Real Estate Photographer Speeds Home Sales

real estate photographersThe Bedford family was desperate to sell their $600,000 home outside of Greensboro, N.C., but their first Realtor couldn't get the job done. Then, last June, they sold it in 30 days. Carolyn Bedford, 39, credits several factors for the abrupt change in fortune: A new Realtor, home staging -- and high-end photographs taken by a professional real estate photographer.

For years, real estate professionals have preached the virtues of using experienced photographers. Online home-photo listings are usually the first thing buyers look at to break through the clutter when determining potential homes to visit.

The Bedfords' 4-bedroom house had been on the market for four months when the couple decided to change Realtors last June; they were prepared to take a loss in a competitive market. Frances Giaimo, the new Realtor, sold the house within 30 days for $510,000. (A $90,000 loss.)

"It's about price and ego, says the Greensboro based photographer Andrew Mayon, (Triad Real Estate Photography) who shot the photos for Giaimo and the Bedfords last summer. "Realtors are notoriously frugal and think, 'I should take the pictures. How bad could they possibly be? Realtors don't have the equipment or lighting, and their photos are often over or underexposed. Some angles can make a house look like the Titanic."

Carolyn's husband, Bart Bedford, 41, had already moved to Birmingham, Ala., last April, while she and their two children, along with several dogs and cats, traveled 900 miles on weekend road trips between the cities.

The Bedfords paid Mayon $200 for shots that look like they could be from a home design
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magazine. In many markets, home photo shoots range from $200 to $500, but can be more expensive depending on the size of the home and the experience of the photographer. In most cases, photographers deal directly with Realtors who can either pay the photo expenses or pass it off to the seller. Mayon is trying to market his services directly to sellers, without "stepping on Realtors' toes," a difficult balancing act.

Larry Lohrman, a real estate photographer based in Salem, Ore., runs the industry's go-to website, Photography for Real The site tracks industry trends and provides a place where photographers can share stories, ask questions and gripe about low fees and unreasonable clients.

Lohrman says the recession has helped photographers get new gigs since Realtors have more inventory than ever. A study published last fall by Redfin, a Seattle-based brokerage firm, found that high quality photos shot with an SLR (single lens reflex camera) can increase the final price of a house between $934 and $116,076, compared to those shot with low-end cameras. But the company also found that only about 15 percent of real estate listings are using any higher end photography.

Andrew Mayon warns that even an expensive camera in the hands of an amateur can yield poor results. "I tell people a fancy camera does not make you a photographer," he says. "Just like having an expensive pen doesn't make you Shakespeare."

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