There’s always something to howl about

Cathy’s drama: Photos from the whatever-it-takes school of listing

These are photos from the listing I was working on last night. Cathleen took all the photos for this house. I can do a house a lot faster than she can, but she comes home with photos that are just stunning.

Can poetic copy sell houses? Maybe not. Custom signs? It’s a long shot — but we do get a lot of sign calls. Elaborate web sites? You tell me. Photos like these? Everything’s a crap shoot, and, of course, nothing works if the price is wrong.

But: If you assume that more than one house could be a good fit for that elusive buyer, then what should you do to make sure that it’s your listing and not the other guy’s that sells?

Our answer: Whatever it takes. Dramatic photos can’t win the war alone, but they’re one more weapon in our arsenal.

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42 Comments so far

  1. Barry Cox October 19th, 2007 6:47 pm

    Greg, you’re right about that. Those photos are great. Some people just have a gift for coming up with shots like that. Nice work for sure.

  2. David Phillips October 19th, 2007 7:32 pm

    Is she for hire in Georgia?! There are certain things in life that some people excel at; photography/me–not so much…

    Those pics are creative and well framed. You are correct that photos alone won’t sell the house. I would propose, however, a lack of photos will have a far more dramatic and negative effect.

  3. J. Ferris October 19th, 2007 7:32 pm

    Quality over quantity. šŸ™‚ Beautiful pictures!

  4. Scoot October 19th, 2007 9:14 pm

    She’s a keeper. I think pictures are a BIG plus. Some people up here don’t even bother to take a pic for their listings, and I don’t get it. Even if they’re bad pics, the buyers have something to see and make a decision as to whether they want to go check the place out or not. When I’m cruising the MLS if there isn’t a pic I normally will pass.

  5. Jillayne Schlicke October 19th, 2007 11:44 pm

    I don’t mean to play the role of critical analyst here, but really now: how many times will a homebuyer walk towards the kitchen and view it from that angle?

    Or what about the bathroom? I suppose if I’m throwing up and collapse onto the tile floor from weakness due to the flu, I might just have such a vision of that bathtub.

    Don’t get me wrong; the pictures are stunning and they might even net more homebuyers through the house.

    Yet the pictures remind me of a dating website where everyone is showing their best side and a short guy would have his picture taken from an angle to appear taller, or an overweight gal would use photoshop to shed a few extra pounds.

    But when two people meet f2f, there’s a let down.

    If I were a Realtor (and I’m not) I’d rather exceed the homebuyer’s expectations when they step foot inside of reality, instead of setting a homebuyer up for the opposite emotional reaction.

    I really like the other three shots: the gate, the brick walkway, framing the “S” shape of the brick edging, and the yard shot with the sun shining through the trees.

    Next up, have Cathleen take shots of a not-so-beautiful home, to show us how lighting and angles can make an average home look good (but not deceptively good.)

  6. Allen Butler October 20th, 2007 12:45 am

    Great work Cathy. Excellent compostion, lighting is good, perspective is fabulous. You a professional or somethin’ ;>)


  7. Teri Lussier October 20th, 2007 4:21 am

    The bathroom floor. The bathroom floor!! She put her camera on the bathroom floor!?!

    Must be clean. Spotless, perhaps? Can I go see?

    Great drama, combined with poetic words… very good stuff.

  8. Tom at the Real Estate Bloggers October 20th, 2007 6:53 am


    Great photos.

    The kitchen shot was my favorite. It really is fantastic.

  9. Greg Swann October 20th, 2007 7:11 am

    Just to be clear, Cathy took 286 photos of that home. We used well over a hundred on the web site. These are five of the six that I used on the Zillow version of the listing. The idea is to drive people from Zillow to the web site, and from there to the house. But my philosophy on this point comes from the deep thinking of Bachman Turner Overdrive: Any love is good love. The time buyers spend on our listing is time they can’t spend on another house.

  10. Ken Smith October 20th, 2007 7:37 am

    We just went out and spent some money on a good camera that will do wide angle shots (much needed for small rooms). The point isn’t that someone will buy the house from the picture, but that they just might catch their attention enough to get them into the home. I took around 60 shots to get 2 good ones to update a couple of bad photos on a current listing. There is no added cost to taking a lot of pictures with digital so why not experiment.

