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If you’re trying to buy a property without seeing it in-person, the importance of good property photos cannot be overstated.
Likewise, if you want to create helpful, informative, attractive real estate listings that sell properties fast, you’re going to need good pictures of the property you’re trying to sell (without a great set of property photos, you might as well not even post your listing at all – that’s my honest opinion).
With all the value and information that great pictures bring to the table, this is a crucial part of buying or selling a property. You simply cannot afford to overlook this.
So what’s the best way to get this job handled?
Where to Find Help
It may come as a surprise, but it’s actually very easy to find a local photographer (i.e. – any person of sound mind with a point-and-shoot camera or phone) whom you can pay to drive by the property and snap some pictures for.
As you can imagine, there are many different ways to find this kind of help.
In the past, I’ve had some success calling up a few local realtors and asking them to drive by the property and take a few pictures when they’re in the area. To my surprise, many of them have been willing to oblige (and oftentimes, they’ve done it for free), probably because they were hoping I would eventually come to them if I couldn’t sell the property on my own.
There are other websites like Thumbtack, where you can find all kinds of jobs for hire (including local photographers and drone pilots).
The nice thing about Thumbtack is that you’ll find people who literally take pictures and videos as their profession, so you’ll probably have more luck with getting a higher-quality end product.
In the vacant land business, some deals will have a very small profit margin, so the job needs to be done very inexpensively ($50 – $100 at the most).
That’s where Craigslist comes in.
Craigslist gets a TON of traffic, and you can usually find halfway decent help at a pretty cheap price. Even though I’ve found varying levels of quality and reliability when posting one-off gigs like this on Craigslist, I can’t think of a time when I’ve posted a ‘help wanted’ ad in my local market and NOT found a few interested candidates.
Typically, I’ll post my ads in the Gigs > Creative section of Craigslist, in the market where my property is located in (or situated closest to).
Note: At the time of this writing, it costs $3 to post a help wanted ad like this on Craigslist. In my experience, it’s a pretty justifiable price, because I get several responses in a short timeframe.
What Should Your Ad Say?
When I post these kinds of one-time gigs on Craigslist, I usually make up the description on the spot.
There isn’t one perfect recipe for writing these kinds of ads. However, it is important for your ad to be clear and to set proper expectations, so prospective candidates understand two key things:
- What you need.
- How much they’re going to get paid.
It also helps to have a headline and description that’s interesting enough to click on and apply for.
If you need an example, this is what I might say when I’m looking for a photographer for one of my vacant land properties:
Visit My Property. Send Me Pictures. I’LL PAY YOU CASH.
I need a local photographer who can visit my property in <<city/county/township name>> and take several point-and-shoot pictures. When finished, I’ll need these pictures sent to me digitally. I can receive the images via email, dropbox, google drive, or text message.
- These pictures should be taken on a SUNNY DAY.
- All pictures should be taken in Landscape/Horizontal (not Portrait/Vertical) format.
- The photographer will need to get out of the car and walk onto the property to take these photos (don’t just take them from the road or car window).
We will need 2-3 pictures taken from all four corners of the property (facing in), 2-3 pictures from all four sides of the property (facing in), and 10-12 pictures standing in the center of the parcel (facing out) in all directions.
These pictures can be taken with any phone (iPhone or Android) or point-and-shoot camera. Our goal is to get several quality shots that highlight the best attributes and showcase the property’s beauty and its surroundings. These pictures will be used to sell the property, so we need them to look great!
If interested, send me a message and I will provide the property’s exact coordinates, along with a parcel map of the property – so when you arrive on-site, you’ll know where to stand and take the pictures.
I will need the pictures no later than <<INSERT DEADLINE>> and I can send the payment for this job ($___ USD) via PayPal immediately after receiving acceptable pictures.
What Should You Expect to Pay?
When I’m hiring a random local person to get pictures for me (no fancy cameras or experience necessary), my starting price is $50. However, if the property is extremely remote and requires more drive time for the photographer, I’m usually willing to bump up my price to $100 if they request it… maybe even to $150 if the property is really far away and I only get one interested candidate.
With that being said – there are times when I’m selling higher-end properties that are worth a significantly higher price ($40,000 and up). In these cases, I’m happy to pay a higher price for higher quality pictures – especially if I know the photographer is a pro (not just a random bystander with a camera phone).
Last year, I paid a photographer (whom I found on Craigslist) $1,000 for one job.
Compared to $50, that may sound a bit excessive… but hear me out.
They were getting 100+ shots of four different properties I was trying to sell – all of which were situated in the same subdivision – and each picture was going to make my properties look incredible.
With most pictures taken on a basic mobile phone, you’ll get B grade quality (at best) and they’ll come out looking like this:
As you can see, it provides enough information to help a buyer understand what they’re getting (sort of), but it doesn’t really make a property look beautiful.
On the other hand, when you find a professional photographer, with a great camera, a good eye for the best angles, and all the lenses to do the job right, you’ll get next-level results. I’m talking about the kind of pictures that do more than just provide basic information. They’ll emphasize the property’s best characteristics and do most of the selling for you.
Even if a property isn’t inherently gorgeous, a skilled photographer can still make most scenes look a lot better than an amateur with a camera phone will.
And think about it – if you’re able to sell a property faster, and maybe even for more money, don’t you think it’s worth it?
Even though most Craigslist photographers will be happy to work on the cheap – don’t forget that there are some situations where a higher investment in this area is easy to justify.
And of course, just like with any contracted job, don’t pay for the service until you have the final product in your hands.
Tricks of the Trade
It’s prudent to remember, on a marketplace like Craigslist – even though most people will be reasonably honest, competent, and trustworthy, not everyone fits this profile.
One great suggestion I saw was from Linda Hastings in the REtipster Forum:
To verify they are taking pictures of the correct property (and that they aren’t scamming you), tell them to turn on location services on their phone and take a picture or screenshot of the map on their phone showing them at one of the GPS coordinates you give them. Or some phones/cameras have the ability to geo-tag each photo with GPS coordinates.
Not everyone will know where/how to turn on the location services setting on their phones, but if they manage to do this (or if it’s already on by default), it will provide some validation that they’re doing the right thing at the right location.
I’ve also found that it’s worth reiterating the fact that you want pictures taken horizontally (in landscape format) rather than vertically (in portrait format). Why? Because when you’re taking landscape pictures, buyers will generally want to see the slope of the land and what’s on it, rather than having the sky fill up half the frame of the image.
It’s always preferable to get these pictures when the weather is good and the sun is shining (especially if you plan to use these images in your eventual property listing). However, in some parts of the country (I’m looking at you, Michigan), during certain seasons of the year, this will be very difficult to achieve. So, while this is always worth requesting, sometimes it’s simply not going to be feasible.
Pro Tip: Even if you get pictures that were taken in HORRIBLE weather conditions, as long as the property is framed well (horizontally, with plenty of sky and foreground in the image), you can always use a service like BoxBrownie to vastly improve even the worst-looking images. I’ll show you what I mean in this video…
Have you ever used Craigslist to get property photos? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comments below!