Photographic Deception: To Deceive or Not To Deceive

This topic is two-fold. Photographic deception, or using a Stager to make a home look it’s best so that deception is not necessary.

The current school of thought appears to be this; when listing a home for sale, hire a photographer, temporarily stage the home for photos, and have the pro take magazine quality photographs inside and out. We can pay $200 to $500 or more depending on the photographer and if we have the use of a drone.

Flashback recently…I am working with an out of State home buyer that has missed out on a few homes because he and his family could not travel here in time to look at the home.  So, we picked out 5 homes from the MLS that fit their needs and price point and they scheduled a visit a week later.  Before they could get here, 2 of the homes went under contract and another home had an offer in on it.  Frustrated, Mr. Buyer asks for advice; what can I do?  They decided to look at the pictures of the remaining homes and make an offer, sight unseen, so that they could get their foot in the door prior to their visit. Their offer was accepted.

Fast forward to their visit. What should have been a moment of excitement as they get to look at their potential new home; turned out to be a moment of deception and disappointment.  “Deception”?  Well yes, but not the kind of deception that is premeditated or illegal. The buyers felt like they were duped by glam photos that misrepresented the reality of what the home and the grounds actually looked like. So, needless to say, they withdrew their offer, and to this day have not made another purchase.

I know what you may be thinking, “why didn’t I just go look at the home and let the buyer know my thoughts?”  Great question, and that is exactly what I would normally do, but I was also out of town, visiting my son at college.  So, like the buyers, I relied on the photos and the comparable sale info in the MLS (I do travel with my laptop) to help guide them with their offer, knowing that the due diligence clause in an NC real estate contract would allow the buyer to terminate the contract for any reason or no reason as long as they were within their time frame set forth in the due diligence clause (another topic for another blog).

How many times have I showed homes and heard the buyer say; “wow, this home looked so much better on the computer”, or “you Realtors are great photographers”.  And how many times has a buyer picked out the home they thought would be their favorite, based on the pictures, and when we actually go look at the home it becomes their least favorite – and even more so because of their disappointment that the home didn’t measure up to the pictures or the description.

Which brings me to the main point.  Are we doing a disservice to the general real estate public by making homes look so good that we create disappointment when the home finally has to present itself as it is to the potential buyer?  It’s very much like the glam photo on the business card that looks nothing like the actual person, or the glam profile on a dating site (not that I use a dating site, but this is what I have heard, lol.)  Eventually, the truth will reveal itself.

Here is what I do.  Depending on the home, the market history, and the budget; I have the seller allow me to hire a Stager – not a person that comes in with loaner stuff or one that tears down walls, or one that buys $10,000 worth of stuff to make the home look better.  No… A different concept.  The Stager I use works within the home and uses what’s already there – by rearranging, re-configuring, re-centering, de-cluttering, removing excess furniture and other stuff that make a room look smaller.  We do this room by room.  The only things she adds are new fluffier comforters and pillow shams so the beds look more inviting and the room more comfortable and maybe a few pieces of artwork here and there. She will touch up paint and then clean.  Anything removed can be stored away if the owner has storage rooms or closets – or it can be given away to a local charity. She orchestrates all of it.

What you are left with is the actual home – as it will appear and as it will be. Then, with my very own camera, no fancy lighting or setups, I’ll take 36 pictures of the home and upload them into the MLS where they will be syndicated through the internet real estate websites.  The owner invests $1000-$2000 in the Stager and has a home that is more saleable.  Three of the last four that I did this way have sold in less than 30 days.   A faster sale translates to more money for the seller, no matter how you slice it.  The monthly carrying costs of insurance, taxes, utilities, maintenance and mortgage (if they have a mortgage) can easily add up to $3000 to $5000 per month if not more.  So, shortening the selling process can save the seller BIG money.

If the seller doesn’t have the money to invest in the stager, I give the ideas to the seller so that they can do what they can themselves, and then I take the pictures.  It is what it is.  I have no interest in creating a pictorial of a home that is not representative of the home.  I do not want to deceive the real estate world.  If we were making a submission to Country Living, Architectural Digest, or another Real Estate Magazine for a different purpose, that would be an entirely different thing.  I want to help the seller present their home in the best most realistic way possible so that the buyers are not disappointed when they see the home and so that the home sells faster; ultimately making the seller more money.

Rick Drumm Photographic DeceptionPlease feel free to contact me if you are looking to buy or sell Outer Banks real estate.  I’d love to put my 23+ years of real estate experience to work you. Remember, “Homework” is what I do best!

Richard Drumm


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