Photography 101 For Real Estate - Part 2

photography 101 for real estate
Welcome to our new blog post about real estate photography! We have already presented the three things you need to start taking pictures for your real estate listings: a good camera, a tripod, and a good picture editing software.  Let's continue our real estate photography series with more details on how to take great interior pictures.

Home owners and real estate agents are dependent on high quality images to sell their properties. The better the pictures, the better the property looks online and the more people get interested in that property. Oftentimes real estate agents or home owners have little control over the external environment of a home, but there is much more control over the details of the interior. You can pick the light, the shooting angles, and you can even move smaller pieces of furniture around to get better views of the rooms. So let's go over a few tips and tricks for better real estate interior photography:
  • Use natural light as much as possible - nothing puts things in a better perspective than natural light. Human eye is capable of interpreting and adjusting for artificial light but image sensors on cameras are not that good at that. The more natural light you can bring in through the windows the better pictures you will be able to take. If you don't get much natural light in the room don't despair: this is where a good dslr camera and a tripod gets to play their part. Set the camera on a tripod to avoid any movement that would blur your pictures and slow the shutter speed. The lower the light in the room the more time you need to give your camera to absorb that light. Adjust the ISO too, but don't set it too high or the images will look "dusty". Try to fight the temptation of using a flash light since that would create sharp edges and dark shadows. Natural light helps emphasizing colors and reduces the post-production time needed to improve the image.
  • Always shoot raw  - this is another reason to use a good dslr camera. Unlike point-and-shoot cameras that save the images directly in jpeg format, dslr cameras can be set to shoot in raw format. This allows you more opportunities to improve the image if you did not set the best options at the moment of taking the picture. This is also the time a good picture editing software plays its role. You can use Photoshop to process raw images or you can rely on the software that came with your camera. Remember, if you take pictures in jpeg format you minimize the post-production editing capabilities of the pictures you take. Raw format gives you the best chances to end up with a great picture even in less-than-perfect shooting conditions.
photography 101 for real estate - align with the grid
  • When in doubt, shoot straight on - point the camera so that it aligns with one of the longer walls. Use the viewfinder on your camera to align the horizontal and vertical lines of the room with the grid on your camera. Some people have more artistic talent than others. You can sometimes take great pictures with interesting angles, creating a good dramatic effect. Make sure, though, that everyone will interpret the image the way you intended. The more artistic you shoot, the greater chances for other people to dislike the images. So when in doubt, shoot straight on.
photography 101 for real estate - small room - shoot through the door
  • Change the environment - the rule especially applies to small rooms, when getting a good shooting angle puts you with your back at the wall - literally. When shooting in small rooms you have two options: you either use wide-angle lenses or you move stuff around to allow you getting a better view. Wide-angle lenses might not be the best choice since they also create a fish-eye effect and distort the images. So you may end up having to shoot through the door or move small pieces of furniture around to make room for you to get a good shot.
  • Set up the space - you can easily improve the content of an image by simply adjusting a few things in the room. Re-arrange small furniture, add a few magazines on a coffee table, a laptop on the desk, or add more color with a few flowers in a vase. It might even be a good idea to add a few magazines, a laptop, and some flower to the list of props you regularly carry with you when going out to shoot for your real estate listings.
Always keep an open mind when taking real estate photography. Experiment with your images and make sure you take plenty of pictures. This way you give yourself a chance to get great images and make your listings stand out from the crowd. We'll continue our photography 101 for real estate series with some other great tips and tricks. In the meantime, happy shooting!

Photography 101 For Real Estate - Part 1

Real Estate Photography
Real Estate Photography
Photography, writing or decorating are by definition areas free of rules. Nobody can or should tell you how to write or how to decorate your home and "looking good" is usually a label you are in charge with setting for your creations. That being said, it doesn't mean that you should not be considerate and pay attention to what "other people" like and think it looks good. After all, real estate is not so much an art as it is business and in business you have clients. It is the all-mighty client who now has the power to label something as "good" or dismiss it.

When it comes to real estate photography you need three things. Don't mind those who say you only need a camera. A smart phone with a camera is only as good as the average pictures you will take.  If average pictures are good enough for you then you may stop reading and move to something else. I wish you good luck with making a living as a real estate agent in today's highly competitive market where "average" is synonym with "out of business." Let's get back now to those three things you need for good real estate photography: a camera, a tripod, and a photo editing software.

