One (No) Photo to Rule Them All?

Not this again...Scene, But Not Herd

So your real estate agent has listed your home for sale! Yay! Your home becomes active on the multiple listing system (MLS), and then maybe the photographer comes out to shoot your home.


This scene is played out all too often in the real estate industry. A home becoming active on the market, without images, is frequently overlooked by potential purchasers. The National Association of Realtors has repeatedly shown that the first two weeks for a property’s listing being active are the most crucial and critical times, in terms of exposure to the market.

Kind of like the first impression that you never get to make again.

But don’t take my words for it, check out what folks on Facebook (potential purchasers) have to say about lack of images on a home for sale:


Homes for sale need pictures


See, Sarah understands marketing. She understands the value of putting as much information into the potential purchaser’s hands as possible. It allows the purchaser to make an informed decision, in a place and form that they are comfortable with.

But here’s another angle that needs some light shed upon it: fiduciary responsibility.


Yep. As agents representing our clients, we have this “crazy” thing called a fiduciary responsibility to our clients. The long story short on this responsibility is that as agents, we place our clients’ needs and goals before our own priorities. As my friend Matt Stigliano writes for Kimberly Howell Properties:

We are visual creatures and thanks to the internet, video, digital cameras, etc.; we can have instant gratification while looking for houses in our pajamas. If the buyers are out there looking at photos, shouldn’t we as agents want to give them all we can? I certainly think so. It’s in our best interest and more importantly it’s in our clients best interest.

He’s right about us being visual creatures. But he knocks it out of the park, albeit quietly, when he points out that doing all that we can for our clients is in their best interest. I am pretty sure that is the definition of “fiduciary responsibility,” putting our clients’ interests before our own.

But, but, but…

“Todd, the homes are flying off the market, just as soon as they go active! There’s no need for the added expense of virtual tours and walk-through videos!”

Go back to that Facebook link and read some of the responses in the comment thread. Go ahead… I’ll wait.

Two things from the comments worth noting. Well, three, really.

First, the comments originate from industry professionals and consumers, alike. Second, did you catch the comment from David Webber that he would buy a property, “without seeing it in person?” Third, and this is where I will camp out for the rest of this post, purposefully using a client’s property as an opportunity to double side a transaction.

Double siding a transaction is the practice whereby an agent “represents” both the buyer and seller on one property. It is a perfectly legal practice, but one that is fraught with more than a few landmines.

Double Siding

Having participated in a few double sided transactions, I can freely admit that I felt like a cat on a hot tin roof, each time. For me, the concern I have is not whether I can successfully and ethically meet the needs of my clients. The concern is whether or not my clients question my loyalty to their real estate needs and goals.

Because I do not approach each listing as an opportunity for me to double side a transaction, my aim and goal is to represent the seller and their property to the best of my ability. That means creating a digital marketing footprint for my clients that is, in some cases, 500 times larger than the average agent.

Will having a dominating marketing strategy for my selling clients generate more clients (buyers or sellers) for me? Unabashedly, yes.

Do I start with my business goals and needs primarily in mind? Only in the sense that I do my best for the clients that have hired me. I know am now seeing how doing my utmost for my clients is phenomenal for my business. Eighty percent of my business in the last 24 months has been repeat and referral business (!).

In a culture and climate where consumers are leery of anyone that appears to be a salesperson, it is refreshing to run across service providers that, you know, actually care for the outcome of your transaction. I know that when I run across that consumer satisfaction oriented service person, I return. Again and again.

And I tell my friends about my experience!

Perhaps, and this is me being way too optimistic, if more agents kept their clients’ goals primary in their minds, we would not have the cynical stereotype that seems to follow us around. You know the one I mean; the one that says that real estate agents are only out for a quick buck and consequences be thrown to the wind.

Scratch that. While it would be most excellent for consumers if more agents stepped up their game, it would make standing above the crowd more difficult. Real Estate industry, please continue with your practices, whilst I remain a destroyer of your suckitude; one client at a time.

To learn more about the value of your home and the marketing system I will put into place for you, please contact me here:

9 Responses to One (No) Photo to Rule Them All?

  1. It is ALWAYS good to get educated on the ethics in real estate! Thank you for keeping MY family’s best interests in mind! This is just another example of why we have chosen you as our agent and why we recommend you to everyone we know!

  2. Man, I love reading your stuff! You would think as the market has tanked and all the RE wannabes have gone back to their day jobs, that such things would decrease. Fortunately, it only makes our ability to distinguish ourselves all the easier!

    • Rich,

      Thank you, sir! I appreciate your comment.

      Truly, it kills me that consumers may not know any different or are scared to try an agent they are not familiar with.

      I get it. It’s tough to look past all the yard signs and promotional material. Very seldom have I seen those promotional materials directly benefit a consumer before the agent’s pocketbook. The call of the almighty dollar is a siren’s song, in my opinion. Yes, we need to be compensated for work done, but our work needs to be focused solely on the goals and needs of our clients. Once we remove our eyes from that focus, we are progressing down a slippery slope.

      Trust takes time to build and a moment to destroy. Do we want to destroy the trust we’ve built simply for the next paycheck?

  3. Todd

    It never ceases to amaze me how often I come across listings with no photos and you have to wonder why? Why would an agent not have photos in, is there something wrong with the home? Probably not, but how would I know and would my buyer want to look at it, so many times it gets passed over.

    And the seller losses a potential buyer, sad I tell you just sad….

  4. First off, thanks for the mention…always nice to know when people are reading. 🙂

    In my considerably short time as an agent, I’ve come to wonder if some of the blame lies with the companies that have managed to constantly dangle a carrot in front of us promising us a bright and shiny future if we only listen to them. They inundate us with promises and in doing so turn us from the core of our industry – we are here to assist, we are here to help. Our goal is to take care of the client and do so above all else…and we get paid well to do that. All the coaching or training or broker delivered leads or technology won’t do that one simple thing for us. Only we can do it for ourselves. In doing so, we can expand and grow that business, but until we realize that, we’ll continue spinning our wheels.

    Dual agency? Don’t get me started. 🙂

  5. Great strategy for expireds: Go to > search your area > sort by “Photo Count: High to Low” (there is no “Photo Count: Low to High” – ain’t nobody got time for that) > go to the last page of results > make a note of the expiration date > if the property is still on the market after the expiration date > print out the listing with 0 or 1 image > leave the owner a note (and contact info) with this print out and let them know that you will upgrade their marketing with professional photos > boom goes the dynamite.

    • Geez Jack! Why don’t you simply layout a plan that any real estate agent can execute? After all, this blog is internationally read… 😉

      Great suggestions, sir. Made awesomer by the dynamite comment!

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Todd Waller Real Estate
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Description: Todd Waller, a self described "destroyer of the real estate fortress of suckitude," focuses on helping sellers and buyers in Ann Arbor, Canton, Livonia, Northville, Novi, South Lyon, Plymouth, and Ypsilanti
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Phone: 734.564.7465