Real Actual Listing Photo Statistics

Full disclosure: The Tim is employed by Redfin.

Inspired by an awesome OKCupid blog post about how camera models and other photo properties affect profile pics that made its rounds at the office in August, I was recently able to convince Redfin that it would be a good use of my on-the-clock time to do some similar photo analysis of listing photos.

Unfortunately the NWMLS strips all the EXIF data from the image files at some stage in their processing, so camera model and other interesting data was not available here, but I was able to find a few markets that left the data in.

Camera Popularity on Listing Photos

The most interesting finding from my research is detailed on the Redfin blog. The jist of it is that listings that have photos shot with DSLRs sell for much closer to their original list price, gaining sellers thousands of dollars compared to point-and-shoot photos.

Obviously correlation is not causation. We’re not claiming that shooting your listing photos with a DSLR is going to magically net you thousands of dollars. However, there is most likely a strong correlation between DSLR photos and professional photos, and there is also most likely a strong correlation between having professional listing photos and being a good listing agent in general.

In other words: If you see your listing agent pull out a point-and-shoot camera to photograph your home themself, that’s a good sign that you’ve got a lazy listing agent who is not going to do the best possible job of selling your home.

Average Sale Price of Listings by Camera Model

Despite this fact, as you can see in the chart above, point-and-shoots (shown in red) are by far the most popular cameras used for listing photos by agents. As it turns out, DSLRs are used for listing photos almost exclusively by agents selling high-end homes.

The chart at right shows the average sale price of homes listed with photos taken by each camera model. Note the dramatic difference between the four DSLR models and the point-n-shoots.

One other bit of analysis that I found to be fairly interesting was looking at the time of day the photos were shot. In the chart below I’ve plotted the percent of listings in my sample that sold grouped by what minute of the day the listing photo was taken. The thick black line is the overall average of all listings in the sample, just under 49% sold.

% Sold by Time of Day

Interestingly, it looks like 9:00 to 10:00 AM is the best time to take your listing photos if you want to slightly improve your chances of selling. I don’t have any particularly intelligent theories as to why this might be, but there does appear to be a non-random correlation here, where the later in the daylight hours your photos are taken, the lower your chances of selling. Granted we’re only talking about a spread of about seven percentage points, but if I were selling my house, I’d take every advantage I could get.

The Bottom Line: If your listing agent dropped by your house after you got home from work, pulled out a point-n-shoot camera, and shot your home’s listing photos himself… Fire him and go find someone who is actually going to market your house.

You can pay an agent that will really work for their three percent, or you can end up having your home mocked in our Real Actual Listing Photos series or on Lovely Listing. It’s your choice.

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About The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market. Tim also hosts the weekly improv comedy sci-fi podcast Dispatches from the Multiverse.


  1. 1

    Those listings with better photos probably do other things better too, so the photos are an indicator, not a cause (which you mention).

  2. 2
    David S says:

    You’re such an amazing statistician.

    With a minor background in photography I will tell you, most dramatic lighting occurs when there are high angles of incidence on the subject. Many striking contrasts and reveals can be captured. At our latitude 9:00am works well most of the year. Desert southwest a little earlier. Even the Grand Canyon doesn’t look that remarkable at high noon.

    As for the equipment, that’s pretty obvious. Higher end equipment tends to rest in the hands of the higher skilled photographers. I’m not surprised to see Canon at the top.

  3. 3
    masaba says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 1

    I wouldn’t rule the attractiveness of the listing photos out as a part of the cause. I would certainly assume that good listing photos at least get people to look at your home, click on your home’s listing when they get an e-mail from Redfin telling them that there are 30 new homes this week that match their price criteria, etc. All things which may cause your house to sell faster.

  4. 4
    The Other Ben says:

    By David S @ 2:

    You’re such an amazing statistician.