  11. Michael Price October 20th, 2007 7:52 am

    A cohesive marketing strategy for a listing. What a concept. šŸ™‚ Great photos are an important component of the overall effort. But 100 photos displayed? I think that’s a bit over the top, but then again, too many is a helluva lot better than not enough.

    Personally I don’t see anything you’ve presented as a crap shoot if you’ve done your homework correctly. Representing an ability to create,execute,track and adjust a professional campaign for a listing is where the rubber meets the road for consumers. Every listing is different and experience in which elements of a campaign to customize based upon that listing and it’s individual intricacies and nuances win the day.

    We have a client that conveyed a great story about a listing presentation where all of the things he mentioned as part of his strategy were matched by a very well known top producing team he was competing against. Great Photos..Check, Good Marketing Copy..Check, etc. The prospects were a husband and wife team in the tech industry with Sprint and were pretty much ready to shoo him out the door and call Mr. Top Producer when he took out his video iPod, plugged in his external speaker, sat in front of them, started a video podcast of a previous listing and waited for it to stop. He then asked, is Mr. Top Producer going to list your property in iTunes? He walked away with a signed listing agreement.

    My point is, individually, the piece parts of a campaign won’t sell anything, together they will.

  12. Kris Berg October 20th, 2007 8:10 am

    >Or what about the bathroom? I suppose if Iā€™m throwing up and collapse onto the tile floor from weakness due to the flu, I might just have such a vision of that bathtub.

    Flu? Still laughing…

    Nice pictures, Cathy, but I too am having a little trouble with the bathroom shot. It does look very clean, though. Good luck with the listing.

  13. Spencer Barron October 20th, 2007 9:23 am

    These are a little extreme but the concept is solid. I try to take my pictures somewhere between here and what most people would do but I’m guessing that Greg is showing some of the extremes to illustrate the point. We take pictures to lure people in to take a look. If we just display what’s there and the potential buyer makes up his mind solely from the pictures then I think we made a mistake. The whole point is to get them inside to see for themselves and great pictures do get people through the door.

    I like that you pointed out that Cathy took 286 photos, some people think that would be an overkill but I think that taking a lot of photos is part of getting good photos.

  14. Greg Swann October 20th, 2007 9:29 am

    > I like that you pointed out that Cathy took 286 photos, some people think that would be an overkill but I think that taking a lot of photos is part of getting good photos.

    Indeed. And it’s a small house — 1,108sf. For bigger houses, we can take more than 500 to start with, culling from there.

  15. Benn October 20th, 2007 9:40 am


    Imagine you’re a seller who is selling their home of 15-20 years, and you’re marketing their home, it means a lot to them that what they have loved so much about the home is being featured with the same quality of a highend magazine. Consumers are digging this approach as well, it makes them feel like you took a lot of time to think out the home, pointed out all of its appeal, and the idea is to prompt them off of the stump- a magazine quality home priced at a great price would do just that.

    I think this is just fantastic.

  16. CJ, Broker in NELA, CA October 20th, 2007 9:53 am

    I like the bathroom shot. Very artistic. Greg, where is the link to the final website? I’d like to see the final product.

  17. Chris October 20th, 2007 9:56 am

    Why not take a lot of pictures? They are free and easy to delete or edit now that they are digital. Snap away.

    Most buyers won’t even look at a listing unless their is at least one picture. If their are not pictures of the inside they think that its bad.

    Our MLS alows for 10 pictures and linking to a virtual tour, or website. IMHO 10 is the absolute minimum.

  18. Greg Swann October 20th, 2007 9:57 am

    > I like the bathroom shot. Very artistic.

    Hex bathroom tiles sell historic homes, so we like to leave no doubt that they’re there.

    > Greg, where is the link to the final website? Iā€™d like to see the final product.

    901 West Willetta St., Phoenix AZ 85007. $325,000 for the best corner in the F.Q. Story Historic District.

  19. Greg Swann October 20th, 2007 9:58 am

    > Our MLS alows for 10 pictures and linking to a virtual tour, or website. IMHO 10 is the absolute minimum.

    We get six for now, with as many tour links as we like — this house has three tours.

