Landlord Guide On Professional Property Photography

Landlords are still getting it horrifically wrong, and I honestly don’t know why. Even worse, agents are also completely screwing it up, and they’re the professionals (which mostly charge ludicrous amounts, but that’s another story).

I’m always left bewildered whenever I jump onto Rightmove/Zoopla (or any other property portal) and see vacant properties with hideous photography; blurry as hell, lop-sided, terrible compositions, and clouded by profoundly poor lighting. You almost have to wonder if the camera was attached to a monkey.

I’m not even going to waste my time on those that don’t provide any images at all. They’re on a totally different planet.

Exhibit A: Terrible marketing image to entice tenants

Terrible marketing image!

An actual image used to market a property. Corner of a room, with a laminate wall… brilliant. ​​​​​​​It was shared by a baffled prospective tenant on Twitter

makeupsavvy-tweet

Poor thing, desperately making it clear it’s not her property. And who can blame her?

The worrying thing is, there is someone out there, whom is presumably very dangerous, that believes that image is fit for purpose. The presumption is, that person believes that image is useful, and optimised to generate enquiries, as opposed to scaring the shit out of someone.

Like I said, monkey.

The all-too-common practice of supplying insufficient images is truly baffling. Please stop it if you’re guilty. Right now. Because there really is no excuse for it, and it’s extremely damaging.

Poor imagery is an expensive mistake!

  • Unsightly images repel interest (as ‘Exhibit A’ demonstrated). Good images generate more enquiries, and more enquiries equate to shorter void periods, which ultimately means big savings!
  • Poor presentation will attract poor quality tenants. If you’re selling a mess, what kind of tenants do you think you’ll attract?
  • Many landlords seem to forget they’re trying to sell an extremely expensive product, yet they market their property like they’re selling peanuts.

The art & importance of finding tenants quickly

If you’re not looking for tenants now, you probably will be someday…

One of the most damaging costs incurred by landlords are during the vacant periods in-between tenancies; those periods can give any landlord a reason to cry to sleep, because unfortunately, the ongoing costs of a BTL continue even when the property is vacant. But unlike some of the other expenses, like mortgage payments and insurance policies, ‘void periods’ and the associated costs can be easily squashed, and that’s usually done by using the best practices to find tenants efficiently.

In theory, if you’ve got a structurally decent property in an area which isn’t overcrowded by toothless yobs drinking cider on every street corner, you should never have a property vacant for long periods, especially in the current climate, where prospective tenants are are climbing over one another and willing to pay over the odds. Landlords are in a fortunate position where demand is outstripping supply by a country mile, so even horse-shit infested stables are flying off the shelf.

So when I hear of landlords struggling to find tenants, my first question is, “how are you actually marketing your property?” And that’s where the problem usually lies. In many cases, the property isn’t the fundamental problem (that’s rarely the case), it’s how it’s being sold. It’s not that the property is unsalable, it’s that they can’t even generate the enquiries, which probably means the presentation of the proposition is a key weakness.

While there are many aspects and variables that help optimise and improve the process of finding tenants quickly (many of which I’ve covered in the finding tenants quickly section), I want to focus on a very specific area of lead optimisation, which is the importance of the photography when advertising for find tenants.

I believe using good images is 1) one of the easiest to implement 2) one of the most effective methods of generating enquiries 3) often naively overlooked and underestimated.

Who’s to blame for poor photography?

Most landlords will use some form of letting agent to find tenants, whether it be an online agent or a traditional high-street agent.

As far as I’m concerned, the agent is doing their client (the landlord) a disservice by advertising their property without efficient images (regardless of who’s responsibility it is). However, just as equally, the landlord has to take the fair share of the blame for allowing poor images to represent their offer. But bear in mind, poor photography will hit the landlord’s pocket the hardest, not the agents. Regardless of who’s responsible, just ensure you’re using high-quality images.

If you are paying a high-street agent to find tenants for you, ensure they take high-quality and compelling images which will sell your property! Get your moneys worth.

The “effectiveness of images” experiment

I did a little experiment, didn’t I?

I didn’t really do it to prove that a listing with images works better than one without, because that’s a no-brainer. It’s more of a case of identifying how imperative images are.

I marketed 3 different properties simultaneously on Gumtree. The properties were all similar in size, location, description and price. The only difference between the three campaigns was the use of images, and a slight shuffle of the descriptions so no one smells a rat.

The idea is to monitor which campaign gets the most enquiries and page views. The results should give us a good indication of which campaign is most effective. I gathered the data after the properties had been listed for a week.

Property 1 – used 3 clear pictures of the outside and inside of the property

Gumtree Experiment - property 1

Property 2 – only used 1 relatively clear, but small front view picture of the property

Gumtree Experiment - property 2

Property 3 – no pictures used

Gumtree Experiment - property 3

Properties in search results

This is what the search results looked like when I searched for properties available for rent in “Harlow”.

