Interview with a Real Estate Photographer

February 2, 2010

At UniqueHomeSites.com, we are actively developing partnerships with real estate photographers from across Canada, providing them with a platform to showcase their work and expand their businesses.

One such photographer, Jeff MacGregor of MacGregor Media, is well established in Ottawa’s real estate marketplace and knows what it takes to run a successful real estate photography business.

We caught up with Jeff recently to ask him a few questions on life as a real estate photographer. 

1. As one of the more active real estate photographers in the Ottawa area, you must get to see some interesting home designs, as well as some ‘not-so-inspiring’ living spaces. As a photographer, how much emphasis do you place on capturing the unique features of a property?

Each property is unique and has it’s own features and qualities – some are designed that way and many take on the personality of the owners, which makes every shoot different.  It is our job to capture these elements while showing the property through our pictures.  Our team of photographers are trained to recognize features and make sure to capture them in a creative manner that gives a great impression to the potential viewer.

2. I would imagine that some homes, for which you are hired to photograph, are messy or cluttered and not really suitable for a photo session. Do you have a process in place for ensuring that a property is ready to be photographed upon your arrival?

We often consult with clients and suggest things to do to prepare for the photos.  While it would be ideal that every property we stepped in to was ready to be photographed, will still encounter some that aren’t.  As a result we recommend that Realtors work with Stagers to give the best possible impression of the property through staging and photography.

3. Looking at your portfolio, you offer your clients both still photography and panorama’s or 360 degree photos. Without giving away all your trade secrets ;-), can you give us an idea of the type of equipment that you use and the approximate cost to get set up (for all those budding real estate photographers out there!)

All of our photographers shoot with professional grade Digital SLR’s and speedlites. Wide angle lenses and various other items dependent on the photographer.  Separate camera kits are used for our 360 degree photography. Start up costs on semi-pro gear would run you an approximate cost of $4-6k.

4. Video seems to be the latest trend among certain real estate agents in marketing both themselves and their listings. Is this something you have ever considered offering as a service?

We are launching our video services in Feb 2010.  We’ve been finalizing our techniques and process, to what we believe is a very clean, concise way of providing video tours that don’t leave the viewer feeling sick, all the while, showcasing any property effectively.  We believe that the online trends in the Real Estate and other sales oriented markets show that people are no longer window shopping.  They’re “PC shopping”.  By offering videos
we’ll be opening up new doors for our clients and allowing them to reach larger audiences.

5. Who do you think is the main driver of the real estate photography business in Canada?

More and more sellers are expecting their house to be professionally photographed. Remeber that sellers are usually also buyers and have been on the MLS looking at properties, they don’t want their house giving a bad first impression on the Internet. As we all know, most home buyers are starting on the Internet before even contacting a realtor.

This is where the realtors are quickly realizing that how the home is presented on the Internet reflects on them as sales people, and the commitment they offer to clients.

For example, my business partner was shooting for a realtor here in Ottawa and she was telling him how she had to argue with a client to go see a property (listed by another realtor)…the cause of the argument: the client had seen the listing online and dismissed it because of the pictures. Our client (the agent) knew it was the perfect property for her clients and had to fight to show it! – a great set of pictures could have saved a lot of time for the buyer representative agent and the selling agent could have had a potential deal a lot faster!

6. Do you have any plans on expanding your service to other centres?

We have recently expanded in to the Toronto and Niagra regions and are excited about the opportunity to help more realtors sell more houses!  Our long term goal is to be across the country showcasing homes.

To contact Jeff or the team at MacGregor Media, check out their webpage at:

http://macgregormedia.ca/

They are also active on both Twitter and Facebook:

http://twitter.com/MacGregorMedia

http://www.facebook.com/MacGregorMedia

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Use your agent website to gain credibility

December 1, 2009

Rob McCance posted an article on Agent Genius blog last week, which discusses real estate websites and how they can impact your credibility as a real estate professional among an ever-increasing Internet audience.

“Whenever I see a really bad real estate website, what that says to me is that the person behind the site has a very low attention to detail. Also, they are apparently not overly concerned about their on-line credibility, as is being conveyed by their website.”

McCance goes on to describe 4 basic elements for an agent website to convey a high level of credibility:

Navigation – Is the content on your website easy to navigate?

Most visitors will be looking for one thing, and one thing only – listings!

One option is to make your property search functionality front and foremost on your website.

Don’t make your visitors have to think about where to find your listings or make them click too many times to get to what they really want.

Design – Real estate professionals are operating in an industry where first impressions are critical.

With so much competition out there, it is important to make sure that your website is clean, attractive, and has well-designed elements.