    One thing that’s important to remember is that the prices are just correlated – it doesn’t imply causality. I could very easily imagine that the actual causal link would be
    lazy realtor -> crappy listing photos + not trying to make the house look nicer -> lower selling price
    crappy property -> high quality photos will only show more of the mold and water damage -> no high quality photos + lower selling price (because the property is crappy)

  5. 5
    ARDELL says:

    The sad flipside is that buyers may overpay for a house if it has great photos. One would think after all of the cautions against paying too much for a house, that would not be the case.

  6. 6
    David S says:

    By ARDELL @ 5:

    The sad flipside is that buyers may overpay for a house if it has great photos. One would think after all of the cautions against paying too much for a house, that would not be the case.

    What is sad is those people would be called prey, or clients.

    This doesn’t apply to the agents who are worth their weight in gold though :) who would still advise appropriately.

  7. 7

    RE: masaba @ 3 – I would agree. I should have indicated better that the photos were just one of the things done. Clearly with certain listings they are important.

  8. 8

    By ARDELL @ 5:

    The sad flipside is that buyers may overpay for a house if it has great photos.

    Maybe if they buy the property without ever seeing it. Or maybe if they use an escalation clause and the photos attract another party too. Otherwise I just don’t see how the photos are going to cause someone to overpay.

  9. 9
    deejayoh says:

    I am crying from laughing so hard reading that Lovely Listing site. Hadn’t seen that one before. Thanks for the link

  10. 10
    BelRenter says:

    Correlation does not equal causation.

    It could simply be that high-end homes are much more likely to sell near their listing price.

  11. 11
    The Tim says:

    RE: BelRenter @ 10 – It is obvious you didn’t bother reading either this post or the Redfin post. I explicitly stated here in this post: “Obviously correlation is not causation.” And if you bothered to look at the linked Redfin post, you would see that we broke our analysis up into ten different price tiers to avoid exactly the problem you mentioned. Actually as it turns out, high-end homes have on average significantly worse sale-to-list ratios.

  12. 12
    ray pepper says:

    “The Bottom Line: If your listing agent dropped by your house after you got home from work, pulled out a point-n-shoot camera, and shot your home’s listing photos himself… Fire him and go find someone who is actually going to market your house.”

    Or save yourself 1-3%, turn on the lights, should some good pictures and don’t be brain-dead and pay more then 500.00 to LIST….Drop your price and pass the savings onto your buyers….THEY NEED IT!

    How about a correlation between listing your home at 309k or 299k and seeing which one will receive more hits and viewings from prospective Buyers and still yield the same return to the seller??………………..Wow what a concept…

    Good God!

  13. 13
    Tim Mcb says:

    I wonder how many real estate offices have a photographer in residence or at least on contract. It seems like it would be worth having. Since Redfin does all pro shots I’m guessing that there’s at least one person whose job it is. I’ve always thought good pictures are more valuable than staging. It sometimes seems though that staging gets more emphasis though.

  14. 14
    David Losh says:

    I’ll just point out that redfin is a photo only Real Estate company. You look at pretty pistures to make your choices. It seems that the statistics indicate redfin would be your Real Estate company of choice.

    Oh, and I forgot the over head view, and sales data.

  15. 15

    RE: Tim Mcb @ 13 – With the possible exception of Redfin, I would think the photographer would be the personal choice of the agent.

  16. 16
    kurto says:

    Another reason I love this site:
    To get my stat freak on. Great graph of listings by camera. :-)

  17. 17
    David S says:

    RE: kurto @ 16 – Ditto that.

  18. 18
    chuck c says:

    I want to see some data on Ray’s idea! Listing at 299k vs. 301k (or similar). Which will get more interest? Which will ultimately sell for closer to list? Fun stuff….

  19. 19
    TheHulk says:

    Very very interesting data indeed. Great job Tim coming up with this data.