Let's start with the reason you need a good camera, a tripod and a good picture editing software. We strongly recommend using a dslr camera. It might be true that smart phones nowadays come with good cameras, but none of them is good at taking pictures without natural light, like interior pictures. You can use a good smart phone camera for outside pictures in sun light, but you need a dslr camera that you can play with to adjust the right settings for interior pictures. You also need a tripod so your pictures are not blurry. They may not look bad on the small screen, but often times you will see how crappy and blurry the pictures really look like after you download them on a computer. The best solution is to use a tripod.

After you end up with the pictures on your computer, you have to open them with a good software and edit them. I have yet to meet a photographer who does not use Photoshop or a similar software to edit his or her pictures before making them available to their clients. Nobody takes perfect pictures. You can always improve the contrast or the brightness of a picture, or make its colors more vibrant. Taking the picture is only the first step on the path to great images. If you don't know how to use a picture editing software you can either learn or outsource it to someone knowledgeable.

We have learned in this first part of our real estate photography 101 series about the three things we really need to get a good start. We will cover in our next blog post a few tips and tricks on how to get great interior pictures. Until next time: happy shooting!

The Unwritten Rules of Buying and Selling a Home

Home For Sale - Sold
Every major endeavor we start requires thoughtful planning and careful execution. Those actions that have an impact on others or on society in general are regulated. Besides written rules, buying or selling a home is also guided by unwritten ones. ​As Chris Burk wrote in an article published on Market Watch, "while there aren't hard-core 'rules' to follow, there are absolutely best practices and proven precepts that you should carefully consider."

These best practices have been drawn in time and are based on common sense. The problem is that times have changed, we seem to be governed by new market forces and the 'sense' is no longer as common as it used to be. That being said, here are a few unwritten rules of real estate:

1. Use a real estate agent - most people prefer to make decisions by themselves when it comes to important aspects of their life, but buying or selling a home is no easy task. It's better to have to blame yourself in case of a wrong decision or a mistake, yet it is even better not to get in that position. Good real estate agents are trained specialists ready to put their knowledge of local markets and legislation at your disposal, assisting you during this lengthy and complex process.

2. Show that you are serious - put down the customary 1-2% deposit known as earnest money if you plan on making an offer. This is where a good real estate agent wold help you make sure you include contingencies in the sales contract to recoup your money if the deal dies out.

3. Add personality and soul to your offer - people love stories, especially those told well. Bring your own personality in the game so instead of just submitting an offer and crossing your fingers, convey a story and a personal message to the owner.  Write a letter, get your real estate agent to express your admiration for the property along with your plans for the future that include family members and make sure you add emotion to it. Remember the movie Mr. Popper's Penguins? The old lady owner of the last privately-owned restaurant in Central Park was not interested in the amount of money offered, but in the person who makes the offer.

4. Ask the right price - some real estate agents will list your home at the asking price you set, but the good ones will work with you to figure out the right price. You may be in a hurry or not very knowledgeable of the new developments in the area and ask too little, or - most often - your asking price reflects your hopes and desire more than the reality in the field.

5. Use technology but see it with your own eyes - many listings include virtual tours, high-definition videos and great pictures. Technology is great, but nothing is better than seeing it with your own eyes. No high-def image can replace the smell, the feeling, the vibe you get standing right there, in the middle of the room.

6. Get pre-approved before you make an offer - few things are worse than finding the home of your dreams and not being able to put the money where your mouth is. Add confidence to your offer and portray yourself as a qualified buyer by including a pre-approval letter.

7. Prep the home before you put it on the market - staging a home correctly makes the process more effective and works toward your advantage. Help people make the home you sell a part of their dream for themselves and for their family. This is much easier to accomplish with a clean, uncluttered home that smells and looks great.

Times change, people change and future seems to come over us at a faster pace than we have imagined. Technology plays a bigger role in our life in general and in real estate in particular. Common sense though is still pretty much the same and it is still the backbone of the unwritten rules governing real estate transactions. Follow these rules and you will enjoy a smooth ride through the complex process of buying or selling a home.

How to Become a Better Real Estate Negotiator (3)

Part 3 of 3

Real estate successful negotiations
This is the third and last article in a series of blog posts on how to improve your real estate negotiations skills. The previously two articles covered the four basic negotiator personality types and the most important steps to take for a successful negotiation process. In this final post we will present the most important real estate negotiation tactics.

