Monthly Archives: February 2010

A Photo is Worth a Thousand Words… and Five Times the Views

Back in the day when the only place to advertise homes for sale was your local Pennysaver or newspaper classified ads, photos weren’t all that important.  You could get away with a single grainy black and white shot – or even no photo at all – and people would still come out to see your home.

In the present day world of internet advertising, that is just no longer true.

Working at MHVillage I will occasionally hear Professionals say, “If I don’t post photos, people will be curious and more likely to come out and see the home for themselves.”  This couldn’t be more wrong. The #1 request I hear from buyers is for more home photos.  Let’s face it, they want to see what the home looks like – before they get in their cars.

With some digital cameras now available for under $30, digital photos are easy and inexpensive to take.  Your customers know this, so when they don’t see a photo of a home on a listing, the first thing on their mind isn’t “I should drive out and see this home” it’s, “What are they hiding?”

I’m sure you’ve heard the old phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” and it is never more true than when it comes to home listings.  No matter how well you describe a home, nothing conveys more information than a few well taken photos.  From beautiful move-in ready homes to handyman specials, pictures immediately tell buyers if this property is going to meet their needs.

Want proof?  Last month on MHVillage basic listings without photos were looked at an average of 12 times.  Our Premium listings (which have unlimited photos) were viewed 62 times! Here’s a short break down for you:

Listings Statistics on MHVillage

Wondering how this holds up across the country?  Take a look at some of these examples from different states.

The simple truth. More photos = More Views

Look at that!  In South Carolina, a Basic home listing without photos was looked at by potential buyers an average of 49 times last month – not bad.  Or at least, it doesn’t seem bad, until you see that homes with our Premium package and unlimited photos were looked at an average of 348 times during the course of the same month!

Unfortunately there is also a common misconception in our industry that seniors or people purchasing manufactured homes don’t have computers.  Wow, is THAT ever wrong!  The fact that there are over 20,000 people a day on MHVillage looking at homes and communities tells you that your customers are using the internet to shop for homes.  In fact, according to nielsenwire, there are six million more seniors using the web than five years ago! We also know that 87% of buyers used the internet in their search for a home, as compared to only 47% that used the newspaper!

It comes down to this  – whether people are looking to relocate or find a place next door, more and more are starting their home search online.  Plus they are using that information.  According to the 2008 NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 77% of people drove by or viewed a home as direct result of their internet home search.

What does this mean to you?  Getting your homes online is essential, but it isn’t enough to just advertise a price and the numbers of beds and baths.  To really capture your share of the market and bring people to your door, you have to go the extra step and show them with photos what you have to offer.  It’s simple, easy, cheap and effective.  Read on to learn more about taking great photos and getting them where your buyers can see them….

Taking Effective and Eye Catching Photos

A beautiful photo of a home on MHVillage

So, now that you know why it is essential to have photos on your listings, let’s talk about how to make them more effective.  Photos can make your listings come alive. They can show the immaculate landscaping, rural views, inviting fireplace, or an upgraded kitchen. On homes that need a little TLC, they can tell the “at home handyman” what kind of work needs to be done.  Essentially, pictures allow people a peek inside the home that raises their interest and sets their expectations.

The biggest problem with photos is not taking the time to post them. Unfortunately, posting pictures online brings up a number of tasks some of us have never done. However, if you are looking at this newsletter, chances are you have the skills to upload a photo. In this article we’ll talk a bit about what to photograph and also some helpful hints on getting them online.

What Should I Photograph?

The number one photo people want is a CLEAR shot of the front of the home. Here’s a list of suggested photographs, in order of importance.

Words couldn't describe a kitchen like this.

  1. The front of the home – a clear, close shot
  2. The living room/great room/family room. Include the fireplace or interesting entrance way if you have one. Include a separate shot of the view from the room if you have something exceptional.
  3. The kitchen
  4. The back or sides of the home
  5. Any feature you claim is remodeled or premium quality
  6. Any outside features like decks or garages
  7. The landscape or setting of the home
  8. The master bedroom
  9. The master bathroom
  10. Second bedrooms, bathrooms or utility areas.

