Is that really what you're selling?

January 22, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Listing photography matters. Really.

It matters to your client
It matters for your reputation
It matters for referrals
It matters for your marketing.

I don't know about you, but I don't want to buy any of these....

Does the realtor come with the loo?


One Hour

January 20, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Every so often, I, like all humans, get into a funk, or a rut, or it's dark and cold outside and, well.... It's easy to become distracted, or to invent some distractions at those times. I also occasionally fall into the "there's nothing to shoot" trap.

In the middle of January, a bare two weeks after the hype of the holidays, when the holiday decorations are 80 percent off, and the music is back to normal "muzak" in the shops, and when spring is yet another eight weeks away - and you know there's a few weeks of wicked cold still to come, hunkering down is a pretty attractive pass time. Today, in one of those moments, I settled in with a photography book I've had for a few months, and have cracked but not studied: Mike Drew's On the Road.

Mike is a seasoned photographer. He's been with the Calgary Sun since the Sun began and has travelled all over the planet shoot and working. This book, On the Road, is home-grown, simple, uncomplicated, deep and beautiful: it covers the roads around Calgary to a bunch of small, out-of-the-way places, where probably a few people would think, "there's nothing there too shoot."  And yet, there's everything to shoot. I read all the words, which Mike wrote, so much in his own voice. As I put the book down, having read it still in my jammies at 10 a.m., I thought, "What am I still doing inside? It's the middle of January, it's a gorgeous Alberta day, four degrees, and I have time before my shoot today."

I'm going to take advantage of these lulls, the days I'm unmotivated, the days I need to remember my photojournalism instructor's gruff, "Go shoot wild art," directives and how forcing point of view is a darned good means of pulling the focus in to a single point, and how calming that is. I've shot some of my favourite work on days I thought I didn't have time.

So this occasional series called One Hour will be the results of chasing wild art. Yesterday, I took my gear, my dog, and my hour, and went to the Weaslehead in North Glenmore Park in Calgary. It was nice.


Click this link for the gallery; Prints are available for purchase.
Enjoy.


A Big Story about How It's the Little Things...

December 01, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

It's been an interesting 20 months around our house - literally "around" due to a renter, who moved in next door....

 

I learned a lot of things in the last year and a half - about social behaviour, about patience, about ear-plugs, about wind, and what it does to curtained gazebos, and about the minutia of the landlord/tenant legislation in Alberta. I also learned about what it feels like to be a potential seller, and how a careless comment can put a hole in a heart....

Our neighbour of more than 20 years has an agreement with their landlord which allows them to sublet. There have always been sub-tenants next door, but in all that time, beyond the occasional parking crunch (mostly on-street around here), there have been zero issues.

Last year, a sub-tenant moved in, leaving all propriety, manners, and privacy somewhere else.  Our dining room window faces their stairs and porch. Between the six times daily smoking on the porch punctuated by also-six-times-daily phlegm ejection into junipers beside the stairs, the sub-tenant was an ever-present fixture. It didn't help their attire of choice, regardless of weather,  was shorts. Just shorts, and I mean JUST shorts..... nothing else.  At. All.And, if that tenant wasn't on the porch, they were in the back yard, where they'd placed their bbq against the fence (no, I don't know what they were thinking...), which meant they were either watching us come and go from the front, or watching us through the fence; hence the curtained gazebo. Also hence the opaque window film and a change from open for breeze to closed to keep out the smoke.

The situation did not improve after I lost my cool one day and suggested, strongly, the tenant please, please use his bathroom indoors as a receptacle for what was coming out of his lungs. This did not land well, and was met with strong language and threats, an uptake in phlegm ejection and the addition of "farmer blows."

Worse, the tenant began to listen for our back door; any time they heard us outside, they were out there, smoking and spewing... it was gross. Eighteen months of daily incursions resulted in two letters to the owner and, finally, when it got to be too much, a phone call.

It was at this point I understood one of the finer points of the provincial tenancy act is this: our neighbour of 20 years is the tenant of the landlord. They are the landlord of the tenant they sublet to. What this meant is the actual owner didn't necessarily have the legal footing to act with respect to the sub-tenant, although he did speak to his long-term tenant. It didn't make any difference, unfortunately; the sub-tenant was on a mission.

For the record, the tenants in the other side of the residence - a duplex - have posed some challenges over the last 10 years as well, including an aggressive dog and one of them hitting my car and busting off the front bumper while my entire family was watching during dinner, and their "I didn't do that and I have no idea who you are, or where you live," comments when we confronted them....

So, around the time the entire situation became unbearable, I mentioned the residence to a builder who is very active in this community. I didn't expect that mention would result in anything, necessarily.

