Home Listing Photos: What You Can't Get Away With

home listing photosBy Jeff Brown

As if there aren't enough hassles in selling a home, one more has come into focus: You really must have professional photos.

That's the advice in a recent Wall Street Journal story starting off with the point that a big part of home shopping is now done online. A listing with just one murky outside shot taken on a dreary day can't compete with one that has 25 perfectly lighted photos from just the right angles. Most homeowners and Realtors just aren't good enough to take quality shots on their own, the WSJ article suggests.

Another thing to worry about on the road to selling a home in one of the worst housing markets in history (even given the recent rebound).

Let's put this new concern into the big picture.

Spend a half hour on a major listing site, such as AOL Real Estate, Realtor.com, Zillow.com or Trulia.com, and you'll see that good photos really do speak thousands of words. The most appealing listings often have 20 to 25 shots covering the home's interior, exterior and grounds.

It quickly becomes irritating to see a listing with only one to three photos, and likely will spark some doubts about the property: What's the deal? Aren't they serious about selling? Have they skimped on other things, too, like maintenance? Do the sellers really think I'm going to drive all the way out there just to see what ought to be on the Web?

Good photos, and plenty of them, really are a basic requirement these days. They should be taken on a sunny day from plenty of perspectives, and the home should be tidy and clean.

But paying hundreds of dollars to a professional photographer might be going too far. The WSJ story quotes experts promoting photos that make the home look as good as possible, with wide-angle lenses making a home look bigger, for instance. But misleading photos can backfire.

Here's how:

1. Careful cropping can conceal the fact that the neighbor's home is too close for comfort, but buyers who come in person will see that right away -- or spot it with the satellite view in Google Maps.

2. A buyer who might have made an offer on a home with a few flaws might walk away if a tour is a letdown after the stunning photos.

3. Remember, too, that many home shoppers will be brought by their own agents, who in many cases won't have seen the home before. Embarrass too many agents with deceptive advertising and the home might not be shown as often, delaying a sale.

So what's the key to selling a home in today's buyer's market?

As one of the readers commenting on the WSJ story said, the biggest factor hasn't changed: price. Flaws make a home less valuable, even if you can Photoshop them into oblivion.

See more on TheStreet.com:
10 Home Improvements You're Wasting Time and Money On
5 Great Cities for Gen-Y'ers
Why You Should Think About a Weird Mortgage


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