Tips on Photographing Homes

It is worth taking a few extra minutes to get the right shot. Here are some tips:

"Built In" can mean different things - this shows the feature to its full advantage!

  • Remove cars, toys, trash, etc. from around the home.
  • Keep the light behind you. This can mean shooting the front of the home in the morning and the back in the afternoon. If you have interesting flood lights, consider taking a shot of the home at night, but always include a day shot.
  • Take interior shots with the widest angle setting on your camera.
  • Always use the flash indoors. If the shot is overexposed (washed out) adjust the exposure controls. If you do not have exposure controls, cover half the electronic flash with some paper.
  • Photos taken toward a window or door during the day will appear underexposed. Consider taking the photos at night or closing the shades. If you are trying to showcase the view, take the shot through an open window.
  • Crop the image to feature the home clearly. If you want a distant shot featuring the landscaping or setting, fine, but be sure to include a second photo where the home occupies more than half the image.

Keep Your Photos Updated

Highlight special work done to the home.

In the current market, we know that it may take a little while for a home to sell.  In areas of the country where the seasons dramatically change, make sure that your photos are updated to reflect the current season.  While the home may have been looking its best in the summer, having those photos up in the dead of winter shows that the listing has been online for several months.  That gives your buyer knowledge you might not want them to have.  You don’t need four sets of photos, but having one for warm months and one for colder months makes your listing appear new and recently posted.

Also update the photos if any visible work is done to the home.  Make sure you include in your photo description some details of the recent remodeling, “Newly painted living room” for example.  Remember, on MHVillage whenever you add new photos to your listing, any potential buyer that has been using our “Watch This” program will be automatically notified of the additions!  They will get an email the day you add new photos inviting them to come back and take a look.

Describe Your Photos

It always surprises me that more people don’t use the Photo Caption field on MHVillage.  It’s a free sales tool and it comes with every photo.  You can write a short phrase for each photo that is displayed right on your listing.  Need help?  Try placing any of these words before “kitchen” or “living room” and see how they can make a home sound desirable:

Sunny
Spacious
Roomy
Cozy
Bright
Warm
Inviting
Well Laid Out
Charming
Open
Homey
Attractive
Cute
Comfortable
… or failing all of that, there is always “Has Huge Potential!”

Uploading Photos on MHVillage

A good photo combined with a good description can really sell the benefits of a home.

We’ve recently updated the Edit Photos page on MHVillage to make it even easier to add your digital photos.  Just click the Add Photos button and select the file off your computer.  That’s it!  We’ll automatically make sure the photo is the right size and add it to your listing.

The best format for electronic photos is JPeg (extension .jpg or .jpeg). Cameras usually give you JPeg as an option when you take photos. If your photos are not saved in JPeg format, use the software that came with the camera and the save-as command to change the format. Do not put the photos into a word processing file or try to upload any type of “photo album” – it will not work.

Make sure to pay attention to the position of the photo in the photo list. Photo #1 is included in the search results for Featured or Premium listings. If you would like to reorder your photos, simply drag and drop the photos into the order you would like.  You can also rotate the photos and the descriptions right on this page.

In this digital age people shop for everything on the web, from books to electronics, from cars to ceramic tile.  We expect to see images of these products online – and homes are no different. In fact, because every home is unique, I’d say pictures of homes are more important than anything else on the listing.

Do you have your own favorite tips for taking home photos?  Enter our Photo Tips Contest and tell us all about them!

Photo Tips Contest – Premium Listing Give Away

We’d love to hear your tips and advice for taking great home photos!  Share them with us by emailing us at photocontest@mhvillage.com and we will take our favorites and post them in next month’s newsletter!

Each person who submits a photo taking idea will be automatically entered into a drawing to win free Premium listings!  Premium home listings can have unlimited photos, so you can show off your skills behind the camera!

Winners will be selected at random and will each receive a free upgraded listing to Premium for 30 days.