Imagine my joy three weeks later, when a For Sale sign appeared on the lawn next door! I was ecstatic but my enthusiasm turned into confusion and not a little panic within hours, when said builder, hoping to acquire an "assembly" a term I'd never heard, made us an offer.

As a real estate photographer, I am regularly in contact with realtors, sellers, buyers and buyers agents. I thought I had a pretty good handle on the drill, until this offer landed in my ear.

I know this builder well. They do beautiful work. Because I had made the initial overture to the builder, and because I had suggested our property might also be available, and because the rep knows what work I do, their representative rightly felt free to speak frankly to me. There is a gap, however, between business, and one's attachment to the home they've lived in for 30 years; the rep's comment, "You should take this deal, your house is just a tear-down" was an unintended but painful slap. It was at that moment my understanding of how a little comment - and a presumption - can kill a deal. To be clear, the rep in no way meant to be hurtful but I was shocked by how hard that comment hit, even though I know it is correct. But that unintended lack of awareness killed the deal for me.

The lesson I learned is this; even though a seller/potential seller brings you the deal, is motivated, driven, decided - whatever - they will have bits of their heart and soul stored in the walls and spaces of their home. Even knowing the seller wants it sold, we must always keep, in our back pocket, the knowledge sellers will leave a bit of themselves in that home.

I bear no ill-will at all towards that builder's rep. He has an excellent reputation, and was doing his job. I'm very glad to have had this experience. It shone a bright light on a little, important detail.


Real Estate Photography; Why you SHOULD hire a professional

June 06, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Most of us have those times of trying to be all things to all people, and most of us fail. Jack/Jill-of-all-trades is a great idea, but is rarely functional in real life. When I was in business school, the idea of being great at what I do and hiring others who are great at what they do was reinforced daily.

Where it comes to marketing generally, and specifically when your marketing concerns a specific person or family, and a product - a home purchase - a highly-emotional process - quality of marketing really matters to that client, and to you. Trying to be "all things to all people" can fail badly. It isn't a question of desiring to be the best at everything, but a fact time simply doesn't permit.

Here are some facts about real estate and realtors - and these are general; every area of the country, and cities and towns within those areas, will have their peculiarities:

  • On average, realtors sell between 12 and 15 homes a year. Some are very high-producers and some not; generally, however, those figures form the average.
  • In major markets, single-family homes sell between $450,000 and $650,000 - and again, these are averages; Vancouver and Toronto currently skew national averages quite a bit.
  • Most commissions are shared between two realtors, so, on an average sale, each realtor will make in the area of $9000 before brokerage fees and marketing costs, based on the average sold price.


Photography for an entire year is half of one commission, is a cost of doing business and is a write-off against annual income: Win/Win.

Some people see photography as an unnecessary cost; here's how I see it:

  • It is important to understand almost all those looking for a realtor, and those looking to buy a home, begin their research on line. On this basis alone, the quality of listing photography is paramount. Why? because studies over the last five years show clearly home-seekers click away from poorly-photographed listings: your listing may be wonderful, but if it doesn't look wonderful on line, a potential buyer may skip over it. Worse, if your listings look poor, potential clients will move on to another realtor, whose listings look great.
  • From the client's perspective, excellent listing photography means the seller sees their home looking gorgeous. My goal is to hear, "Wow, that looks amazing! I'd buy that," from the client.
  • From the realtor's perspective, if their MLS listings consistently look gorgeous they'll attract more - and better - clients. Clients are attracted by beautiful listings and beautiful listings mean a dedicated professional realtor.
  • Beautifully-photographed listings sell faster. This is a fact, and this also plays into reputation and more importantly, into referrals!
  • Clients have higher regard for realtors who have a team of professionals around them.

Beautiful photography matters; it is influential, it establishes you as a pro and as a reliable professional, and, most importantly, it shows your clients they are your primary concern.


How to stage your home for real estate photography

March 01, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

How can you maximize exposure for your for-sale home? Details. Take care of the details. Make your home attractive to potential buyers.
Here are some staging tips.

START HERE: Narrow your view

An easy way to see better what a potential buyer will see when they view your for-sale home is to photograph each room, and view the images on a computer screen. Pay attention to what items in those images jump out, or draw your eye, and make notes for each room. Note clutter, burnt-out or different colour light bulbs, crooked lamp shades, damaged or dirty walls, items showing above cabinets or below beds. Take one shot from the door of each bedroom, and from two angles of your living room, kitchen and basement.

Main Floor

De-clutter and make space. You may be very comfortable in your space, but if you intend to sell and sell quickly, your goal is to make buyers comfortable in that space. Give potential buyers every opportunity to see themselves and their stuff in that space.

