CHARLOTTE, N.C. — If you're selling a home, making a first impression on potential buyers happens way before they walk through the door.
More than 80 percent of home buyers report using the Internet to look for a home, according to a survey by the National Association of Realtors. So photos posted on real estate Web sites are arguably one of the most important components to getting a home sold as quickly as possible, and for the highest price.
"I've got a buyer right now who spends two hours every evening looking at homes online," said Realtor Melody Prestifilippo. "If it doesn't show the kitchen, he won't investigate further."
According to an article in RISMedia, a real estate trade publication, homes with 20 or more photos received almost 10 times the number of leads and more than 15 times the number of showings as homes with only one online photo.
A researcher with real estate Web site Zillow.com found that over a seven-day period, listings with at least one photo were likely to be viewed considerably more often than listings with no photos.
Jim Schmid, a Concord, N.C.-based real estate photographer who handles photography for the Allen Tate Co., says having good photos of your home online will put you ahead of lots of homes on the Web, where dark, blurry and poorly composed shots are common.
"If a buyer is coming from out of town and they have two days to look at houses, which 10 do you think they're going to ask the agent to show them? The ones that look good," Schmid said. "People make the decision in one to two seconds about whether they're going to click on that house."
Realtors say they're well aware of the power of good — and bad — photography, and many are quickly trying to master the art of picture taking.
While Allen Tate offers free professional photo packages to clients selling homes for $350,000 and up, Schmid has started giving photography workshops to Allen Tate Realtors who want to learn to take better shots themselves.
The first workshop was standing room only, Schmid said, with about 40 agents in attendance.
Allen Tate Realtor Lyn Briggs says she makes every effort to have great photos before listing a home on MLS. She has a certification in home staging, so she works with clients to get their homes decluttered and spruced up before snapping the photos.
"Getting good photos up there as soon as possible is important, but you don't want to haphazardly put them in there," she said. "In this market it has to be in the best condition it can be."
Briggs invested in a good camera, complete with a wide-angle lens and tripod. College photography courses taught her about framing photos, getting the best possible lighting and even tricks like photographing in mirrors to get angles that would ordinarily be impossible.
Prestifilippo is the marketing specialist for her team of four Realtors, which means she visits every home the team is selling and creates a visual tour with up to 24 photos.
"We only photograph on a Carolina blue sky day," she said. "We don't put the house on the market until we can take the photos.
"Those first 30 days are so crucial," she said. Buyers "are always looking for the newest, latest and greatest."