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Real Estate Photos Tell A Lot, As Does a Lack of Photos

Real Estate Agent with Dirt Road Real Estate SA676002000

As the old saying goes a "picture is worth a thousand words."  FACT: Real estate photos sell vacant land and residential homes. Often one can observe that the listed property lacks photos and this is quite true for vacant land or “dirt.”

Some Multiple Listing Services (MLS) will allow a county map as the only photo of the property. What this may suggest is the following:

  • Vacant land listing is not readily accessible (vacant land is land lock) or the roads require high clearance, 4x4 vehicles
  • Property has some significant issues such as deep washes to gullies, ravines which limit building and even placement of septic systems
  • Listing agent has not invested the time to travel to the property

This week I received a call from an out of state buyer interested in a one acre vacant land parcel to the Northeast of Kingman, AZ off old Route 66.  The vacant land listing only showed the county map and did not have any photos of the parcel or surrounding area. I volunteered to drive out and visit the property along with taking photos. This out of state buyer was both surprised by my offer and very appreciative.

Having never traveled this particular street, I was quite curious.  Imagine my surprise when the property was just three parcels off a paved road (about 800 feet) and the parcel had great mountain views.  The listing price of this one acre vacant land parcel with power at the property line and rural water was extremely inflated when compared to other recently sold parcels.

From my trip to the property and information about other sold properties, the out of state buyer decided to look elsewhere. (Note: The above feature photo is of this vacant land listing that I visited for this out of state buyer. Aren't the views great?) 

Good news is this out of state buyer is now a client because I made this effort of going the extra mile.

When I list vacant land, I take photos of at least two of the property corners (markers) if available, the road in both directions, the property from standing at different property lines and views looking outside of the property  Usually this means investing 20 minutes or so and taking between 30-50 photos. For a vacant land listing I prefer to have at least 20 photos. My time does not include travel time.

My belief is to list a vacant land property I must visit the property because there are some vacant land properties that may have issues. These issues are often the vacant land was bought for investment years ago and at that time of purchase the surrounding areas were pristine. Over time some of the parcels may have been purchased that may have changed the initial pristine look of the surrounding parcels.  

Additionally for listing residential properties, I take photos as one is entering the home. I believe the photos should represent the home in the best possible light as well as give the potential buyer a “sense” of the traffic flow.  Exterior photos are often taken which may highlight the outbuildings to the well to the location of the water meter or power pole.

Yes, photos, pictures are worth a thousand words and can easily translate into thousands of dollars for the seller and save thousands of dollars for the out of state buyers.

Photo Courtesy of Leanne M Smith

Any reproduction of Leanne M Smith’s blog for use by any AI or GAI, distribution or reproduction including but not limited to electronic newsletters e.g. PDF’s Internet sites or physical products e.g. newspapers, CDs without prior written permission and consent by me, Leanne M. Smith (Leanne Hoagland-Smith) is strictly prohibited.

Posted by

Leanne M. Smith, MS, GRI, rCRMS

2018 KGVAR Rookie Realtor of the Year-55+
219.508.2859 MST
Life Begins Where the Pavement Ends
Connect with me on LinkedIn:
Michael Jacobs
Pasadena, CA
Pasadena And Southern California 818.516.4393

Hello Leanne - there are many thoughts coming to mind while reading your post.  And that happens a lot because of the way your presentation of stories told.

As photos in various multiple listing platforms reveal, much can be learned by what is shown.  And not shown too.  The ability to read between the lines as well as see beyond becomes a critical analysis on many levels.  

This post speaks volumes to me.  Picturing the focus can become much clearer as we continue to become and stay aware.  

Jan 18, 2024 06:54 AM
Leanne Smith

We share the numerous thoughts with regards to a lack of photos. I am at a loss given this particular parcel had great photos and was very street friendly. There is a lot of reading between the lines and undertaking the necessary research.

Jan 18, 2024 06:55 AM
Dorie Dillard Austin TX
Coldwell Banker Realty ~ 512.750.6899 - Austin, TX
NW Austin ~ Canyon Creek and Spicewood/Balcones

Good morning Leanne,

I've never understood lack of photos or poor quality photos for land or residential properties. A picture is a thousand words and can entice a buyer to take a further look. Sellers are not served with poor quality or no photos from their listing agent..shame on them for not not trying to do the very best job they can!

Jan 18, 2024 07:37 AM
Leanne Smith

So true and again this returns to the Code of Ethics for REALTORS(r) how can a REALTOR protect and promote his or her clients with one photo or poor photos such as a toilet seat being opened.

Jan 18, 2024 07:44 AM
Andrew Mooers | 207.532.6573
Northern Maine Real Estate-Aroostook County Broker

Show me what it would be like at this property, in your community. Everyone outside the area wants a tour guide and to be the local go to for information. Do a better job describing your properties, your community flavor and watch the phone ring, email server to glow red hot Leanne Smith ! Nice image!

Jan 18, 2024 08:04 AM
Leanne Smith

Our MLS does restrict us from showing any photos not directly connected to the property.  If there is a clubhouse, we can't show that, but can mention it in the public remarks. Glad you enjoyed the image.

Jan 19, 2024 06:03 AM
Carol Williams

That was the same with our MLS, Leanne Smith. I doubt that has changed since I retired.

Jan 21, 2024 06:19 AM
Will Hamm
Hamm Homes - Aurora, CO
"Where There's a Will, There's a Way!"

So true Leanne and great information to share with us today in the Rain.  Make it a great day!

