, taking and processing photos still requires time, financial investment and a level of comfort with technology. I prefer to hire a real estate photographer. The ones I’m familiar with charge anywhere from $100-$500 depending on the size of the home and how many shots are required. That’s a bargain when you consider the importance photography plays in attracting buyers.

Who pays for the photographer? That varies from agent to agent. Some pay for it themselves. They consider photography a marketing cost. Others expect the seller to cover the cost. I’m lucky, my husband who works with me is an excellent real estate photographer, so that’s a service I offer for free. It’s worth asking who pays when you interview agents prior to listing.

So remember, before you list your home, put your best food forward with quality real estate photos. It’s the best exposure your home can get.

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