Gumtree search results are displayed in order of listing age (newest to oldest) by default, and because I added the properties all with in minutes of one another, they appear together in the search results. Which actually makes sense, because the chances of someone else posting an advert for a flat available to rent in Harlow with in the same 3 minutes as me would have extremely narrow.

Gumtree Experiment - property search results

Experiment Results

PropertyPage views (the amount of times the advert was looked at)Enquiries (the amount of enquiries received)
Property 1545
Property 2882
Property 3211

Conclusion

Ok, the data sample is woefully pitiful and the experiment was undeniably and embarrassingly basic, but there’s enough meat on the bone (just about) to walk away with some useful information.

Property 1, the one with multiple images, received over 50% more enquiries than the other properties. However, what’s interesting is that Property 2 received the most page views. Can anyone guess why?

I think it’s safe to assume that happened because Property 2 is listed higher up the search results than Property 1. I didn’t intentionally plan that; it was completely random that I submitted property 2 after property 1 (as I mentioned, Gumtree, by default, shows results ordered by age – newest to oldest). I wasn’t actually anticipating that to highlight in the experiment results because I didn’t think one place would make much difference, but apparently it does. But positioning isn’t the most important factor here, because Property 3 is at the top of the pile and it still received the lowest about of page views…why? It had no images. It lacked incentive for users.

So basically, based on this flimsy experiment, the oh-so-obvious conclusion is: in order to receive the most amount of enquiries, your advert should have multiple images.

Using professional/good photography case study

Ok, so we’ve established that adding images alone make a big difference. But obviously any old images won’t suffice; they need to be good and relevant images. Operative words being “good” and “relevant”

Exhibit B: Creepy & irrelevant marketing image

This was used to market a property. Source: terriblerealestateagentphotos.com

This was used to market a property. Source: terriblerealestateagentphotos.com

What the-actual-fuck! How creepy is that?!

Perhaps I’m slapping most of you around with an obvious-stick here, for that apologise, because I’m sure most of you wouldn’t even attempt to market your property with creepy-ass images of your loved ones.

Let me show you the results of a case study (one which I swiped from the chaps over at Upad.co.uk with their permission, of course)…

Here are some images a landlord used to market his vacant two bedroom property in West London, on Upad (UK’s biggest Online Letting Agent):

rfre

Poor composition, bad lighting, wonky, and blurry as hell. Basically, they’re ridiculous. Waste of time.

Despite being in a busy rental market and being competitively priced, the property received no enquiries in the first week. There’s no real surprise there.

The landlord eventually cottoned on (after careful nudging from Upad) that his terrible photography might be the root problem. He decided to get some professional photographs taken. Here are the after shots…

Professional photography by Upad

Professional photography by Upad

Better, huh? Amazing how much difference good lighting, a steady hand, good composition and a wide angle lens can make. Now the landlord is SELLING.

The result of Using Professional Photos

Within seven days of adding the new photos he had received ten tenant enquiries for the property and found a professional tenant at the asking rental price.

Good photography is an investment, don’t go without!

You don’t NEED a professional photographer, but it’s a wise investment

You don’t need to be a professional photographer to take good pictures. If you have half a decent camera and lens, and a good eye for design/detail, you can pull it off.

Here are a few tips to taking good quality photos (in case you feel you’re up for the challenge):

  • Use a wide angle lens, they are essential for capturing the full view of rooms
  • Don’t use a phone camera, even the best of them won’t compare to the results a high-end DSLR camera can produce
  • Take the pictures in daylight
  • Make sure the rooms/property is well presented e.g. clean, uncluttered and tidy
  • I don’t think staging/props (e.g. furnishings) are essential as long as you can show the space available, but they can help prospective tenant’s visualise how the space can be used
  • Bathrooms and kitchens tend to do most of the selling

However, it’s important to accept defeat if you don’t have a creative bone in your body, because bodge-jobs will cost you more. Most people wrongly believe they have a good eye for design, and that’s probably half of the problem.

Tip: a high-end DSLR camera with a wide angle lens makes ALL the difference. If you don’t have both you won’t be “selling” your property the right way.

Where & how to get professional photos

Ok, so since I swiped Upad’s case study, and highly recommend Upad’s awesome tenant-find service before (which I’ve successfully used several times before), I should plug their photography service…

Upad offer a Professional Property Photography Service, which includes 8 photographs of your property for you to keep (you’ll own full rights to them). It costs £85 +VAT, which is a pretty sweet deal considering that the short-term ROI can be ten-fold. They’ll arrange a photographer to visit your property and capture it in its best light. They’ll then pick the best 8 and send them to you to keep, so you can use them again and again.

You can buy the photography service alone, or as an ‘add-on product’ if you’re using their ‘tenant-find’ service. If it’s the latter, don’t forget to use Upad’s £40 discount voucher, which applies to any of their tenant-find packages! :)

Easy.

Book Professional Photos for £85+VAT!

It’s all relative

Let’s not forget, everything is always relative.

