What matters most in real estate: words or photos?

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This New Zealand Herald article trawled through their real estate listings and what words were most successful in drawing in potential buyers. The article starts:

“It’s more than just a pretty picture that lures a home buyer to a house – it’s the words used to describe it too.

“Estate agents are actively using key words to elicit a sale, and avoiding words known to put off would-be buyers.”

According to Ed Scanlan, the Herald’s Real Estate Channel Manager, there are 15 really good words that inspire positive feedback. Scanlan, the tease, supplies just five: ‘new’, ‘discover’, ‘guarantee’, ‘health’, and ‘bargain’.

In contrast, ‘basement’ is considered kinda creepy.

The conclusion to be drawn here is that nice words are nice – except for ‘cute and charming’, which apparently is often code for ‘cramped’ – and negative words are to be avoided.

But are words really that important? Just because we’ve cracked the ‘cute and charming’ code doesn’t mean we can’t be suckered in by other warm, vague phrases.

Some words when strung together are true no matter what. The old saying ‘a picture says a thousand words’ comes to mind, as does that other well-worn phrase ‘seeing is believing’.

By seeing the house online (may we suggest this website), you can decide for yourself whether a living room is spacious or ‘cute and charming’.

Recently we ran an unscientific survey on our Facebook page. Asking our followers what mattered most to them – photos or words – every reply stated that photos were, by far, of greatest influence.

These revealing responses should be taken note of by real estate agents everywhere:

“As a photographer – it’s the photos… I want to see everything.”

“I love looking at photo listings. The photos of the kitchen and bathrooms are a must!”

“Photos more than anything – the words often tend to be cliché
.”

“Photos for sure. And to the point words… how many bedrooms etc.”

“Photos and Facts. Often agents get carried away with their listings by using too many positive descriptive words and should remember it’s not a creative writing competition.”

“Definitely photos… then the description of the house to see whether it fits your requirements… It’s easier to shortlist the houses that you want to go out and see later rather than going and seeing every single house.”

“Photos, because you can say what you like, but seeing is believing.”

Finally here’s our contribution: it is far easier to fall in love with a picture than a paragraph.

This is a topic we’ll return to at some stage because words, when used properly, do have some influence. Why else are you reading this blog after all?

For now, here is a useful guide from us as to what words in real estate are good, and what words should ring alarm bells:

Good vs bad real estate words

What do you reckon – is the written word the difference-maker for you? Or is it photos that ultimately lure you in? Feel free to use your words in the comments or on our Facebook page.

And while you’re deciding, enjoy this contribution to the debate by nineties crooners Extreme:

It’s only rock and roll – but they shot it

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One of the 173 photographs on display at Who Shot Rock & Roll: A straight-laced Jimi Hendrix plays back-up to Wilson Pickett back in 1966. Photo by William ‘Popsie’ Randolph.

 

Arlene is quite possibly the world’s biggest Leonard Cohen fan. Last August Arlene’s son, also named Leonard, told her of a rock and roll exhibition worth checking out. This was exciting news… until she realised there’d be nothing of her idol to see there.

Being Canadian, Arlene’s protest was a dignified affair where she silently wore her homemade “I love Leonard Cohen” badge. She enjoyed the exhibition but noted in the visitor book her disapproval at the curator’s glaring omission.

That curator is Professor Gail Buckland, and the exhibition is the excellent Who Shot Rock & Roll – on now, for the first time outside the United States, at the Auckland Art Gallery.

Gail Buckland Who Shot Rock & Roll

Professor Gail Buckland

 

Buckland, a leading authority on photography, is well acquainted with stories like that of Arlene’s.

“There would be no shortage of names of the musicians missing from my exhibition,” Buckland told me by email. “That is not the point. It could never include everyone. This is a show about the power of photography. I hope someone else comes along and expands on this, choosing a completely different set of images.  I love Leonard Cohen.  It is no reflection on my admiration for him.”

What this exhibition – and her 2009 book of the same name – does reflect is a frustration that the photographers who captured these defining moments have been ignored for too long.

“Many of the photographers,” Buckland says, “told me that they were treated like “hacks”. That their vision, their artistry, their contribution has been largely ignored. It had always been about the musicians.  My exhibition and book put them in the forefront.”

