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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
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…
However, just as equally, the landlord has to take the fair share of the blame for allowing poor images – or even worse, a total lack of 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
Property 2 – only used 1 relatively clear, but small front view picture of the property
Property 3 – no pictures used
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.
|Property||Page views (the amount of times the advert was looked at)||Enquiries (the amount of enquiries received)|
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
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):
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…
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 £99, 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! :)
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 £99 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!
Disclaimer: I'm just a simple landlord blogger; I'm not qualified to give legal or financial advice. Any information I share is my opinion based on my personal experiences as an active landlord, and should never be contrued as legal or professional advice. For more information, please read my full disclaimer.