    I also think it would be far more instructive if we could figure out whether the photos had been “touched up” – that would, more likely imply the presence of a professional photographer and not just a home owner who also happened to have a DSLR (also not suprising that people in 500K plus houses have DSLRs). I wouldnt be that surprised if people selling 500K+ houses are hiring real estate photographers. I wonder how much the photographers charge for such shoots though, especially compared to the cost of staging a house.

  20. 20

    RE: TheHulk @ 19 – Photography is relatively cheap–typically under $300, unless there’s something special, like an aerial shot. That’s why agents typically pay for it.

  21. 21
    WestSideBilly says:

    Good article, but I would disagree about one thing – that the cost of a DSLR camera indicates that the users are more than just hobbyists. Canon’s base packages start around $550. A decent body, wide angle lens, and a couple books to learn how to shoot decent photos can be easily had under $1000. For a profession (supposedly) based around presenting homes to potential clients in the best possible light, that should be not be too much to expect.

    If I was selling a home and the listing agent pulled out his crackberry or a cheap point-and-shoot to take listing photos, I’d tell him/her not to bother, and find a new agent.

  22. 22

    RE: WestSideBilly @ 21

    I Thought the Camera Feature in Cell Phones Replaced Other Cameras?

    I guess not, I hear professionals like to use 35MM too, they can touch up the negatives for even better results.

  23. 23

    By softwarengineer @ 22:

    RE: WestSideBilly @ 21 -I guess not, I hear professionals like to use 35MM too, they can touch up the negatives for even better results.

    Please use emoticons so that we know whether you’re trying to be funny. ;-)

  24. 24
    Greenhood says:

    RE: David Losh @ 14

    Not sure what you mean by “photo only Real Estate company”, as Redfin employees have personally shown me literally dozens of homes. As someone who does their own research and knows what I am looking for, I appreciate detailed photos and online listings to help narrow down options, without relying on a realtor to make those choices for me. Sites like Redfin help buyers avoid wasting time on physical home tours that are not what they are looking for.

    That said, I think it is disingenuous to claim that Redfin users are idiot simpletons who make home purchases based on photographs posted to the internet. If anything, I’d be willing to guess that buyers who use online realtor services are more personally knowledgable and involved in the process than the average buyer.

  25. 25
    WestSideBilly says:

    There are advantages to using film, particularly large format film (not 35mm). For the purpose of capturing good images of a home for use in the internet, they’re probably not worth it, and if your choice is 35mm vs digital then digital usually produces better results.

  26. 26

    RE: WestSideBilly @ 24 – A lot of people wonder how they can make old movies into HD or Blu-Ray, not realizing that film has a lot of effective resolution compared to SDTV or DVD.

    But the pictures you see for listings are pretty low resolution–although they’re typically taken at a much higher resolution. The NWMLS limits the resolution, and downconverts it themselves if it’s uploaded in too high of a resolution.

  27. 27
    Feedback says:

    I’m surprised by the low usage of camera phones. The newest smartphones have good-quality cameras and it’s not like megapixel counts matter when your photos get downsized to VGA resolution for on-line display.

  28. 28
    George Lake says:

    Isn’t the number of photos taken from 12-6am an indication of the unreliability of the data?

  29. 29

    […] Real Actual Listing Photo Statistics ( […]

  30. 30
    Dan Achatz says:

    This is all very interesting, but the camera really doesn’t matter.

    Some more important statistics would be how many more showings a home gets if it’s shot by a professional real estate photographer. Or how much faster a home sells if it’s shot by a professional real estate photographer. Or how many homes shot by a professional real estate photographer get multiple offers. Or here’s one the percentage of the sale price it takes to get professional photos done.

    You can have the greatest camera in the world, and your not going to be able to shoot a home as well as someone who does it for a living,

  31. 31

    […] Listing PhotosBy The Tim on February 17, 2011 | Leave a responseI’ve posted in the past about the importance of having good listing photos, and our monthly “Real Actual Listing Photos” series regularly pokes fun of listing […]

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