Who Shot Rock & Roll features 173 photographs dating back to 1955. With so many photos on display there is no shortage of history – but more to the point, there is an abundance of brilliant photos.

“Excellence in photography” was Buckland’s primary criteria when selecting exhibits, and she worked hard to track down and speak to as many featured photographers as possible to get their stories.

“The book and show”, she says, “is about the men and women who gave rock and roll its image – its photographic image. For almost the first time, it isn’t about who is in the picture but the quality of the photograph to express something real and powerful. I looked for photographs that can stand the scrutiny of time and be worthy of being on a museum wall.”

mick-jagger-by-albert-watson

For the 25th anniversary of Rolling Stone magazine, photographer Albert Watson double exposed Mick Jagger’s face with a leopard’s. The full story of this remarkable photo available at the Who Shot Rock & Roll exhibition.

 

So with record companies now seemingly more focused on packaging than talent, will any of today’s acts stand out in 50 years? This question carelessly strayed into ‘Arlene territory’; Buckland gently reminded me she was “not qualified to answer questions about the music or the musicians.”

She added, “I hope, sincerely hope, that my 40 years looking at and thinking about and writing about photography (not music) comes across.”

It most certainly does. Who Shot Rock & Roll is a fantastic photography exhibition that shines the spotlight, at last, on the stars behind the camera.

Music fans will love it too.

Who Shot Rock & Roll is on now and runs daily until 3 March at the Auckland Art Gallery. Tickets cost $15 each. Check out a dozen of the exhibition’s photos here.

Dear first home buyers: property ladders are meant to be climbed

In July 2012 we had some advice for first home buyers that went a little like this:

It [your first home] doesn’t have to be in the exclusive suburbs, have views of Everest or contain 23 bathrooms either. It’s called a ‘property ladder’ because it’s meant to be  climbed.

It would be fantastic of course to own your dream home in your ideal location right off the bat. Alas, it usually only works like that if your dreams are modest.

Where are we going with this, you ask?

The Herald on Sunday wrote of the trials of a young Auckland couple looking to buy their first home. They are finding it tough to buy one in their range – due, they say, to investors swooping in and paying more.

They’re quite right that Auckland is becoming more and more pricey. Alas, this couple have made their six-month-and-counting search so much harder than they should. And if you’ve already clicked on that above link, you’ll know exactly where they’ve gone wrong.*

In late 2008 their target location, Herne Bay, became New Zealand’s very first $2 million suburb. Keep in mind that’s the average price. In 2012, according to QV, the average house price there was just over $1.87 million.

If you were to put Auckland’s suburbs on a metaphorical ladder, Herne Bay would be on the top rung. Want to get there? Don’t try making a giant vertical leap because you’re likely to fall and do yourself a mischief. No, as with any ladder you put your foot on the bottom rung and climb your way up.

Climbing the property ladder WWE style

Climbing the property ladder isn’t always pretty or easy, as these prospective house buyers demonstrate.

There is no denying that housing could be more affordable in New Zealand – and a report released yesterday by Demographia (full report here) shows how tough we’re doing it.

Demographia measures affordability in 337 metropolitan markets all over the world, including New Zealand. Their instrument of measurement is the ‘median multiple’, which is found by dividing the median house price by before tax median household income.

Those markets with a median multiple of 3.0 and under are rated ‘affordable’. 3.1-4.0 is ‘moderately unaffordable’. 4.1-5.0 earns the title ‘seriously unaffordable’, while markets 5.1 and over get a special badge that reads ‘severely unaffordable’.

Guess what they say about New Zealand?

Demographia Table 10 NZ housing affordability

Source: 9th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey

Scary stuff. Nationally our median multiple is 5.3, which is just about level-pegging with the United Kingdom and Australia, less affordable than Canada, Ireland and the United States, and way way behind Hong Kong.

In the latter’s case they have a good excuse. Hong Kong isn’t exactly known for its ranges full of playing deer and antelope. Meanwhile New Zealand, as this Quartz article points out, have an average of 0.5 people per square kilometre. So with all this land, why are prices so high? And with prices so high, why are so many people still buying?

So many apparent paradoxes. What does make sense, however, is this advice for first home buyers: be prepared to compromise. Look outside your ideal suburb, because chances are if you’re willing to live two towns over you will find a more affordable price. Keep one eye on your dream suburb anyway, because you never know when a bargain-priced fixer-upper might come along. But you can probably forget about Herne Bay for now.