It is every negotiator's dream to be able to place themselves in a position of power during negotiations and it is no different in real estate negotiations. But it would be a great mistake to try to do that through manipulation or deception. The best path toward successful negotiations is based on sincerity and trust.

Make sure that you are able to recognize a bad deal and know when it is time to walk out of it. Allow yourself an easy exit at all times but make sure you leave in good terms. This way you can still make a move later on if circumstances change.

Share information - people tend to follow reciprocity, responding in kind to how we treat them. If we want to be trusted, we must first offer it. Revealing some information, even when it’s unrelated to the negotiation, increases the outcome. Don’t have to put all of your cards on the table, of course, just put something of yourself out there like your hobbies, interesting stories, etc and set a positive tone that’s conducive to gaining agreement.

Make the first offer - this might defy conventional wisdom but it is best to extract as much as possible from the other person before tipping our own hand. We are usually reluctant to go first because we are afraid may be way off and disengage the other party, but research showed that most people make first offers that aren't aggressive enough. In real estate, a high-priced home makes us look at all the desirable qualities, while a below-market offering brings up a bad location or needed repairs.

Counter-offer but don't do it too low - people are most satisfied on both fronts if there was some back and forth. Don't take the first offer, even if it meets your needs. Go back and ask for concessions so you can ensure that you got the best deal. Many people go too low, too quickly on their counter-offer, especially if they didn't make the first offer. Let the other person know that their offer is way off by saying something like "you may be trying to test my thinking with that first offer, but here’s more of what I had in mind."

You can get closer to finalizing a successful real estate negotiation by taking small steps. Help your counterpart say yes on smaller aspects and that will help you pave the path toward the final agreement. How do you accomplish that? Adapt your strategies and tactics to each negotiation effort and make sure you ask questions that can easily generate a small "yes." But always look for the signs showing the negotiation is over. Make the close right there, don't keep going on or you risk of jeopardizing the whole effort.

If you want to read and learn more about real estate negotiations, check out these useful resources:

How to Negotiate: 7 Real Estate Negotiation Tips
Master The Art Of Negotiation
7 biggest home price negotiation blunders

How to Become a Better Real Estate Negotiator (2)

Part 2 of 3

Real Estate Negotiations
Welcome to part two of our three-part series on how to become a better real estate negotiator. We have introduced in our previous blog post the four types of negotiators based on emotion and assertiveness: analytical, amiable, extrovert, and pragmatic. When negotiating, people usually adopt one personality type. A few trained professional negotiators display two dominant types. However, if you want to be an effective real estate negotiator you have to be able to recognize the characteristics of each type and adapt to each personality type through role play. According to Personality Style Considerations in Effective Negotiation  published by the Institute for Supply Management, "the key to becoming more prepared is to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each style in the context of a given negotiation and the personality styles of the negotiators sitting across the table."

Five Steps to Successful real Estate Negotiations

Here are the steps you need to take, according to Sharon Vornholt's article called "5 Crucial Steps for Successful Real Estate Negotiations":
  • Be very prepared - do your homework about the area, the property characteristics, tax assessment of the property, how that home compares with other properties in the area, etc.
  • Listen - do not act like you know it all. It won't do you any good if the only thing you do is talking. Involve the other party in the conversation early on and you might get some useful details.
  • Ask "Why" and other open-ended questions - it requires some finesse but it helps you find out the motivation behind important aspects of the negotiation, like the reasons the other party is asking for a high price, what drives the objections to your arguments, etc.
  • Read body language - it gives you important clues that can help you navigate during negotiations. People's body can betray valuable information but you must be careful with the way you read the signs. It is better to draw conclusions based on at least two different signs since it is very easy to misinterpret a random gesture.
  • Build rapport - connections on an emotional and rational level can be extremely beneficial to you during negotiations. You may not be interested in all the details about their personal problems and life, but showing empathy by listening carefully helps build bridges besides maybe offering important clues.
Other negotiation experts add a few more steps to the process: present your offer, handle the objections, and close the deal. We will present more on these aspects in our next blog post. In the meantime, here are a few good resources to check out to improve your knowledge on real estate negotiations:

How to Become a Better Real Estate Negotiator (1)

Part 1 of 3

This is the first article post in a series of blog posts on how to improve your negotiations skills. Real estate negotiating is one of the most important attributes for both investors and real estate agents. The business of selling and buying properties is a people business and requires relationship development skills. As a real estate agent or even as a regular seller or buyer you need good negotiation skills. The ability to close deals favorably is crucial to the success of your real estate transaction and to the success of any business as a real estate agent.

