It seems like a relatively simple question. Everyone “knows” that good photos sell properties - faster and for more money. There are numerous websites and blogs advocating great photography for selling your home, but very few (almost none that we could find) back that up with any real-world data. We didn’t want to just regurgitate the same old advice, so went in search of anything substantial.
We were surprised by what we found. Contrary to popular myth, it’s not quite as simple as “better photographs sell your property faster and for more money”.
In the interest of full disclosure, data on the subject is so sparse that we were only able to find one source of usable information - we tried to find more, but there is virtually nothing “out there”. The data used comes from Redfin, a US real estate broker and data aggregator. A summary of the data can be found here: http://www.redfin.com/research/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2010/09/RedfinPhotoAnalysis.xls. It involves a large data set of over 100,000 sales, however is based on data from 2009 and only considers properties within 2 states in the USA.
The distribution of the sales analysed indicates a bias towards DSLR (Digital Single-lens Reflex) photos at the top end of the market and point and shoot at the lower end, which makes sense to us - the higher the value of the property, the more likely the seller/agent will invest in professional photos. The graph below indicates the proportion of photos for each camera type, shown by asking price band.
Although we follow the conclusions drawn in Redfin’s spreadsheet, and they are correct, we don’t feel they’re totally representative for decision making here, due to this biasing of each type of photo - for example, they conclude that DSLR photos drive over 60% more traffic towards adverts, but this is largely due to the increased number of DSLR properties at the top end of the market, where the DSLR photos appear to make a bigger difference to traffic than in the lower bands. Accordingly, we’ve used their figures but our own analysis to highlight issues which we believe are relevant.
Another issue worth mentioning is that the original data only differentiates between camera type - so point and shoot vs. DSLR. We are making a bit of a jump and assuming that DSLR photos are “professional looking”, and whilst that may be true in a great deal of cases, it’s not guaranteed. It’s also not guaranteed that point and shoot photos will be bad - however, it does seem a fair bet that DSLR photos are likely to be better than point and shoot photos on average - the chances of a professional photographer taking bad photos is lower than the chances of an amateur doing the same, and the chances of a pro using a point and shoot camera are fairly slim - though either type of photographer or camera can be used to create good and poor photos.
Whilst we appreciate that the data used here is far from ideal, it’s all we have to work with and we believe that it’s sufficient to show some trends.
Across the board, properties sold for more per square foot - at least 18% more per price band, with 3 bands reaching more than 28% more per square foot:
The adverts also received over 25% more traffic per band, on average (though the units/scale for views per month isn’t clear):
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, professional looking photographs only increased the chances of selling a property above the $300,000 mark. Below the $300,000 asking price, we believe that the asking price per square foot (20% more per foot than their point and shoot alternatives), is likely to have had a negative impact on the sales figures.
Time on the market was only decreased above $400,000. The reason for the increase in days on the market at the bottom end of the scale may again be down to the reduced living area of the properties with DSLR photos:
Another surprising revelation was that in the $900,000-$1m category, properties with professional looking photographs sold for nearly $17,000 more than properties with the same asking price with point and shoot pictures (even after you get past the reduced living area).
Across the board, properties with professional looking photos were asking 20-30% more, per square foot. The asking vs. sold prices per feet grand totals are also telling - an average of 88.3% of the asking price was achieved with the professional looking photos, vs 87.6% without them - so those asking more for their properties by square footage are actually achieving it too:
So, reading between the lines, what can we deduce?
- Owners with professional looking photos ask and achieve a lot more for the same property - around 20% more on average.
- Professional looking photos can help drive over 25% more traffic to your listing.
- Professional looking photos in combination with a 20% higher asking price increases the time a property is likely to be on the market by 7%.
- Professional looking photos in combination with a 20% higher asking price increases the chance of the property not selling by 1.9%.
Naturally it’s a balancing act. The data clearly shows that there’s an increased risk of not selling your property if you increase the asking price by 20%, but that was a given. What’s interesting to us is that there is likely a middle ground, somewhere between a 0 and 20% increase in asking price, where using professional looking photographs alongside the price increase allows you to generate a higher sale price whilst not affecting the duration on the market or chance of selling your property. The numbers also show that at least 20-30% more per foot is achievable with the right photos.
We’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions as to whether professional looking photos can help with the sale of your property, but it looks pretty cut and dried from where we’re sitting. We’re going to keep our eyes open for new research on the matter and will bring you anything we find.