What do buyers want to see in your real estate listing marketing?

Agents could be missing out on sales because because of listings with mediocre photos and the absence of floor plans, virtual tours and other details that make the property stand out to buyers, according to a new report by real estate marketing firm BoxBrownie.com.

The report takes a closer look at what BoxBrownie Global Director of Sales Marketing and Revenue Peter Schravemade calls one of the most underrated sections of the National Association of Realtors’ Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends report.

He notes in the report that the NAR stats show that 89% of prospective homebuyers want to see listing photos, 67% want floor plans and 58% would like a virtual tour.

Professional photography a must

The report states that more than three quarters of agents (76%) hire professional photographers for their listings. High-end properties were more likely to have professional photos of the listing, according to the report, which noted that listing with sticker prices of $500,000 or more had an 85% or more chance of having professional photos, while 71% of properties under that amount included professional photos.

Schravemade adds in the report that brokerages have a duty to their agents to make sure quality photography is used in every listing — even if the pictures are shot by the agent.

“We do believe educational institutions and bodies should take greater responsibility in training listing agents as to how to go about marketing a home for sale or lease,” he wrote. “Part of that training should include sections on what constitutes professional photography.”

Virtual tours saved the industry?

Maybe not so much, according to the BoxBrownie report. Virtual tours are nothing new — they’ve been around for more than two decades, according to the report — but 360°, 3D and other virtual tours were touted during the pandemic as a major shift in the way homes are sold.

The report add that only 5.9% of homes on the market are offering virtual tours. That’s a far lower figure than those reported by the National Association of Realtors, which reported that 35% of listings are offering virtual tours.

The BoxBrownie report believes those figures are exaggerated by the area of the country surveyed, sample size and other factors. “Other research is simply looking at links provided within listings and assuming they are virtual tours rather than videos or slideshows,” Schravemade said in the report.

The conclusion: virtual tours could give agents an edge with their listings. “They are no longer difficult to shoot, cost-prohibitive, or time-intensive,” the report states. “Importantly, purchasers value them highly in decision making around the purchase of a home.”

Back to the drawing board

Just under 10% of listings of single-family homes offer floor plans, but more than two out of three homebuyers want access to them. “This is not a figure worth shouting from the mountaintops, but it certainly is an improvement on the previous number we had from a 2015 study, which said that only 5% of MLS listings included a floor plan,” Schravemade said in the report.

BoxBrownie suggests asking every seller if they have floor plans available. These might be available through the appraiser, as floor plans are often included with appraisal documents.

If they’re not available, retail outlets like Home Depot offer plan draws starting at about $100.

Visual Marketing for Different Kinds of Properties

Most real estate agents will tell you that quality photography is one of the most important tools for marketing their listings. In fact, great photography is at the very heart of marketing any property, allowing potential buyers to make an emotional connection to the home, even before seeing it in person. On the other hand, poor photography can also be an immediate turn off to potential buyers, causing them to bypass the listing entirely. Done poorly, it can even lower the perceived value of the property.

Photos Can Make or Break a Listing

These are more than just anecdotal opinions. NAR’s annual Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers is a long-standing resource from the association which evaluates consumer behavior and preferences. It has shown that listings with photography will hold a potential buyer’s attention for at least 20 seconds, compared to a mere 2 seconds for a listing without images. Most shockingly, 84 percent of home buyers said they wouldn’t even consider a listing if it didn’t include photos.

Use the Right Media for the Property

Different kinds of properties benefit from different kinds of visual marketing approaches. While you might want to set up an entire landing page with aerial video footage for a luxury property, the same approach would be overkill for a home that’s more closely aligned with the national median price point.

What’s more, visual marketing strategies and tactics are different for various types of homes (luxury condo, single-family home, vacation home, city vs. rural, etc), making it even more complicated. What works for your type of property in your particular market just depends.

You may wish to do a little competitive analysis and scope out how other colleagues are making their visual marketing stand out. If comfortable doing so, you can even go to them for tips and advice on how they got to where they are with their photography skills.

The Elements of Quality Real Estate Photography

So, given the importance of photography, how do you know the best way to visually market your listings? Whether you choose to work with a professional photographer or not, it’s important that you understand the basics of quality real estate photography. 

#1. The Right Skills

Only after you determine the type of visual content that will work best for the property—photo, video, aerial—can you determine who will be best to do the work. There is no right or wrong answer here (unless you’re talking about who is legally authorized to operate a drone). Depending on your skill level, in some cases you will be able to do the photography yourself. In other instances, you will definitely need to hire a professional.

#2. The Right Equipment

If you’re doing to work yourself, you’ll have to rent or purchase the right equipment. To get the shots that will really help sell your property, it’s time to consider putting down your smartphone. You may need an ultra-wide-angle lens, an external flash, a tripod, and editing software. It might be a great idea to make friends at your local photography store so they can advise you, or find a good online resource or tips guide.

#3. The Right Styling

There are some simple tips for preparing the home for your photoshoot. Prepare the house much in the same way you would for an open house—turn on all available lights, declutter the space, remove all cars from the driveway to freely show the entire exterior of the home, and more.  Learn from trial and error, as sometimes the only way to know what works is to play around with the variables of the shoot onsite and see what works best.

#4. The Right Composition

For real estate photos, there are some tips that you can use to help ensure that your shots of the home have the best composition. For instance, always show a third wall, show your rooms in thirds, use the lines of the room to draw the eyes through the space, utilize objects in the foreground, and more. It cannot be overstated how much of an impact lighting can have, so it will make sense for you to spend more time and resources on good lighting.

Taking It to the Next Level

While many real estate agents choose to work with a professional photographer, other agents choose to photograph their listings themselves. To learn more about the equipment you’ll need to shoot professional-looking shots, how to get the right exposure, tips for making your property photo shoot ready and more, sign up for our course How to Shoot Real Estate Photography Like a Pro today. This course was co-developed with VHT® Studios, a leading real estate consultant and service provider located in the Chicagoland area.

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