  • Remove personal items - knick-knacks, personal photos, magazines, newspapers, anything you don't use at least on a weekly basis.
  • Hide your TV/stereo remotes in a drawer.
  • Edit your furniture; make your rooms look larger by removing anything that doesn't need to be there.
  • Vacuum/sweep floors, including under rugs and throws.
  • De-clutter your kitchen, and be ruthless about it. Remove anything you don't use every day. Scrub and shine the sink and counter tops, and wipe down cabinets.
  • Hide dishcloths, dish scrubs, dish washing soap; if these items are out, your potential buyer instantly thinks, "needs cleaning." Out of view and your buyer thinks, "Already very clean."
  • Clean off the fridge. There should be nothing on top of or attached to the fridge.
  • Remove items from bulletin boards.
  • Hide the garbage bins - and fire your photographer if they photograph garbage bins inside the house. Nobody wants to buy trash.

Bedrooms

  • Make the beds. Make, not pull up the sheets; make them and dress them up a bit. If your box spring is exposed, get a bed skirt. This will instantly make the room look cleaner, and gives you extra under-bed, invisible storage.
  • Remove laundry hampers and hang up/store all clothing; your buyer wants to step into their potential bedroom, not to feel like they're invading your private space.
  • If you're having showings, wash the sheets; you may not be able to smell yourself, but anyone viewing the home will. Clean sheets make a huge difference.
  • Deodorize carpets with baking soda: buy large boxes of baking soda, perforate the box top with a sturdy skewer to make 10 - 15 large-ish holes, and sprinkle the baking soda over your carpets. Let it sit for 30 - 45 minutes, then vacuum.
  • Store extra blankets and bedding.

Basement

  • If your basement is finished, treat it as you would your main floor living areas: de-clutter, remove personal items, sweep/vacuum and deodorize. On the point of deodorize, take care with spray scents and incense; those can leave bitter smells, and some people are sensitive to strong odours. Wash anything washable - blankets and throws, and throw pillows if they're washable. Most throws and pillows can spend 10 minutes in a warm dryer, with a dryer sheet, to freshen up.
  • If your basement is unfinished, the more you can contain items in one area, the larger the space will look and the easier it will be for potential buyers to imagine themselves and their stuff there.
  • Use clean sheets to "wall off" your storage area; by hiding your boxes you instantly make the basement clean!


Bathrooms

  • Of all the rooms in your home, the bathrooms must be spotless. Clean the floors and super-clean mirrors; spend money on a set of good, white or off-white towels - and only have those up for photos and showings
  • Hang a white shower curtain; remove old bathroom/shower rugs; make sure the area around the sink(s), shower and tub are free of mould and discolouration. Beach if necessary, or remove and replace old caulking/silcone
  • De-clutter your personal care items. Box up everything you don't use daily. Items you use often - every couple days or weekly at least - can be stored in drawers or under the sink. During photography and showings, your shower and bath should be empty of personal care items
  • Remove branded items and clear counters around the sink; these areas should be free of soaps, toothbrushes, hair brushes, and personal items.
  • Some personal items should be removed all together. Although they should not, potential buyers will open cupboards and drawers, so certain personal items should disappear entirely during showings.

Exteriors

  • Curb-appeal also matters: store garden tools, hoses, shovels, toys and lawn/yard-care implements; hide trash bins; cut the lawn, or shovel; make sure all pathways are clear and free from debris and ice. 
  • Spray gate hinges and locks with WD-40 and tighten up any loose gate screws. Make sure your lawn/common areas are free of dog and cat 'dirt.'

Photography

After the amount of work you will do to prepare your home for sale, you should expect excellent photography. A gorgeous home can look used and dark when poorly photographed.

  • Insist your realtor use a skilled, professional real estate photographer.
  • Check out potential realtors' listings on MLS.ca to see the quality of their listing photography.
  • More than 95 percent of potential buyers start their search on line.
  • Of that 95 percent, more than 90 percent skip listings with poor photography.

As a point of reference, on average, realtors sell 10 - 15 homes per year. The cost of professional photography for 15 listings is approximately equal to HALF the commission of ONE listing, and that cost is a tax write-off business expense. Professional photography should be part of your realtor's marketing package.

Staging
Selling a home is a lot of work, the goal being a quick sale. A staged home will always photograph better and sell more quickly than a comparable lived-in home. If it's all too much, or you don't have time to prepare, there are excellent organisation and staging companies in YYC; definitely worth contacting, if you don't have time, or need assistance preparing your home for sale.

Save Time and Reduce Stress Prior to Moving:
As you edit the furnishings and clutter in your home, begin packing away (in labelled boxes) all non-essential items. Anything you don't use on a regular basis should be boxed and labelled. As a bonus, you'll be able to start your "donate" and "toss" boxes. When it comes time to move, you may find you have 50 percent of the job done - a huge stress reducer prior to a move.

Need some specific help?

Want professional photography?
Email me! info@julievincentphotography

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