Visitors to your website will quickly pick up on design flaws, sometimes subconsciously, and formulate their opinion of you based on these flaws.

Error-free – This seems like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many people post content to their website without first running it through a spell-checker.

Other things like broken links, missing images / documents, and inaccurate or out-dated information on your website will have a negative impact on people’s perception of you as a real estate professional.

Brand – Most sales representatives and brokers are obligated to display their brokerage logo somewhere on their website.

However, you do have a certain amount of freedom to promote a personalized brand, either through a customized logo, caricature, tag line, and/or the overall look-and-feel of your website.

This personalized brand should be something that will leave a positive and lasting impression.


Higher Levels of ‘Walkability’ Linked to Higher Home Values

August 25, 2009

walkscore-logo.gif

As reported on BuzzBuzzHome blog (weird name, great blog!), a new study shows that higher levels of ‘walkability’ are directly linked to higher home values.

The report, “Walking the Walk: How Walkability Raises Housing Values in U.S. Cities,” looked at 94,000 real-estate transactions in 15 markets across the U.S.

The report was commissioned by a group called CEO’s for Cities and uses the Walkscore web service that we have integrated within all of our UniqueHomeSites.

WalkScore allows you to view the ‘walkability’ of any known location, drawing in community points of interest from Google‘s vast directory of local stores, restaurants, schools, parks, etc. to calculate a walking distance score.

You can even interact with Walkscore to improve the walkability of your listings.

To improve your listings’ Walk Score, you can easily add and delete amenities yourself.

1. From the local amenities link on your UniqueHomeSite click on the “bigger map” link in the top right corner of the Walkscore box.

2. On the right, above the list of amenities is a link titled “missing something“. Click on this and follow the instructions to add the missing amenity to Google maps.

For any point of interest, you only have to add it once. It will be available for all your future listings for that neighbourhood. 

Its a great way to provide potential homebuyers with valuable information and perhaps fetch a higher price for your listings!


Reinforce your real estate expertise with free educational handouts from NAR

August 13, 2009

education.jpgReal estate professionals looking for content to add to their marketing material should check out this comprehensive list of informative handouts for buyers and sellers, courtesy of the National Association of Realtors).

According to the NAR website, anyone is free to print copies of the handouts or customize them with their own branding. These handouts are perfect for newsletters, Web sites, and promotional kits.

For Canadian real estate professionals, keep in mind that the information is from an American perspective and may need to be modified slightly to reflect the Canadian marketplace.

Nonetheless, this is a great resource!

If you are a Canadian realtor in need of a website for your business, give us a call or email and ask about our UniqueHomeSites website product and services.

1-866-9UNIQUE or sales@uniquehomesites.com

Get Ready for Homeownership
10 Ways to Prepare for Homeownership
5 Common First-Time Home Buyer Mistakes
Why You Should Work With a REALTOR®
Questions to Ask When Choosing a REALTOR®
7 Reasons to Own Your Home
Tax Benefits of Homeownership
Take the Stress Out of Homebuying

Finance Your Home
Specialty Mortgages: Risks and Rewards
Loan Types to Consider
6 Creative Ways to Afford a Home
Lender Checklist: What You Need for a Mortgage
Get Your Finances in Order: To-Do List
Budget Basics Worksheet
What You Can Do to Improve Your Credit
5 Factors That Decide Your Credit Score
How Big of a Mortgage Can I Afford?

Buyers: Find the Right Property
8 Tips to Guide for Your Home Search
How High Tech is Your Home?
5 Property Tax Questions You Need to Ask
10 Questions to Ask the Condo Board
Your Property Wish List
Tips for Finding the Perfect Neighborhood
Tips for Buying in a Tight Market
Pros and Cons of Going Condo
10 Questions to Ask Home Inspectors
What a Home Inspection Should Cover

Buyers: Prepare for Closing and Beyond
5 Things to Know About Homeowner’s Insurance
Tips for Lowering Homeowner’s Insurance Costs
5 Things to Know About Title Insurance
What’s a Home Warranty?
What Not to Overlook on a Final Walk-through
Common Closing Costs for Buyers
Moving With Pets
Closing Documents You Should Keep
17 Tips for Packing Like a Pro

Sellers: Before You Sell
Does Moving Up Make Sense?
8 Reasons Why You Should Work With a REALTOR®
12 Questions to Ask When Choosing Your REALTOR®
5 Things to do Before Putting Your Home on the Market
Understand Agency Relationships
What is Appraised Value?

