A picture’s worth a thousand words

There was something odd about the outside of the house – it didn’t look quite right in the pictures but I couldn’t put my finger on why. Then, clicking through the other snaps, I realised why. It had been gutted by fire and was advertised as a deceased estate… so the 15-photo gallery probably wasn’t necessary.

The walls were charred black. There was significant water damage from where firefighters had doused the wooden cottage to put out the blaze. Spray paint markers from the fire investigator’s inspection remained. The ceiling in the bedroom, clearly where the fire had originated, was completed caved in.

Every single element of this clearly tragic tale – again, in case you missed it, described as a deceased estate – was there in photographic detail. No less than 15 images in a high-resolution gallery.

It was terribly unnecessary, especially for a dwelling that would need to be demolished sooner rather than later. Why not stop at one shot of the outside, a map of the block and a few words about the development potential?

I came across this disturbing sale ad a few years back. I had spent a good six months searching for an investment property. There wasn’t much around and the small pool of decent stuff seemed to have a stubborn and unrealistic seller attached to it. It took ages to find something.

That exhaustive task meant I spent hours each night scrolling through real estate listings online. Pretty soon, I discovered that some agents place a lot of value on slick and carefully considered photos. Many others don’t.

At first, the sometimes-awful pictures that accompanied an advertisement amused me. There was an incredibly filthy kitchen that had no redeeming qualities to counteract the pigsty surrounding it. There was a hoarder’s home complete with stacks and stacks of newspapers. Many, many agents captured themselves in mirrors or reflective surfaces.

Too often, there was a grainy, poorly lit and awkwardly angled snap that looked like something a loon holidaymaker might try to palm off as pictorial evidence of Big Foot.

Don’t even get me started on the copywriting. But that’s something a word nut like me might take offence to. The visual is far more important – it’s a first impression that in a fickle buyer’s market you might only get a short amount of time to make.

Stuff it up and you might lose someone who otherwise could’ve delved deeper.

That house I mentioned earlier was in an inner city suburb and prime for redevelopment. It was also fairly cheap for the area so it sold quickly, but bad photography in almost all other cases can limit buyer interest, prolong a sale and, in especially bad situations, might get you a lower price.

Trying to save a few bucks by asking your agent to shoot your property or doing it yourself could wind up being a costly mistake. Get a professional in and take their advice about the most appropriate setting.

Remove clutter, depersonalise a space and even consider staging it with hired furniture if your stuff is a bit on the shabby (or weird) side.

When you’re appealing to an owner-occupier market especially, the visual is like the bait you put on a hook while fishing. The premium quality worm will do you much better than popping on some bread and hoping the barra is particularly desperate that day.

In this vein, I thought I’d share some truly awful real estate photography from my new favourite blog. Enjoy.



Like the colour scheme, that fax machine (in the bedroom?) doesn’t scream ‘modern’.



Just excuse that child’s obvious potty mouth and alcohol problem.



I don’t think that’s red wine stain.



In cases like this, the front yard isn’t necessarily a selling feature.



On the plus side, the neighbours seem especially friendly.



If you and your spouse are extremely close and uninhibited, this is the house for you!



You’ll pay a premium for a flute-playing man in your new bedroom.


The above photos are from the Terrible Real Estate Agent Photographs blog.

Shannon Molloy is the deputy editor of Australian Property Investor magazine, www.apimagazine.com.au