Costa Christ Presenting a home for sale is a process. The market today is 100 percent visual. That means if you have a home that does not show well, your chances of selling quickly for a great price  are significantly diminished.

It takes a village to sell a home. A Realtor that knows your neighborhood demographics and is deeply networked is only the first step. You also need an excellent stager and a great photographer. We’re lucky to have a great pool of photographic talent in Dallas, and we are exceptionally  fortunate to have the skills of Costa Christ who is raising the bar to a new level in real estate photography.

Costa Christ

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(Editor’s Note: This is the fourth and final installment of our “Outside the Frame” series that offers the insights of Dallas’ leading real estate photographers on subjects that are both important and often controversial in the industry. Check out our firstsecond, and third installments for more.)

Today we chat with Jason of First Showing Photography, who feels that professional photography makes a first impression that sticks with buyers regardless of how a home shows. So why can’t professional photographers manage to charge more for their services? Find out this and more with our final installment of “Outside the Frame” after the jump.

CandysDirt.com:  What do you find is the biggest misconception sellers and Realtors have  about hiring a professional photographer for MLS photos?

First Showing Photography: It seems like photography is treated like a commodity sometimes. Almost any photographer is going to be better than no photographer, but you really might want to have a look at that portfolio first. (I receive a lot of calls from people who haven’t done this.) How bright are the rooms? Are you only seeing photos of a mansion shot eight years ago? Only photos shot under perfect lighting conditions (dusk)? These things matter.

Also the idea that the latest fad is going to give you some sort of edge, when in reality it might detract from your listing. For example, it’s very difficult to edit video to enhance home’s appearance, whereas it’s very cost effective to do this with still photography.

CD: What is the most important shot and why?

FSP: I would say the most important shot varies by property. Generally it’s going to be the most photogenic of the facade, living room, or kitchen.

CD:  What is the least important shot and possibly the one to avoid at all costs?

FSP: Little bathrooms. The garage. Just mention them in the ad. It’s not like you have to offer photographic proof these rooms exist.

CD: How much alteration of a shot is acceptable? Greening the grass? Adding blue sky? Getting rid of cords?Are there quick fixes you can do if a client requests? Where do you draw the line about representing a property?

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(If it doesn’t leave the potential buyer feeling duped, then it’s fair game when it comes to editing photos, says Jason of First Showing Photography. Sometimes a room can feel dim, like the master bath above. Below, with a little photo editing, a bathroom can become positively illuminating.)

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Master Bath after post processing

FSP: Anything that’s not going to make a potential buyer feel duped when they come to see the property is fair game. And make no mistake, simply viewing a beautiful photo of something positively alters a buyer’s opinion of that thing, even after they see it in reality. What they say about first impressions is very true.

CD:  What is the optimum height to shoot a room photo from? There seem to be lots of creative angles, wide angles, shots from the hip, literally, these days. Are those helpful or a hindrance?

FSP: I try to go as low as possible without occluding important features of the room. Still, I find myself shooting a little higher more of the time than many other photographers. The low angle can make a room look slightly bigger, but seeing over a counter or sofa is priority.

CD:  So we have 25 photos we can put on MLS. What if there are not 25 good shots? Do you shoot more angles of the same room? Add photos of the neighborhood?

FSP: The idea is to entice the buyer into seeing the property. Although more photos is usually better, you don’t necessarily need a lot of them to accomplish this. Multiple shots of a bedroom without any special features might be a little redundant, but I do think they can add to the presentation in some small way. Certainly you want a good number of shots of the living room, kitchen, and any room with interesting stuff in it.

CD:  Have you ever had to decline a shoot or walk away because a home was not ready?

FSP: If you hired me and I’m there, I’m shooting.

CD: Any funny stories about having to avoid shooting something unusual in a home?

FSP: Not part of the property, no. But I once had a semi-senile grandfather walking into nearly every photo. They brought him outside and he immediately manifested directly in the window of the room I was shooting.

CD:  Parting shot?

FSP: Given how much of a positive effect professional photos have on the selling price of a home, I can’t believe professionals can’t charge more!

Is Dallas getting to be a city of more renters than home-owners? And why is it harder to find homes to rent than to buy? A friend,  a high-profile Dallas photographer, emailed me this very question. When it comes to finding real estate, there are more sites than stars out there where you can search for real estate. Of course, it didn’t use to be this way. Once upon a time before the Internet, the real estate market was a totally different puppy. You relied on Realtors to check out giant MLS books of listings, all updated weekly. There’s the key: the Realtors guarded the information, they controlled it. 

Then the world changed.

Now you have Realtor.com, Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, Movoto, Active Rain, HotPads, hundreds of sites out there not to mention brokers and individual agents’ sites so you can shop for a home to buy in multiple places.

But when it comes to leasing, where are the rental sites? For some reason, they just don’t seem as thorough.

My suspicion is that because buying and selling homes is more lucrative for Realtors, many don’t want to mess with rentals. In California, for example, most Realtors will not even touch a rental transaction.

What really gave a kick in the pants to getting real estate listings on line, and what “gently urged” most Realtors to share listing information by a  virtual office Web site, was a 2008 settlement between the Justice Department and the National Association of Realtors. DOJ forced brokerages to share listing data with their rivals, including Internet-based firms that offer rebates or other discounts to buyers willing to do most of the legwork to find a home. DOJ was concerned that agents had a monopoly on sales information. DOJ is also the reason why you are required to register when you are searching on agents’ websites — that was part of the settlement. Of course, that is also capture for the agents.

In most parts of the country, and here in Dallas, brokers share information about properties through the MLS (multiple listing service). It’s a database of property sales histories operated by a group (or groups) on behalf of its members. In Texas, of course, we do not have to disclose sales prices. New York City remains an MLS hold-out: though Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx each have a multiple listing service, many agents in New York City are not members. Rather, they participate in the Real Estate Board of New York, called R.L.S. To rent, you contract with a leasing broker who’s fee is usually one month’s rent, which is pretty standard and also negotiable.

But back to our Dallas family of four seeking a nice house to lease in the Richardson School District: does anyone have a three bedroom, two and a half bath, beautiful home with a leafy back yard and room for kiddos to grow up?