There are bargains available for first home buyers if you’re willing to climb the ladder. So before you search our website for the richest suburbs just remember: dreams may happen overnight, but they often take longer to come true.

* [cue dramatic music] OR DID THEY? Subsequent editing in the Herald article shows the couple were househunting in Glen Eden, which – being further west – is a far more affordable suburb for first time buyers. The photo caption still suggests Herne Bay as a possible candidate, but clearly these two are doing the right thing and looking at homes in sensible, cheaper locations. All the best to you both!

(Best of all, our advice to the rest of you remains valid. Phew!)

The new Facebook Graph Search: cool, or creepy?

Graph Search

“People use search engines to answer questions. But we can answer a set of questions that no one else can really answer.” Mark Zuckerberg

As part of my role at Open2view I keep an eye on the latest social media trends and work out what they mean for us, and for all of you.

The ol’ thinking cap has been firmly on all day over Facebook’s announcement of their new search engine, to be known as Graph Search.

So what exactly is Graph Search? It is, essentially, a more effective way to search through your friends’ preferences. Oh, and their friends too. Through this you can build on your existing connections, and establish new ones, without having to utter a single word to another person.

It works like this: if you are passing through Hamilton and want to see who of your friends live there, just type in ‘friends who live in Hamilton’. If you wish to find out if any of your workmates want to go on a tramp, just search ‘work friends who like tramping’. (Or you could ask around the office – either way.) If you’re craving Mexican for lunch but don’t know what places are good, your friends might already know – type ‘Mexican restaurants in Hamilton my friends have been to’ and click ‘enter’.

It doesn’t just search your friends. Any friends of friends who have made relevant information available will show up in results too.

That’s where things get interesting. Facebook are well aware, this time round, of people’s privacy concerns. They have been at pains today to stress that any info made private will be treated as such, and will be issuing prompts to users to make sure their privacy settings are all sorted. Kashmir Hill of Forbes has already used Graph Search to show how much of Mark Zuckerberg’s information is publicly available.

Some decrease in privacy is inevitable. Once this product goes live to the masses, it will make Facebook stalking even easier.

Some early reviews have pointed out how Graph Search could even be used for dating. Searching ‘friends of friends in [your town] who are single’ will be good news for some (the person doing the search) and perhaps less pleasant for others (those who appear in the search results).

There are plenty of advantages to being able to search through your friends’ likes, even if they don’t always appreciate it. Let’s expand on the restaurant example, as I’m writing this near lunchtime and I’m hungry.

It has been shown time and again that you are more likely to buy a good or service if one of your friends has already purchased it – and doesn’t regret doing so. Therefore, running a Graph Search to see what eateries your friends are fans of will often give you far more valuable information than going to Google and reading through strangers’ restaurant reviews.

In the official introductory video, Facebook states the purpose of Graph Search is to help you “find people [you] should know.” After that, Facebook’s purpose will be to monetise this to the best of their ability. Nothing wrong with that (they’re a business after all) – just don’t be shocked if/when Facebook rolls out ads that allow pages to promote themselves to the top of any Graph Search enquiry.

If you wish to get on at the ground floor, scroll to the bottom of the Graph Search page and click ‘Join Waiting List’.

What do you reckon – will Graph Search an exciting, revolutionary step forward? Or is this just another win for cyber-stalkers? Have your say below or on our, um, Facebook page.

Check out the introductory video below:

REINZ’s Property Market Report for December 2012

kettle boiling real estate property market

The market’s getting hot, but it’s not quite at boiling point.

The Real Estate Institute of New Zealand released its December Property Market Report this morning. I haven’t had a look at last month’s events as I’ve been too full of Christmas ham and trifle to think straight. It’s worth sharing REINZ’s data therefore – and doubly so as it provides valuable insight into not just last month but all of 2012.

