Zoom in on Digital Imaging

11 clever ways to make the most of your digital camera (and delight your buyers and sellers!)

September 1, 2000

Since digital cameras became affordable a few years ago, many real estate salespeople have taken the plunge. Yet, I hear stories from people who haven’t taken their camera out of the box or are using the camera only for flyers. What a shame! There’s a world of uses for these marvelous machines.

Here are 11 ways to use your camera to surprise and amaze buyers and sellers and improve your bottom line--without spending a fortune.

With buyers . . .

1. Let them take the pictures. When showing homes, hand the camera to the potential buyers. It makes the showings more fun and personal. Plus, they photograph what they want to remember.

2. Give them a disk. Give buyers a copy of the disk containing the day’s photos to review later. If you have a camera that uses floppy disks, start your showings with your labeled disk already in the camera. Then just pop it out at the end of the showings.

3. Land on their refrigerator. To congratulate buyers on a new purchase, give them a calendar with a photo of them in front of their new home. Customize the calendar to include your photo, slogan, and contact information. This fun and personal gift takes only seconds to make using a template in Adobe PhotoDeluxe, Microsoft Publisher, or other inexpensive software programs.

4. Keep a loaner on hand. If you’re working with out-of-town buyers, lend them your second or older digital camera during their visits so that they can take pictures of homes they’d like to see or community interest spots. Out-of-towners love to take home a disk of the homes they visited, and the loaner will help guarantee that you’ll see them again before they leave.

5. Offer change-of-address labels. Using label software (I like Avery Label Pro), design address labels for new buyers with a picture of the new home. If you really want to make a hit, create a separate set using the kids’ pictures. Quite often, kids will call and ask for more. You can also give new homeowners copies of the calendars mentioned earlier to use as a change-of-address notice.

With sellers . . .

6. Let them take the pictures, too. When gathering information on a prospective listing, hand your camera to the sellers and let them take the pictures they think show off their home best. As a gift, give them a disk containing the pictures they took. (Caution: Make sure you also take the pictures you want.)

7. Use your digital camera as a “talking CMA.” For a truly unique listing presentation, show your list of comparable homes in a camera-based presentation. Many digital cameras let you add sound to a picture. As you take photos of comps, state the address and sales information into the camera’s microphone. At the listing presentation, put your camera in "slide show" mode and let the prospective sellers watch your presentation on the LCD screen. (With extra equipment, you can run the slide show on a laptop or a TV.)

8. Hint at fix ups. Rather than risk offending sellers with a list of fix-up demands, take a close-up (and I mean close-up) picture of each area that needs work. Show the photos to the seller and ask, “What should I tell buyers when they ask me about this?” It should start a dialogue such as, “I’ve never noticed that. Do you think we should repair it?” Your answer might be, “Let’s start a list. What about the next picture?”

9. Turn sellers into walking billboards. Design a flyer that reads, “My home’s for sale. For more information, contact . . .” Include the home picture and your photo and contact information, then iron the image on to white T-shirts and give them to your sellers. You’ll find special "iron on" printer paper at your favorite business supply store (I like cool-process paper from Hammermill). You might see your human ads walking around the school and the local mall.

10. Prepare marketing materials in advance. Most real estate software allows you to create promotional materials by importing digital pictures into listing records. At your next listing appointment, rather than showing marketing materials from your last listing, take pictures of the prospect’s house and create custom flyers and postcards, for example. Then you might say, "My staff and I have taken the liberty to prepare some marketing materials for your approval. Which ones do you like?"

11. Have a slide show. For less than $50, you can buy software that will continuously loop a slide show on your camera, laptop, or TV screen. During an open house, try running slides of the home’s summer garden or of other listings.

One final but important tip . . .

When buyers or sellers ask you for additional copies of gifts you’ve given them, don’t say, “It’s easy, my computer does that in seconds.” Instead, say, “I’ll order that right away” or “I’ll put my staff on that right away!” Never kill the myth!

Don’t forget these essential accessories

To make the most of your digital camera skills, consider these accessories:

  • Digital imaging software--Most digital cameras come with software to organize, edit, and print your pictures. Adobe PhotoDeluxe Business Edition (www.adobe.com) is commonly included. If not, it costs less than $100 at any computer store.
  • Disk labels--Use Avery Label Pro (www.avery.com) or other label software to customize the floppy disks you give away. Since these disks are another form of your business card, always include your picture and contact information on the label (and instructions on how to view the pictures).
  • Special papers--For flyers, calendars, or other print pieces designed to impress, you’ll need special paper. Canvas paper for ink-jet printers (available at Best Buy, Staples, OfficeMax, etc.) adds texture and value to your personalized gift. Your goal is to get your gift placed on the refrigerator door.
  • Printers--Consider upgrading your printer if you intend to print your own flyers and marketing materials. Many good ink-jet printers give near photo-quality prints of high-resolution images on good paper.
  • Virtual tour equipment--If you want to produce your own virtual tours using iPIX technology, you must purchase a camera that supports a special fish-eye lens. For more information on which cameras iPIX supports, go to www.ipix.com.

P.S. Don’t do cables! Most digital cameras include cables to download pictures to your computer, but don’t use them. Cable downloading is slow and eats camera battery power. If your camera uses a CompactFlash or SmartMedia memory card, you can purchase a PC card adapter for about $20 to use with your notebook computer, or an external PC card reader for $50–$75 to use with your desktop computer.

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