The best way to set yourself on the right track for improving your negotiation skills is to treat it as a process toward helping you understand people and their motivation, needs and wants. Despite popular beliefs, the negotiation process is based on trust, the opposite of deception. Successful negotiations require building relationships and rapport based on honesty. Get yourself familiar with human personality characteristics and use this knowledge to structure your offer accordingly. This will heklp you negotiate from a position of power since the other side will be more inclined to agree with your offer.

First impression can be a powerful tool in your negotiation arsenal. The best way to create a best impression is to add a dose of charisma. Add to the mix some confidence and laughter, hide your nervousness and make it look like you are relaxed. All these will help you establish a good relationship and build rapport.

Negotiator Personality Types

Master the principals of human relations based on humanc personality types. You can conduct a successsful real estate negotiation if you adapt your approach to these personality characteristics.

There are four negotiator personality types:
The Analytical Negotiator - they tend to be overcautious, are very slow to decide on any course of action because they demand a high level of accuracy, and, therefore, they need lots of information before they’re comfortable with making a decision. In negotiating with the analytical negotiator you must propose solutions and outcomes that answer the question, “How has it been done before?' Analytical negotiators are usually consistent and predictable.

The Amiable Negotiator - is typically a traditionalist who is very interested in developing and maintaining relationships between the parties. The amiable negotiators hate high-pressure tactics and avoid conflict situations whenever possible. They value loyalty, sensitivity, and patience. The negative side of the amiable negotiator includes the tendency to be impulsive and sentimental.

The Extrovert Negotiator -  is very friendly and open. The theme of the extrovert might be “Trust me, it’ll work out!” However, extrovert negotiators are enthusiastic, visionary, and has the ability to motivate others. They are willing to say “No” if their needs are not adequately addressed.

The Pragmatic Negotiator - is very business-like and efficiency-oriented. All thoughts are focused on the bottom line. The pragmatic negotiator can be recognized by the use of organizers and formal behavior.

Source: Institute for Supply Management - Personality Style Considerations in Effective Negotiation

In our next blog post we will present the steps of real estate negotiations and a few tactics to help you succeed.

Here are a few great online resources to check out before you start working toward improving your negotiations skills:

Staging - A Clean Garage Can Help You Sell The Home

Decluttered Garage
(C) Flickr - Chris.Corwin
Curb appeal is the key word for staging a home for sale. Make the front of the home so appealing that potential buyers can't wait to see the inside. This is probably the most common (sense) advice sellers get from real estate agents. Then you need to follow up with carefully decluttering the interior and remove as much personalization as possible.

Everything in life comes at a price and thing are no different in real estate. One part of the house will probably pay the price so the rest of it looks nice and clean: the garage. Boxes will pile up to the ceiling, covering every corner and making the place look like the perfect candidate for a Discovery Channel episode of "Hoarders." No wonder 86 percent of buyers, according to this article published on realestate(dot)com place "a garage with storage" on the list of desirable or essential features they look for in the hose they want to buy.

Why would you treat the garage differently than any other important aspect of your home now that you know it plays such an important part in catching buyers' attention and interest? Take a look at that neat, impeccable garage of your neighbor and learn the tricks. Take a deep breath, relax, and get to work. You can't do much with all that stuff piled up there so start by emptying the room. Move everything out and prep the space for a thorough cleaning.

Start with pressure washing the walls then get rid of any remaining stains. Follow this guide on how to pressure wash a garage. Paint the walls with semi-gloss paint (don't get too bold with the color, though!) and coat the floor with epoxy. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to epoxy-coat your garage. Then organize the place to make it look tidy and clean. Make sure you do a good job by following these 6 garage-organizing tips.

Now is probably the best time to sort through all the items, discard what’s broken and sell or give away anything that you’re not using. Make sure you group like items together. Attach shelves or cabinets to your garage walls or put up freestanding units and store the heaviest items on the lowest shelves. Hang rakes, brooms, shovels and other flat items on the walls while bikes need to rest on hooks from the ceiling. Here is a diy video for garage clutter control:

Remember, the most important thing you can do to prepare your home for sale is to get rid of clutter. Pay attention to curb appeal but don't ruin the buyer's good impression by neglecting the garage.