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“My Listing Isn’t Good Enough for Pictures”

I thought we all agreed

As I sit here, working on some training material, I am listening to my wife go through the ritual of scheduling showings.  I’ve never been a fan of being a Selling Agent and typically stuck to strictly Listings.  It’s coming back to me why – the poorly written and maintained listings just sit me off every time.  Tonight the biggest issue in her stack of listings, is that there are very few with photos.  The buyer’s desired price range yields a number of REO listings.

I made the mistake of mouthing off on Twitter about my desire to sit for a few minutes, with agents who have no photos in their listings…I may have mentioned a wiffle bat, too.  I usually take for granted that many of us think similarly in  Not always, but often.  I thought that we all agreed that you simply were not providing good service to a Seller, if you didn’t have a photo.

Several twits came across and said that their MLS requires at least one photo to enter the listing.  Sadly, our MLS does not make such requriements.

One follower commented “is it possible the houses are so trashed that photos would be a disservice?”

I suppose that I had never had a listing that was so undesirable that I couldn’t find at least 10-15 good photos, none-the-less one. If I did, I must have listed it as land and put up a graphic of the survey, or something.

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Now, I’m thinking…

Knowing what I know about consumer behavior and the overwhelming percentage of people who won’t even look at a listing without photos; is there ever a reason to not post photos? (not rhetorical, I’m really asking)

What say you?

Written By

Matthew Rathbun is a Virginia Licensed Broker and Director of Professional Development for Coldwell Banker Elite, in Fredericksburg Virginia. He has opened and managed real estate firms, as well as coached and mentored agents and Brokers. As a Residential REALTOR®, Matthew was a high volume agent and past REALTOR® Rookie of the Year & Virginia Association Instructor of the Year. You can follow him on Twitter as "MattRathbun" and on Facebook. Matthew's blog is



  1. Matt Wilkins

    April 26, 2009 at 8:52 am

    I personally take the attitude “the buyers wants to see a preview of the home before viewing it whether its good, bad, or ugly”.

    I am seing REOs where the photos used are from the most recent interior BPO inpection. At least this is better than no photos at all or letting the MLS pull a past listing photo (which in my local system could be from as far back as 1997).

    Another issue that goes hand in hand with lack of photos and is as if not more frustrating: more and more listings in my local area that have completely inacurate data (bedroom/bathroom count, # of levels, showing instructions, etc.). OK enough about that.

    I think this post brings up a subject that has been talked about more and more lately: Do listing agents/brokers seem to change the level of the bar based on the type of client and sale?

  2. Thomas Johnson

    April 26, 2009 at 11:53 am

    This is part of the grand scheme. Turbo Tax Tim at US Treasury is now in control of the housing market. He has banks stuffed full of toxic assets which if they were accounted for would cause severe discomfort to his Goldman Sachs masters. The scheme is to slow down housing activity as he shucks and jives the global bank balance sheets. Banks are not shedding their foreclosures as they would if this were any kind of real market. To wit: tried to close a short sale recently? If they let the house sit, they don’t have to own it. If they don’t own it, they don’t have to realize the loss. The pitiful marketing of foreclosures with their goofy prices also prevents bonafide sellers from selling, as buyers see all these shorties and reo’s with artificial prices and are unwilling to buy anything at the real price. So they make 3, 4 5 offers on bogus listings and that buys Turbo Tax Tim more time. The only buyers cleaning up in all this are cash buyers. Cash will not be ignored, as it sponges up some of the trillions that have been pumped into the system.

  3. Benjamin Ficker

    April 26, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    I think if your listing is not “pretty enough” for photos, then your target audience is different. If its a fixer, your market is probably investors who would want to see everything wrong with it. Or if it is not necessarily a fixer, just cosmetics, your first time buyer who wants to put a little elbow grease in to something, would be ecstatic to see that this fits perfectly in to their plan. There is a market for every type of home, and photos that sell to that market.

  4. Matthew Rathbun

    April 26, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    Matt: As usual, we agree. I do think this is one sign of the broader issue. Does the type of listing change the level of service? OK, I know it does; but should it.

    Thomas: Uh, ok… I’m not sure how to respond.