Some of the more interesting factoids to emerge include:

  • We’ve hit a new national median house price record: at $389,000 this is up 9.6 percent on December 2011.
  • 74,000 houses were sold during 2012, which marks the highest number since 2007 – the height of our most recent real estate boom – and a 21% increase on 2011.
  • Auctions are becoming more and more popular. In 2012, 68% more sales were conducted under the hammer. Auckland saw an 87% increase. Unsurprising, as their hot property market makes it worth sending one’s house to auction to see how high buyers are willing to go.
  • As always, the real excitement occurred in two regions: Auckland and Canterbury/Westland. In the case of the latter, you can bet your sweet bottom dollar Christchurch is providing more of the action than Hokitika.
  • Home buyers looking for a friendlier environment might want to look at Hawkes Bay, whose median value is down 6.8% on December 2011, or Southland which has dropped 4.08%. Auckland and Canterbury/Westland, surprise surprise, made the biggest price jumps – 10.45% and 8% respectively.
  • Finally, for all the talk of the nation finding itself in a rapidly inflating housing bubble, just half the twelve regions have higher median house prices now than in December 2007. The fact one of those happens to be Auckland – who made up half the total value of house sales last month – is what’s pushing the nationwide median upwards. Which isn’t to say it’s not worth keeping a close eye on.

There are plenty of properties for sale below the median, funnily enough, and you can find a tonne of them on our website.

You can also check out all the REINZ data, including region and suburb info, by clicking here.

Call in the professionals: the rise, and rise, of real estate photography

Summer holiday

The Open2view team on our Summer Holiday.


Happy New Year everyone! We trust you managed to catch up with loved ones and found your way to a pool or beach somewhere. It’s been a hot start to the year and the weather forecasters are picking more of the same until the end of February. And if a weather forecaster says it, well, it must be true.

At Open2view we love sunshine. Natural light is the photographer’s friend (although not necessarily this author’s). It seems we won’t be doing much swimming for a while – field reports suggest home sellers are keeping our photographers very busy for this time of year.

This we don’t mind at all. It means the property market’s vibrant, and more agents and vendors are recognising the importance of professional real estate photography. Also, someone has to keep our team out of mischief.

Professional real estate photos are growing in popularity for good reason. Last year we published a post entitled ‘Images are everything: why you should hire a professional to photograph your home’. It is definitely, in the author’s humble opinion, worth a read.

Long story short: online property hunting is a lot like Internet dating. If your photos don’t stand out – or they stand out for the wrong reasons – expect to stay on the market far longer than you should, while those other jerk houses get snapped up by some rich bachelor/ettes with fancy job titles.

Open2view Interior photo #281368

The best real estate photos welcome you in and around the home, and allow you to envision your life there. They really are just one step below physically visiting the house.

 

Let’s labour this metaphor some more. Let’s say that, pressed for time, you’re presented with a lineup of prospective homes/partners to choose from. In both cases, those with the best photos get the most attention. The ones with no photos are the last looked at, if at all. The ones with poor quality photos? They’d get plenty of attention… had the lineup been a police one.

An excellent article with a to-the-point title (‘Photos of your home matter in real estate’) appeared on Forbes.com last month. It made an assertion every home seller should take heed of:

“Imagine the photo shoots retailers and catalog companies do to showcase their products. Would they release a catalog with photos of stained living room furniture or with improper lighting? Of course not — and neither should a seller. A home is a product for sale, just like any other, and should be marketed as such.”

And proper marketing of an in-demand product equals higher profit. Studies show that houses with professional photographs can fetch thousands more than those taken with your garden-variety point and shoot camera.

Open2view sold #282447

From our sold collection – not a million dollar dream, but plenty of charm and a great first home. Professional photos ensure your home’s character, and potential, shine through.

 

Just the other day HQ received a testimonial from a customer that tied all these points together in a neat little package. Matt from Auckland attributes Open2view’s “good staging and great photos”, as taken by Mike Taylor, for helping to sell his house in just five days and for $20,000 above the asking price.

He went on to say:

“In addition to being extremely easy to deal with, fitting our job in very quickly, with little lead time, and turning up exactly when you said you would, the best part was your photos were absolutely fantastic… The fact you used a variety of photographic methods (special remote flash units etc.) to ensure the place looked its best made all the difference.

“I would fully recommend you to other people wanting top-notch professional photos of their house taken for sale.”

Thank you, Matt – it’s this kind of feedback that makes our day. His story reflects what more people are recognising: professional photos, and marketing, can greatly assist in selling your house faster and for a higher price.

If you’re looking to sell your home, don’t you worry – though we may be busier than usual, we will never be too busy for you. So when those prospective real estate agents start fighting for your custom, be sure to choose someone who understands the pulling power of professional photography.