What I mean by that is, if you have a property that’s realistically going to achieve £200PCM, then spending £85 on professional photos probably wouldn’t be a wise investment. The reality is, prospective tenants won’t be expecting much in return for £200PCM- they definitely won’t be expecting glossy images of a show home. That said, no matter what the value of your property, ALWAYS post clear and useful images, with or without professional photography.

Don’t be misleading

I want to end this blog post with a dose of reality!

I want to clarify the difference between showing a clear picture of your property and misleading your prospective clients with an idea that isn’t real. The key point about using high quality pictures is to show your property in its best light and highlighting the key features. If you fall into the trap of over-staging and falsely heightening the appeal of your property, you may end up wasting everyone’s time. Show what you’re selling in all its glory, but don’t try to sell something you don’t have for sale.

Hope this has been useful… to someone!

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11 Comments- Join The Conversation...

Guest Avatar
Matthew 28th June, 2010 @ 19:52

The viewer always feels there is something to hide if there are no photos. Nobody wants a deceitful landlord!

1
Guest Avatar
Ginsterlam 30th June, 2010 @ 09:54

Absolutely! Visual imagery is a very powerful communication tool.
Take for example dating websites. Boy you would need a charisma that would set the screen on fire if you were to get any dates without a profile picture!!

2
Guest Avatar
GillsMan 1st July, 2010 @ 07:08

Completely agree. I was attempting to sell a house just as the market crashed when you'd thing agents would be doing everything they could to market the property properly, but actually the dumb fucks didn't put any of the pictures on and only used a really wanky description so I sacked them took the house off the market, marketed myself for rent and am now making a nice little profit off of it.

Moral of the story: yeah, always use pictures.

3
Guest Avatar
Ginsterlam 1st July, 2010 @ 10:05

...but then if you have crap images you may as well have none at all.
The person responsible for taking the pictures really neeeds to do a little bit of creative art direction.
I find a wide angle lens is absolutely essential! Remove any clutter away from the space you are going to photograph. What I can't stand are photo's displaying nothing but mess and pictures of overgrown gardens and so on! What's all that about? It would help also to invest in some imaging software like Photoshop. It does wonders to add a little contract and also brightness to the pictures taken under poorly lit conditions such as dark hallways and so on. It just helps to freshen everything up a little.
But I definitely agree, pictures and especially good pictures will increase your selling/renting power.

4
Guest Avatar
David GW Barlett 1st July, 2010 @ 20:43

We all agreed on the use of images, but which one to use as the 'default' image that is displayed in the listings gallery of properties?

Most estate agents indicate that the first (default) picture should also be a front exterior shot. However, in my area most mid-terraced houses look almost identical to each other, so I'd be interested to conduct the same experiment again, but this time measuring the responses to adverts with differing default images (i.e. internal shot of kitchen Vs. internal shot of lounge Vs. external front shot)

Best regards, David
http://newportbuyer.co.uk

5
The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 2nd July, 2010 @ 06:39

Hey David,

I've never actually thought about the importance of the "default" image, and you make a good point about terraced housing tending to look similar!

It's well worth experimenting with if it means generating more enquiries and/or page views!!

Regards

6
Guest Avatar
Ginsterlam 2nd July, 2010 @ 08:52

I think an external image is really important for the first shot.
similarly you can say the same thing with an image of a block of flats. Which one is it? The description then plays the part i.e. 1st floor, 2nd floor, so on and in your scenario 'mid terrace'. People generally get the idea. But if you don't illustrate this, then my prediction is that there is something really unsavoury or possible wrong about the exterior/area in general.

7
The Landlord Avatar
The Landlord 2nd July, 2010 @ 09:04

Yeah, I'd have to agree. I think the external image is the important first shot! My thinking is, if the outside of the property is awful, I don't want to look any further! But that's just my speculation...

You'd probably need to run a few experiments to find out what works best. For agents who compete on sites like Rightmove that are trying to shift multiple properties, it might be worth seeing what converts best.

8
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Propapedia 6th July, 2010 @ 15:58

I am in absolute agreement, the results from our website (which I can not describe due to blog rules) indicates that using visual imagery is absolutely critical.
Yes tha above experiment may have been rudimentary, however it is on the mark.
We find that properties with photos recieve far more attention than those without, bith for the rental market and the sale site of the business.

9
Guest Avatar
Fredo 20th November, 2010 @ 14:29

I'd just like to point out that property 2's external shot, which will be on the thumbnail next to the listing link, is more appealing.

Basically the photo to No.1 has the building and it looks like there is a busy car park right in front of it. Photo No.2 has greenery, blue sky and shows the area in front of the building isn't some pokey car-park/backstreet.

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Guest Avatar
Sian 9th September, 2012 @ 17:49

Although we create AudioVisual tours we rely heavily on Estate & Letting agents providing quality images that don't show the loo seat up or the cats tray in the kitchen.

Sadly they don't like being given direction on how to take the best photo's preferring the "point & shoot" method as its quick and less time consuming for them which translates to awkward and time consuming for us.

I agree with "Ginsterlam" that a wide angled lens is a must and also not to over process the photo; an enhancement is all that is needed if the original photo has been done well.

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