Real Estate Photography | Tips from a pro when looking for a house to buy

“This looks absolutely nothing like it looked online! Real estate photography is a scam!”

When people walk into the house, a lot of the time, they’d realize it’s not exactly the same as what they saw online. There’s a reason for that, and you should know what you’re looking at before showing up so you can set your expectations. So today, we’re going to talk about one of my favorite topics—real estate photography. The reason why it’s my favorite? Because it’s what I do all day. I look at photos of houses, take photos, try and get them to tell a story or present the house in the best light.

In this blog, I have a little few tips I’ve picked up along the way to help you shop smarter and better so let’s get into this.

When a seller wants to sell their house, they want to present it in the best possible way.

To do that, they’re going to hire an agent who has an aesthetic when it comes to real estate photography. A big part of that work is the online presentation. We talk about that as being pretty much the second most critical behind the pricing strategy. Pricing strategy is just a part of the marketing of a home. Also, picking your photographer and videographer, and making sure you hit the right angles to catch the light the right way, etc., is imperative to your success in this market. Mainly because we, as a generation and as a buyer class, are so Instagram-driven right now. If it doesn’t resonate online, it’s probably not going to resonate in person. Thus, people don’t even bother.

However, as someone who does this every day, all day, and looks at many houses online and in person, let me give you a few tips as a consumer. These are few ideas of how you can make sure it’s a good house worth spending your afternoon or evening on touring before you even actually get there.

Tip no. 1: Look at the house’s 3D Walkthrough.

My first tip is to look or ask if they have a 3D walkthrough. Sometimes, sellers have a 3D rendering of the property available for potential buyers to see.  This 3D rendering lets you drag your mouse through it and look through the property’s rooms and stuff. In addition to that, there’s also a 2D version of that 3D rendering included in a real estate photography package. With the 2D version, you would see the property from above or from a top-view perspective. Also, the 2D version could actually serve as a floorplan, if you will.

Now, not every listing agent nor every seller has a floor plan ahead of time. If they do, then great. You can look at that and don’t even have to bother with the 3D thing. Doing so would help to understand the space of which room comes off of which hallway, just sort of from a very high bird’s eye level.

Also, it would help you answer questions like, “Is this a good house for us? Is this something we’d be interested in seeing in the first place?” Because when you hit that angle from the corner at four and a half feet off the ground and the lights hitting everything the right way, it might come out really good on Instagram. However, be careful because it might actually be the smallest little room you would ever step your foot in. So look for a floorplan first, either on the 3D or in the disclosure packet somewhere, if you can get it.

Tip no. 2: Don’t just look at what real estate photography shows you. Look also at the stats!

Secondly, if you see online a house that really resonates with you, that’s really beautiful, and that every photo is just killing it, then go over and look at the stats. If the floorplan is not available, find out how many beds are there and look at the square footage.

Here’s a tip I could share with you: A lot of the time, a three-bedroom, two-bath house that’s under 1,300 square feet is going to be a tight little house. One of those three bedrooms will not be very big or at least as big as the other two. Or, the kitchen will be really small, or it’s not going to have a hallway. Or, the doors will go from the bedroom straight into the kitchen or something like that. In other words, you’re going to have a floor plan concession.

So really, roughly speaking, when I’m looking at stuff, and I see that my buyer could potentially like it, I would then look at its stats. I would take a minute to think and assess the stats thoroughly. For example, if I see a 1,282 square feet, three-bed, two-bath house, I could immediately say that it’s going to be pretty tight. Or, if it’s a two-bed, one-bath, and say it’s well under 950 sq. ft., I know for sure that it’s going to be a small, tiny house. If I’m looking at a four-bedroom house, and it’s anything under 1500 or 1600 square feet, that would trigger my little antenna off.

A Quick Recap of my Thresholds

Let’s just explain my thresholds a little bit more. Given my years and experience as a realtor, I have developed a simple system to judge property stats quickly. For a two-bed, one-bath house under 900 sq. ft., it’s going to be small.

A 3BD/2BA home with a square footage of about 1,250 or 1,300 would also be considered or tagged as small. Now, anything claiming a 4BD or 3+BD that is 1500-1600 sq. ft. will most likely feel a little bit small. It would be small but not too bad, especially if it’s on one level only. If it’s cut into two stories, the staircase will eat up a bunch of that floor plan. Thus, it would feel even much smaller because of that space occupied by the stairs.

Then, there are those houses with four beds and above, which are rare in this market but exist nonetheless. For these houses with under 1,800 in square footage, they would also be considered as small.

Ask more questions and look further into details. Don’t rely entirely on real estate photography.

Aside from the floor area, I also want to look at other things and ask some questions about other details of the property. For example, does the property have multiple levels? Are they counting part of the garage? Are they trying to get a bonus space with low ceilings as part of the bedroom count? Or, are those part of that square footage count? Does the property have three levels as opposed to two? Where is the staircase located?

In other words, dig in a little bit further when you’ve already seen the stats. Try to look behind the curtains of real estate photography. Sometimes you can’t help but go into the house and see it in person because there’s no way to tell. So this isn’t a perfect solution. However, it does help you set your expectations and hopefully get you in a position to skip a few houses if it’s obvious, glaring no.

Tip no. 3: Some photographers or agents just don’t have aesthetics for real estate photography.

I’ve talked about this in a couple of other videos, and I really want to reiterate this. Some photographers or agents just don’t have the aesthetic or take the time to curate or edit the photos. When these photos aren’t resonating because they’re ugly, you just want to skip past them. But please, don’t!

Especially if the stats look good and the neighborhood is a place you want to be. I’ve seen this happen time and time again. People would just skip weird photos or filters or just a bizarre order, or the first three photos don’t make any sense. Or, if the picture shows a beautiful plant and then the sunset and something else that has nothing to do with the house. People would skip past that stuff all the time.

And when you’re talking about an online presence, it’s not good if you’re getting 5%,10%, or 20% fewer views on a photo. That’s going to translate most likely into a little bit less traffic. Subsequently, that little bit less traffic into a little less offers and so forth and so on.

So make sure that if you’re seeing something that kind of checks some of your boxes on paper but isn’t resonating with you online, make an effort to see it in person. Or, at least try and get a walkthrough or a floor plan of some kind. Because I can tell you that sometimes the online photography just doesn’t translate, and if that is the case, that’s an opportunity.

I hope my tips when buying a house have helped you not get fooled by real estate photography.

If I can give you more context on the process of buying or selling your home, please do not hesitate to reach out. My information is below. 

Here’s to all your success!

Best,

Hans Struzyna

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