Low interest rates, job and financial changes, and the need to spend more time at home fueled a record-setting pace in the real estate industry over the past year.
Although many experts predict that the COVID-fueled seller’s market will slow slightly as vaccination rates increase, Zillow still expects 6.9 million existing home sales this year – the highest number since 2005. That projection would translate into a one-year gain in sales of nearly 22%, the largest since the early 1980s.
In order to keep pace with demand while meeting social distancing guidelines during the pandemic, even real estate agents who previously had been slow to embrace new technologies began using them. And buyers responded. Recent Realtor.com statistics show that home listings with virtual tours receive 87% more views than those without them. The same research also reveals that 54% of home buyers skip listings that don’t include virtual tours.
But what about when herd immunity takes hold, and social distancing is just a bad memory? What real estate photography trends are here to stay? To find out, we sat down with RE/MAX Chief Customer Officer Nick Bailey, who has 23 years of experience in the real estate industry.
“The velocity at which consumers are demanding better photography, better tours, and a better experience sifting through listings – especially online as their home search begins – is absolutely at the forefront of the consumer experience,” Bailey explains.
Although some agents might feel they can shortcut high-quality photography when there is a shortage of inventory, Bailey warns against it. Homes sell faster and at a better price when photography “is done right,” he says.
“It is the job of the agent to get the most amount of money in the least amount of time for the home seller. And what we’ve experienced over the last year is that there are some things that will stick and some that won’t.”
What won’t stick around post-pandemic are sight-unseen home purchases, according to Bailey.
According to a study commission by Redfin, 63% of people who bought a home last year made an offer on a property that they had not visited in person. That number was up 32% from the year before. However, Bailey says that trend will slow down right along with pandemic fears.
When it comes to home shopping, “people want to touch it, feel it, smell it, experience it in person,” Bailey explains.
Admitting that the real estate industry historically has lagged behind the times in adopting new technologies, Bailey says that the pandemic forced many agents to use them. Here are four photography trends he says will last.
1. Videos and virtual tours. High-quality video tours are “100% here to stay” as a way for homebuyers to narrow down the number of homes they tour in person, according to Bailey.
“Whether it’s (the home) three days on the market, or 30 days, or three months, if the photography doesn’t look right, it may discount someone seeing it in person,” he says.
Bidding wars have been commonplace in many areas during the current seller’s market. Agents “have to bring more parties to the table to create that type of bidding war for the seller, and these (virtual tours) are the way to do it,” he maintains.
“Now, hopefully, agents will not just use a virtual tour because you got the most expensive listing you ever had but that you get to the point where you use (virtual tours) for everything…That’s what buyers and sellers want to see.”
2. Aerial photography. Statistics from the MLS demonstrate that homes with drone footage sell an average of 68% faster than homes with standard images. And one in five drones in the air is taking photos for the real estate industry, according to Bailey.
Noting that cost and convenience may have limited the use of this technology in the recent past, Bailey says both reasons are becoming much less of a deterrent. He also predicts that as demand for aerial footage on real estate listings continues to increase, “people will become much better drone drivers.”
3. Enhanced perspective. High-quality home photography should display a home in the “reality in which it exists,” according to Bailey.
Explaining that buyers are often disappointed when a home doesn’t look the same in person as it does in a photo or a video, Bailey says, “I think what’s going to be the next evolution is that we’re not going to use photography to hide features.”
High-quality images should expose “the reality of the property versus hiding what’s not that great,” he says.
4. Virtual staging. Although it gained steam as a hands-free alternative to physically staging a property during the pandemic, virtual staging will continue to be a vital part of marketing a home in the future, according to Bailey.
“The challenge (for agents) is getting the homeowner to modify the home because it’s personal,” he says. He also points out that vacant homes often take longer to sell than occupied homes.
Virtual staging satisfies both ends of the spectrum as a convenient, inexpensive way for homebuyers to visualize the space. Bailey stresses that agents avoid doing a “bait and switch” with the technology, however, using it only to place furniture and accessories, not to cover up any flaws that might appear in the photograph.
High-quality photography is essential not only to create an attractive property listing but also to attract new clients.
Bailey explains that even after a home sells, agents can use quality photos and videos to show potential clients how they will market their property. “You can use this (video) as your personal library to broadcast what you put into the business,” he says. “Because at the end of the day, there are a lot of agents out there who aren’t going to go that extra mile. Those that do are the top producers.”
If you are ready to take your listing photography to that top-producer level, Snappr can help. Snappr is the one-stop-shop for all your real estate photography needs. When you let Snappr take care of your listing photos and virtual tours, you can focus more on what you do best – selling homes.