Regular readers of this column may remember the installment, No Photos, No Buyers, No Kidding, where I exhorted real estate agents to make every effort to upload multiple photos to every listing on their website. Back then, the argument was that online listings without photos were about as useless as jargon-abbreviated classifieds in the back of the newspaper. Truth be told, the consumer vindicated my efforts, with the NAR’s annual buyer survey reporting that the consumer ranks multiple photos as the single most important data they seek from online portals. Some real estate companies have gone so far as to mandate multiple photos as a pre-condition before a new listing will appear online. And yet, while any search (try one now) of REALTOR.COM will still find plenty of listings without photos, tremendous effort has been made by most agents to saturate their listings with photos and virtual tours.
Now, however, I’m ready to admit that I was wrong. I concede defeat. Throw in the towel; anything you wish, if you’ll just stop putting more photos online. Please!
What has made me change my mind? Just look at some of the photos now ruining the real estate space online and you’ll join me in throwing up your hands (or maybe just throwing up). And if it weren’t so serious, it would border on ridiculous. And agents, apparently, can’t see it for themselves. Let me illustrate:
Agents ask me all the time why I think their listings don’t generate leads. There are lots of reasons, to be sure: No buyer is going to inquire about an overpriced listing; nor will they be interested if your description is typed in all CAPS. But the real killer comes with the initial presentation, such as this “opening photo” from a recent new listing.
And it was not alone, accompanied by others, each more gruesome and more grisly than last (all of which can be found on my blog). Could any seller have been so adamant that their property be photographed immediately that the listing agent couldn’t have persuaded them a day for cleaning?
And what is it with the persistent desire to photograph toilets? Look: the modern buyer pretty much assumes that indoor plumbing accompanies most homes. Unless it’s missing, there’s almost no reason to photograph the bathroom. Perhaps opulent bathrooms in luxurious listings deserve a digital click or two. Yet most listings waste valuable online space – and do considerable effort to cause buyers to leave the website – by displaying such gems as moldy bathtubs, drab sinks and the ever-present shower-curtain.
Ironically, such images do not even indicate a lack of technical ability: each seems well framed and usually well-lit using the digital camera’s zoom and flash features. And given that most listings with bad photos have multiple bad photos, it’s clear that the agents have mastered the ability to extract their images from the memory stick and transfer them up to MLS. No, nothing technical seems to be the issue here.
Now, let’s not pick on just the photographer. Certainly beauty could be found in eye of the beholder: which might be an explanation for vast quantity of boring ‘front-door’ photos. Except that a quick tour down the “thumbnail” photos on REALTOR.COM leaves prospective buyers wondering whether the REALTOR sells homes – or mailboxes, trees and driveways.
<!–[if gte vml 1]> <![endif]–><!–[if !vml]–>If it’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words, then the story being told by these images online might be better told by Stephen King. Every one of these images was taken directly from REALTOR.COM; there was no need to make any of them up; most came from listings above $750,000. Yet even if the property were a “fixer-upper” there’s no reason to showcase the moldy tub; somewhere there had to be a shot that put the property in an acceptable light. Was it a question of agent competence, or taste, or simply disinterest? I’m thinking it was more along the lines that agents continue to misunderstand the awesome power of the online image – and its direct impact on their ability to generate leads. I’m guessing that the sellers would be shocked if they saw these photos representing their homes for sale; I am certain that most buyers would be sufficiently amused to disqualify them from further consideration.
So I’ll raise the white flag; I admit I was outflanked. After fighting the battle to get every agent to put more photos online, I’ll admit they have won the war.