  5. Matthew Rathbun

    April 26, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Benjamin: So, you’re saying that a photo of a bad listing may still make it attractive to a certain niche of buyers? I agree…

  6. Steve Beam

    April 26, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    TRUE- Photos sell homes. REO, short sale or normal sale photos save time. It saves un needed showings, it saves other Realtors huge amounts of extra searching time and it saves buyers time. One photo isn’t that tough, is it?

  7. Ruthmarie Hicks

    April 26, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    I haven’t had a listing that was so bad I couldn’t take a decent photo of it. I agree that people want pictures. It’s sometimes hard to find 30 photos…which is what our MLS allows – but if worst comes to worst, I do a few of the neighborhood.

  8. Missy Caulk

    April 27, 2009 at 7:38 am

    Consumers like photos.
    Consumers pass over listing w/0 photos.
    Consumers find a home on our IDX site that has no photos and call us for more photos.

    Is that our job if it is not our listing to go take photos?

    Frustrating to have to tell them that is all the listing agent provided.

  9. Lisa Sanderson

    April 27, 2009 at 8:28 am

    Sometimes I think that these listing agents feel that if they just get people to come through the door, somehow they will overlook the bad condition. Silliness. It is what it is, post as many photos as possible to attract the *right* buyer.

    I, too, have wondered about the different level of service given to foreclosure listings, and have also wondered if the marketing of these was turned up a notch would the sale prices be different? But I guess the agents handling these listings are doing such a huge volume of them that it is difficult if not impossible to do them right. Also, the cut rate fees being paid probably affect the level of service too.

  10. Alan May

    April 27, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    There’s always an image of the property that could be published, even if it is a dump. (a close-up of the entry… the yard… the view from the deck.)

    I’m sorry, there’s just no excuse for a listing going ‘live’ without a bevy of descriptive photos.

    Matt is right, buyers want to see pictures of the property… TO DETERMINE whether or not they’re going to even bother viewing it.

  11. Carrie

    April 27, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Well, what about a listing that looks GREAT from the outside, but the inside is full of junk? Not trashed at all, but if you take pictures of the inside, it’s going to look trashed unless its seen in person.

    Obviously you’d post a pic of the outside, but do you post pics of the inside hoping that people will schedule a showing in spite of all the stuff, or not post a pic hoping they’ll just think you’re a lousy agent who won’t post more pics?

    We have a listing in this situation – it’s a rental, so it’s not a problem of convincing the owner to clean it up… We have to work around the tenants.

  12. ines

    April 27, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    I have plenty of examples where photos could actually hurt a listing. And I’m one who is very thorough about photos, staging, moving stuff and making sure spaces show their best possible angle.

    I have one listing right now that is tenant occupied and full of boxes and a total mess and the house is gorgeous. I’m waiting for her to move her mess before I photograph – for now only have a couple of photos of the facade.

    I have another listing occupied by an older lady who refuses to let me move stuff to photograph and it is beyond cluttered – only gets a facade photo.

    They are not REO’s and they represent me – I give my clients instructions when I take the listings and if they don’t cooperate, then I usually try to make the most of it and sometimes even cancel. Those listings represent our team and the way we market properties.

    Am I making any sense here?

    I do keep a library of photos though in case someone insists on seeing the unfinished product and at that point I e-mail them.

  13. Melina Tomson

    April 28, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    If a home is so trashed, that is a different buyer anyway, and there is no harm in putting up trashed photos. Those buyers are looking for trashed so they don’t care.

    It’s those nice homes with clutter or crappy home decorating, but the home itself is nice that are the difficult ones. I probably wouldn’t take the listing unless they cleaned it up, or if it was a short term problem like in the scenario Ines talked about.

    I personally think there are very few situations in which no/few photos makes sense.

  14. Nannette Saunders

    May 17, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    It is so easy to take the pictures and even videos. Including a video of the neighborhood is a great way to market the ugliest house in the neighborhood for the buyer looking for a great opportunity for instant equity. Many of the REO’s on the market today offer this opportunity. Not finding a way to market a property is no excuse especially when there are so many resources out there to help.

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