It’s an undeniable reality. By some estimates, over 90 percent of homebuyers shop that way
One result of this change in buyer habits contends Jeff LaGrange, Vice President of the RE/MAX Northern Illinois Region, is that home listings, which once were little more than compilations of basic information, now can be powerful marketing tools that greatly help or hinder a home sale. “Online shopping lets buyers view more properties in greater detail than was ever possible in the days of paper listings,” said LaGrange.
That’s wonderful for buyers but a challenge for sellers.
“Online listings have to capture the attention of buyers or the home is less likely to sell, and there are two approaches to do that effectively,” he said. “One route is to price the home very aggressively. That certainly gets buyers’ attention. The other is to present the home via an alluring series of photos that make buyers think, ‘Gee, that place looks great. Let’s ask for a showing.’ ”
The way a home is presented online “has become the most important element in the entire sales process,” contends Mike Cluck, a broker with RE/MAX Excels in Geneva, Ill. “Homes that are presented effectively in photos are the ones drawing the most showings and fastest sales,” he said. RE/MAX brokers surveyed on this topic recommend using a professional photographer for listing photos in almost every instance, and Madonna Egan of RE/MAX 1st Service in Orland Park, Ill., offered a recent example of the difference good photos can make.
“Not long ago a couple contacted me after their home failed to sell for a year. I looked at the listing, and the photos were dark and clearly not of professional caliber. Plus, the home hadn’t been prepared fully,” Egan recalled. “First, we prepared the home thoroughly, then brought in a professional photographer. The results were immediate. The home was under contract in a week.” However, Egan concedes that for very modestly priced homes she will often take the photos herself. “I’ll make sure the home looks its best and then take plenty of photos, and if I’m not satisfied with what I’ve gotten, I’ll come back and do it again,” she said.
As for using video in online listings, the RE/MAX brokers were united in their lack of enthusiasm. “Our office has experimented with several video formats and concluded they generally aren’t worth the trouble,” explained Ashley Fuhr of RE/MAX Edge in Chicago. “I’ve found photos and a floor plan have greater impact.”
Tedd Bertrand of RE/MAX Showcase in Gurnee, Ill., uses videos rarely and then only those shot from a drone to show the home’s exterior and surroundings. “It’s difficult to give buyers a feel for a home’s surroundings with still photos. Drone videos do that effectively. They also offer a view of the roof, and especially with larger homes, buyers like to see that,” Bertrand said.
Planning ahead for the photos you want can also be a big help, noted Linda Feinstein of RE/MAX Signature Homes in Hinsdale, Ill. “I always advise my clients who want to market their home in the colder months to take photos of the entry area and grounds during the prior summer and will even send a photographer to get the shots. Without the visual references those photos offer, it is difficult for buyers to imagine how lovely a home and its grounds look in summer if they visit it any time between Thanksgiving and early April,” she said.
Once photos are taken, how many should be used in the listing? “With current technology, there is almost no practical limit, but I tailor the number to the size of the property and its price,” said Fuhr. “For a one-bedroom condo, six to eight photos may be sufficient, but for a luxury home, 30 might not be too many, and you might want to show the home both in bright daylight and as it looks in the evening.” When it comes to preparing a home for those photos, Bertrand and the other brokers agree that minimizing clutter, emphasizing cleanliness and even doing a bit of staging can lead to more effective photos. “You want to depersonalize the photos so that buyers don’t feel they’re looking at the sellers’ home but at a home, they can make their own,” Bertrand said.
Perhaps the most common shortcoming the RE/MAX brokers notice in online listing photos is a lack of proper preparation. “Their home is often the most valuable asset people own,” explained Mike Cluck. “When it’s time to sell, it needs to be presented with that reality in mind, and that means plenty of attention to detail.”
RE/MAX Northern Illinois has been the leader in the northern Illinois real estate market since 1989 providing a full range of residential and commercial services. With more than 2,200 sales associates and 106 offices throughout the area, RE/MAX Northern Illinois has helped thousands of families with their home buying and selling needs. For more information, visit www.remax.com or download the RE/MAX mobile real estate app.