Sellers: Get Ready for Showings
Simple Tips for Better Home Showings
How to Improve the Odds of an Offer
How to Hold a Successful Garage Sale
Prepare Your Home for a Virtual Tour
Low-Cost Ways to Spruce Up Your Home’s Exterior
12 Tips for Hiring a Remodeling Contractor
5 Feng Shui Concepts to Help a Home Sell

Sellers: Prepare for Closing and Beyond
Understanding Capital Gains in Real Estate
What to Leave for the New Owners
10 Tips for Moving With Pets
Moving Checklist for Sellers
Forms You’ll Need to Sell Your Home
Checklist: 17 Service Providers You’ll Need When You Sell
Open House Safety Tips
How to Prepare for the Open House
Is Your Buyer Qualified?
Tips for Pricing Your Home


Fishing for Sales with Good Photography

July 29, 2009

bassAt UniqueHomeSites.com, we like to share ideas regarding real estate marketing on the Internet.

Today, we want to discuss something that many in the industry seem to ignore – great real estate marketing begins with great photos!

For consumers, there is nothing more frustrating than finding a listing through a search portal that passes the initial search parameters (i.e. price, location, size, etc), but fails to offer additional photos.

The typical reaction to a lack of photos is that something is wrong with the property.

In some cases, the listing agent may do this on purpose so that only the most interested home buyers will contact them personally for more photos.

Regardless, we feel that properties listed for sale on the Internet with only one or two photos are missing out on a huge opportunity to present their listing to as many Internet eyes as possible.

This is particularly true in today’s Internet age, where web surfers are becoming accustomed to open and instant access to information on-line.

One expert in this area is Larry Lohrman, operator of the Photography For Real Estate blog.

He offers some great tips and techniques for real estate photography, including the following tidbit:

“…the front shot is THE most important shot for marketing purposes.

Not only because Realtors have to use the front shot in all their marketing, but because of web site designs that make the thumbnail of the front shot the “lure” (as in fishing lure) that usually motivates the potential home buyer to take the first action (a click to look at more photos) that leads to a home buyer towards a home purchase.”

Fish on!


Better Homes and Gardens enters Canadian Real Estate Marketplace

April 27, 2009

bhglogoBetter Homes and Gardens Real Estate officially announced recently that it will be expanding its real estate brand into Canada after reopening in the United States last summer.

BHG Real Estate is targeting the younger generation of buyers, who have been flooding the market in recent months, at least in Canada, thanks to historically low interest rates and falling prices.

Leading the BHG expansion into Canada, and adding a high degree of respect and familiarity, is former executive vice-president with Royal LePage CanadaSherry Chris.

According to an article by Garry Marr of the Financial Post, which discusses the BHG expansion, Ms. Chris’ company will go after some of the independent brokerages in those markets but has a hands-off policy when it comes to recruiting any brokers from Coldwell Banker or Century 21.

“If there was an independent company in a major city that wanted to grow and felt that they could grow better by partners and affiliating and utilizing technology Better Homes and Gardens has created, they would become a master franchise for a geographic area,” Chris said.

We’re not exactly sure why the hands-off policy with C21 and Coldwell Banker, but this could be an exciting opportunity for real estate brokers across Canada, particularly those who are familiar with, and heavily use, social media (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc) and other internet marketing technologies.  

We’ve discussed BHG on this blog in the past, pointing out the numerous resources available on their website for anyone buying or selling a home, including an article entitled – ‘14 Ways to Add Curb Appeal’


Canadian Realtors using Video – Re-visited

April 20, 2009

videoAbout a year and a half ago, we did a post on real estate agents in Canada who use video to market themselves and their property listings.

Given that video is rapidly becoming mainstream on the Internet, to the point where surfers/consumers are actually expecting it, we decided to re-visit the subject.

For this post, we searched YouTube for realtors in Canada and found a variety of video marketing techniques being used right now.

To see the complete results of our analysis, visit our recently created YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/uniquehs and have a look at our subscriptions.

Alternatively, have a look at some of the videos below that highlight some of the better uses of video that we found.

Matt Richling, of RE/MAX Affiliates Realty LTD, produced this video for one of his office listings:

Rich Zalaudek, of Homelife Benchmark Realty in White Rock, B.C., employs the professional video services of Video Openhouse for this listing presentation:

Team Cook of Royal LePage Team Realty in Ottawa, provides a more personal approach with voice-over descriptions of the property and neighbourhood.

Edmonton Realtor Sheldon Johnston, of Coldwell Banker Johnston Real Estate, discusses sales, listings, inventory, and first time home buyers in the Edmonton, Alberta, real estate market.

And, last but not least, Vancouver real estate agent Ian Watt of Sutton Group conducts a daily video blog, from his car of all places! This guy is often cited as one of the top video bloggers in North America.