    When flexmls comes to town, we get infinite photos shown in a slide-show format.

  20. Athol Kay October 20th, 2007 10:34 am

    Good photos sell the house indirectly I think. What photos are best at is moblizing the buyers when a home is near its proper price point. Sometimes that creates multiple offers where you would have only gotten one. Sometimes that creates a single offer where you wouldn’t have one.

    Bad photos however, can deep six your listing.

  21. Galen October 20th, 2007 11:20 am

    The bathroom shot is the killer in the group. The closeup of the tile says more about the workmanship that went into the home and the era of the home than anything else. I am a sucker for contrasty photos and would have bumped up the saturation a little more.

    The comments on this havfe inspired me: I should put together a photography talk for Realtors. Consumers don’t look at photos the way that people who take pictures look at them. Hell, consumers don’t look at homes the way Realtors hope they do: they don’t read the description and they don’t look at the amenities. They go straight for the photos and the bomb through them as fast as the DSL will load them.

    Having eye catching photos is king. You want to get past the reptilian brain to the point where people pause, look at the price, look at the address and consider the actual house. The bathroom photo does just that.

  22. Ardell October 20th, 2007 3:12 pm

    Great photos get people to the house. Getting a lot of people in is 90% of the job.

    Where does that little door in the brick wall go?

  23. Greg Swann October 20th, 2007 3:17 pm

    > Where does that little door in the brick wall go?

    It’s the milkman’s door. You better believe we milk stuff like this.

  24. sean carr October 20th, 2007 3:48 pm

    Very impressive, I enjoyed looking at them just as great photograps.

  25. Vicki Lloyd October 20th, 2007 5:09 pm

    Everybody is talking about the bathroom shot, but I really like the kitchen. Did she swing fron the chandelier to get it?

  26. Sandy October 20th, 2007 6:06 pm

    I totally love the bathroom shot. One of the things that can be hard is when a hard-to-find feature that buyers will pay more for, is hard to photograph. Hex tiles are a perfect example–most photographs you can’t see them. I agree partially with Jillayne that no, this is not the angle from which you would normally be looking at this bathroom (one hopes!), but the shot totally makes sense because not only can you see that it has Hex tiles, but even more importantly, you can see that they are in good condition.

  27. Steve Berg October 20th, 2007 6:58 pm

    I think I recognize that bathroom floor. It was after a great party and way too many tequila shooters (I Think).

  28. Chris October 20th, 2007 8:05 pm

    The bathroom shot is excellent. Not for the angle which is cool yet pointless. It proves that the house is clean, and it catch’s the buyers attention because its different, that one shot says a lot.

  29. Kevin Tomlinson October 20th, 2007 8:47 pm

    We called those the “milk chute.”

    I could see the title of the home being, “Great Party House,” and put the pic of the bathroom floor up.

  30. Lake Wallenpaupack Real Estate | Karen Rice October 21st, 2007 6:20 am

    I have taken shots of the kitchen while standing on a tall stool and holding the camera up higher above my head (thank goodness for the little screen on the back of the camera).

    No, most homeowners aren’t going to be looking at the kitchen from that angle, and most Realtors aren’t going to photograph from that angle either – it’s one more way to set your house apart from others, and it also give a good idea of the space.

    And as Greg pointed out, it gives the listing photo a magazine type quality which hopefully, will help it stand out from all the other 2000 similar homes on the MLS.

    Imagination and creativity: it’s a good thing to develop.

  31. Jillayne Schlicke October 21st, 2007 11:39 am

    I love the 3 other shots: The house, the walkway, and the gate, because of the lighting and the angles. Excellent!

    With the bathroom shot and the kitchen shot, I want to see the bathroom and the kitchen the way “I, Homebuyer” would see the bathroom and the kitchen, every single day.

    I spend more time in those two rooms than any other room in the house (well, maybe the home

    My point being, what am I, The Homebuyer, going to SEE, Every Single Day, and that bathroom angle is not it. I want to see how much counter space there is, I want to see where the toilet is in relation to the rest of the bathroom, I want to see where the window is, if there’s a medicine cabinet, and if there’s just a pedestal sink or a nice cabinet underneath the sink. I don’t want to see the bathroom from the floor. It makes me think: what is the seller trying to hide from me by showing me this angle?