Jan 18, 2024 02:16 PM
Leanne Smith

Thank you Will Hamm and enjoy Freya's Day.

Jan 19, 2024 06:02 AM
Kathy Streib
Cypress, TX
Home Stager/Redesign

I love this Leanne- pictures help to tell the story. And, so does the agent who takes the time to actually see the property and learn more about it!! Good for you. 

Jan 18, 2024 05:52 PM
Leanne Smith

Yes this photo does represent much of what Mohave County looks like.

Jan 19, 2024 06:02 AM
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP
Selling Homes Changing Lives

Leanne Smith - I like how thorough you are when it comes to business. Pictures are very important and helps buyers tremendously. Your explanations are spot on!

Jan 18, 2024 06:03 PM
Leanne Smith

Thank you as always for your kind words.  With 5 decades of sales experience, I have no other way than being thorough.

Jan 19, 2024 06:01 AM
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

I so agree with you about the photos, I have seen kitchen with trash... and unwashed dishes and bathrooms with well let's just say private parts and underwear ... that did not need to be in the photos:)Endre

Jan 18, 2024 10:12 PM
Leanne Smith

Well I have never see the bathroom scenario, but last weekend did encounter dog droppings in a spare bedroom. Yuck

Jan 19, 2024 06:00 AM
Brian England
Ambrose Realty Management LLC - Gilbert, AZ
MBA, GRI, REALTOR® Real Estate in East Valley AZ

Having good photos for a listing is a must.  The majority of people are first seeing a home online and it has to wow them in order for them to want to see it in person.

Jan 19, 2024 04:20 AM
Leanne Smith

So true and again my failure to understand using only a county map. How sad, how against promoting the client,

Jan 19, 2024 05:59 AM
Dr. Paula McDonald
Beam & Branch Realty - Granbury, TX
Granbury, TX 936-203-0279

I've never understood the clients who accept terrible pictures of their properties. The proper formatting, angles, lighting, clarity, etc. are essential. Love your post.

Jan 21, 2024 05:38 AM
Leanne Smith

We are in the same never understanding boat when it comes to photos, lack there of, quality, etc. Thank you for the "love."

Jan 21, 2024 06:07 AM
Carol Williams
Although I'm retired, I love sharing my knowledge and learning from other real estate industry professionals. - Wenatchee, WA
Retired Agent / Broker / Prop. Mgr, Wenatchee, WA

Hi Leanne,
I think a lot of agents who list land are lazy because they don't feel the compensation is adequate for the time spent. Your clients are lucky to have you representing them.

Jan 21, 2024 06:21 AM
Leanne Smith

Well greed does appear to be often present. I know of two agents who live out of state, have licenses for AZ and supply only maps.  Very sad indeed. Thank you for your very kind words as well.

Jan 21, 2024 06:23 AM
Margaret Goss
@Properties - Winnetka, IL
Chicago's North Shore & Winnetka Real Estate

The subject of real estate photos is a favorite of mine and it gets a lot of traction online. I have an entire folder devoted to these awful photos that I look at sometimes just for kicks. Too bad I can't publish them! 

Vacant land is a different category but now I understand how those, too, should be handled professionally. 

Jan 21, 2024 08:54 AM
Leanne Smith

I too have seen some very questionable photos. And vacant land is unique in its own way.

Jan 21, 2024 09:00 AM
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California, Inc. - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Hi Leanne:

While many of us understand the value of good photos for listings that represent the property some perhaps do not, or they don't care or are lazy. There is lots of good advice here with regard to vacant land listings and what should be done to best represent the property but also to assist buyers and their agents in the evaluation. If a lot has great views why would you not capitalize on that?


Jan 22, 2024 11:06 AM
Leanne Smith

Some of my house buyers have been quite upset by the photos as the photos do not represent the interior of the home.  Usually this representation has been more negative than positive. I agree if there are great view why not capitalize on it? Thank you for contributing to this ongoing dialogue.

Jan 22, 2024 12:51 PM
Don Baker
Lane Realty - Eatonton, GA
Lake Sinclair Specialist

I've certainly sold land not accessible, but when my office has it listed we usually have drone photos, not google earth or county map. 

Jan 22, 2024 11:19 AM
Leanne Smith

Thank you and I prefer not taking land lock, unaccessible land. I truly have my hands full with accessible land.

Jan 22, 2024 12:50 PM
Charles Ross - eXp Realty LLC
eXp Realty LLC Salina Group - Salina, KS
Love To Help People

Leanne, your dedication to going the extra mile for your clients is truly inspiring. Your approach to real estate photography shows how attention to detail can make a significant difference. Keep up the fantastic work in transforming the ordinary into extraordinary! #GoingTheExtraMile #RealEstateSuccess 💪🌟

Jan 23, 2024 05:17 AM
Leanne Smith

Good morning Charles Ross - eXp Realty LLC and truly appreciate your kind words. Yes having the correct attitude "going the extra mile" in real estate leads to much more personal success.

Jan 23, 2024 06:43 AM
Charles Ross - eXp Realty LLC
eXp Realty LLC Salina Group - Salina, KS
Love To Help People

Fantastic work, Leanne! Your commitment to showcasing properties through detailed photography truly enhances the buying experience. Keep up the great work! #RealEstateExcellence #GoTheExtraMile 🌟📷

Jan 26, 2024 10:03 AM
Leanne Smith

Thank you Charles Ross - eXp Realty LLC and good morning to you.

Jan 26, 2024 10:04 AM