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Photos on the Web are key in selling a home

Photos on the Web are key in selling a homeAs more buyers use Internet to search for a home, photos are best chance to make a good impression.


In real estate, a picture can be worth more than a thousand words. Much, much more. When selling properties online, agents and Web designers say that the pictures buyers see of houses and apartments for sale are often the first — and sometimes the only — chance for a seller to make a good impression. Less-than-flattering photos can turn buyers off and lead to lonely open houses.

"Good photos will grab people's attention and help you sell a home," said Jacky Teplitzky, an executive vice president of Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate in New York. "Bad pictures will absolutely give you trouble, because you won't have any calls on it, and nobody will come to see it."

Eighty percent of people across the country who bought a new home last year used the Internet while house hunting, and they rated photographs as the most useful tool in their search, according to a survey of buyers and sellers by the National Association of Realtors. The survey also found that 24 percent of home buyers got their first glimpses of their new homes on the Web, up from a mere 2 percent in 1997.

In many cases, it is the agents themselves who are snapping the pictures and posting them on the agency Web site. Because of this, it is important that sellers choosing an agent know who will take and pay for the pictures and whether a professional photographer is available.

"It's so important to have photos that are professionally presented," said Rosalind Clarke, a senior sales associate with the Corcoran Group in Palm Beach, Fla.

She added that she uses only pictures taken by professional photographers, because "if things look shoddy or unprofessional, not only are buyers going to find the property unappealing, they're going to associate you with being shoddy and unprofessional."

Real estate agents who represent large and expensive homes say that virtual tours, which provide a 360-degree view of a room, are another crucial tool for attracting buyers. "They're a really great way of seeing a property without actually being there," said Meredith Maxfield, a sales associate with the Briggs-Freeman Real Estate Brokerage in Dallas. "Buyers use them to narrow out the properties they would absolutely not want to see."

The Realtors' association survey found that when it comes to Web features that buyers considered "very useful," 83 percent cited pictures, 81 percent cited detailed property information and 60 percent cited virtual tours.

But there is little point in having good photographs or beautifully written prose describing a home if you don't have a Web site that is easy to find and easy to use. And this holds true whether you're using a broker who will list your home on an agency Web site or you're trying to sell your home yourself and are creating your own Web site or listing your home on a site like Craigslist.

"The key to any successful Web site is to make it easy to find what you want; otherwise, the user will just go away," said Staci Roberts Beam, the director of Web communications at Northwestern University. "So in the case of a real estate site, make sure the architecture of the site tells you that even if it takes three or four clicks, you'll eventually get to see an affordable house in a place where you might want to live."

When real estate agents hire photographers through their companies, they pay the fee, which can range from $100 to a few hundred dollars, depending on the size of a property.

Since the photos are meant to be a sales tool, they will probably not showcase a property's negatives. Diane Ramirez, Halstead's president, said: "Our Web site is going to be the face for your property, and we're not going to put you up there without your makeup on. We're going to make sure you're ready for your photo opportunity."

But while agents will help by urging owners to get rid of clutter or by bringing in flowers to add color, most advise against making a property look better than it really is.

"Every apartment has a birthright to have its best features shown," said Mark Neuwirth, a senior associate broker at Bellmarc Realty in New York. "But you can't be deceptive. If you take a shot that's not within the realm of reality, buyers aren't going to talk to you when they come and see it, and they're going to distrust the whole process."



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