    Looking at the kitchen from this angle, all I think of is, “where will I put my spices when I’m cooking on the stove? Plus, the sink sure looks like it’s a long ways away from the stove because the sink looks teeny, tiny in relation to the stove.”

    Reading through the comments, I have now learned that kewl pictures are for the seller and for the Realtor.

    You might get more website hits or more potential homebuyer visits, but then the good mclovin’ needs to be there when the homebuyer shows up, or you’ve wasted everyone’s time, which is, in today’s fast-paced society, disrespectful.

    I don’t think 100 photos is excessive. Put as many as you want, as long as they’re not deceptive. When you click through on Greg’s link, all the bathroom slide show photos are spectacular.

    After looking at the floorplan, now I see why this listing needs great photos. It’s a small house.

  32. Teri Lussier October 21st, 2007 7:50 pm

    Looking at the other photos- there is a sheen on the ceilings. Is that paint or bright light?

  33. Lake Wallenpaupack Real Estate | Karen Rice October 21st, 2007 7:54 pm

    I would totally agree with you, Jillayne, if these were the only photos used to show the house…there is nothing lost by adding some artistic photos as well.

  34. Darren Kittleson October 22nd, 2007 5:03 am

    Great post. Just last night my partner and I were discussing the quality of his photos. He’s actually had agents call him over the past few months asking who we hire to shoot our listings. He does it himself and he’s very good.

    My idea is how do we take this added marketing feature and exploit it to grow our market share? What I mean is so many agents do a lousy job of photos. NAR Surveys tell us that multiple photos are important to house buyers, that 82% start the process online, etc… We’re now working on how to effectively get the message out on this.

    You can view the quality of his photos at our website

    Again, great post.

  35. […] Cathy’s drama: Photos from the whatever-it-takes school of listing […]

  36. Jillayne Schlicke October 22nd, 2007 11:09 pm

    Darren, I’m not seeing anything on your site that resembles “great photos.” Can you post a direct link?

    I like what Greg has done with the hundreds of photos from this listing. Instead of flat, one-shot photos, they’ve set up an auto-photo slide show so it’s as if the homebuyer can see everything in, say, “the bathroom” instead of just the floor shot. It is quite amazing and seems easier to do and faster time-to-load than a virtual tour. Here’s Greg’s link again:

    Greg, I’d still like to see what Cathy can do with a camera and photos of house that does not have so much charm/character….when she’s feeling better, that is.

  37. […] I didn’t even look at the second property – really, what’s the point? Like most buyers, I’m driven by emotion. I click through photos pretty much as fast as they load until one catches my eye, I linger, something about the property gets past my reptilian complex and I actually consider the details. Good agents know this on both sides; they take fantastic, eye catching photos or hire a professional to do so. Some of our Agent Match clients have found that they overlooked a great property with bad photos until they were dragged there by their agent and at least one was pleased to find that bad photos and staging could cost a seller upwards of $25,000. […]

  38. […] Greg Swan, of Bloodhound blog fame, helps us understand the importance of taking effective and interesting house photos that are eye candy to prospective buyers.Ā  Every bit of glue helps. […]

  39. […] Greg Swan, of Bloodhound blog fame, helps us understand the importance of taking effective and interesting house photos that are eye candy to prospective buyers. Every bit of glue helps. […]

  40. Judy Orr February 25th, 2008 7:56 pm

    I don’t consider myself an artistic person but I loved the bathroom shot – never seen one like it. Makes me want to take a double look and try some close-ups myself – but boy, the place has to be squeaky clean. Which is also what the picture projected to me – that this home is super clean & ready to move into.

    I love the dramatic shot of the kitchen, it always looks better from above. I’m sure there were other pics of the kitchen on the website but I would also choose drama if I only had a few to use.

  41. […] now, we are building coffee-table books for distinctive homes. We always have dozens of striking photos of the home, so a coffee table book is just one more way we have of getting those images in front of […]

  42. […] now, we are building coffee-table books for distinctive homes. We always have dozens of striking photos of the home, so a coffee table book is just one more way we have of getting those images in front of […]