Christina Hoffmann has covered real estate and homeownership for two decades, including as REALTOR® Magazine managing editor and HouseLogic.com’s content manager, with added expertise as owner of a demanding 100-year-old house. She is currently a senior speech writer at NAR.
The Dual Value of Post-Closing Photo Shoots
Help buyers proclaim their happy news and reap the marketing rewards for your business.
May - June
News flash: “Millennials like to share stuff on social media.” Yes, this is about as shocking as saying avocado toast should be its own food group. But it can’t be overstated that millennials really, really love to chronicle every life moment. Even the once-private marriage proposal is no longer sacrosanct. So it’s hardly surprising that they—and, yes, buyers in other age groups too—are eager to post photos of themselves showing off their newly purchased home, whether it’s their first or their third time through.
Post-closing photos are a fun and easy marketing tactic, to be sure. Here’s how to get the most from a shoot, whether you’re behind the camera or taking a selfie with your clients.
Ask permission. Before you post, be sure the buyers are onboard. You don’t want a joyous occasion to turn sour.
Take multiple photos. RE/MAX Results’ Liz Smith takes a couple of shots so she can choose the best. “I don’t necessarily let the client pick. But if they’re worried about how they look, I let them see.”
Get inspired. Get creative ideas from social media. For instance, you can search Pinterest for “first home photos.” Photographer Dawn Richardson took photos of the Cabibbos inside a still-empty house because she “was intrigued by the idea of exploring the house before life happens.”
Consider the platform. “I take photos in square mode from my phone,” Smith says, “because those look good on Instagram and on Facebook.” Otherwise, she says, her shoots are organic: no professional lighting or Photoshopping.
Tailor the shoot to the client. One buyer couple, Kristie and Josh Roth, were about to welcome their baby boy when they bought their home. (Just in the nick of time!) Smith arranged for Sold and Coming Soon signs for the couple.
Be sensitive to clients. If Smith’s client is single, she may join in for a selfie, because some find it awkward to have their picture taken alone. “And it’s more fun to do a selfie,” she says. “Who’s got the longer arm?” she’ll joke with her client.
Don’t post prematurely. Smith does her photo shoots at walkthrough, but urges buyers not to take or post photos too soon. “In the contract stage, you can’t put photos on social media. Sellers are on the internet and if the prospective buyers say how much they love the house, they could make the negotiations harder,” she says.
Tag. Tag. Tag. Ask if you can friend and then tag buyers on your channels. Smith sends them the photo and asks the new homeowners to tag her, too. “It’s great, organic engagement—and you get more likes. People see the Sold signs and think I’m selling a home every week, even if I’m not, because they see pictures in various social media feeds,” she says.
Whether they rely on their agent to snap their close-up, hire a pro photographer, or take selfies, they’re telling the world that buying a home is a big deal. And that’s a golden marketing opportunity for agents as well.
Something to Talk About
Liz Smith, ABR, SRS, an agent with RE/MAX Results in St. Louis, has been capturing her buyers’ big moment for four years, since she started her business. “Now when I get referrals from past clients, the [referrals] ask, ‘When do we do the photo shoot?!’ ”
Kyle Schulze, an agent with Berkshire Hathaway Home-Services, Ambassador Real Estate in Omaha, agrees. “The practice stirs up a lot of conversations,” he says. “Facebook has an algorithm that recognizes milestones, like buying housing and having a child—and those posts reach more people. So these posts get a lot of likes and comments, and then their friends are interested in buying, too.” Shortly after Schulze closed with one of his clients, Heather Mangiameli, and they both posted photos, he got two referrals from her friends.
Buyers like Mangiameli, a marketing manager who bought her first home at 24, are rightly proud. “It was a big accomplishment for me,” she says. “I always had a strong work ethic. I bought my first car at 20. My mom always encouraged me to save money. One day after writing my rent check, I did the math and decided it was time for the next investment in my life.”
So when she closed on her three-bedroom, just-remodeled home, Mangiameli was revved to capture the big day. “I told Kyle I didn’t want a regular Sold sign. I wanted to do something cool and different.” Inspired by the reality show “Say Yes to the Dress,” Schulze ordered a giant key prop for her shoot with the words, “I said yes to the address.” He also emblazoned the key with his contact info. “I typically get an average of 20 likes,” Mangiameli says. “I got about 400 likes on that photo. And the feedback was that no one had seen that before.”
Schulze says he got a good number of likes, comments, and congratulations on his feed, too. The beauty of this marketing is that I’m getting my name into the consumer’s feed.”
Portrait of a Buyer
So hot is this practice that some buyers are opting for a professional shoot. Morgan and Joey Cabibbo, of Boerne, Texas, tapped their wedding photographer, Dawn Richardson, to take an album’s worth of new-home photos. “We wanted to capture a big moment in our lives,” Morgan says. “We’d have it forever.”
In fact, Richardson encourages her subjects to opt for prints, not just digital photos, so one day their “great grandkids [will] find your first-home photos and wedding photos in the attic.”
More Ways to Spin Off a Great Idea
The closing photo can be just the beginning of the memories. Kyle Schulze plans to send his buyers cards featuring that photo on the anniversary of the house purchase. Anna Kolm, with Manor Windsor Realty Ltd. in Windsor, Ontario, frames the photo and makes it part of her closing gift.