Governments, companies and individuals have been buying and selling land and other real property for centuries. But the invention of photography added a new component to the industry—people could actually see a picture of the property before they decided whether or not a visit was worth their time.
On her blog, Living Curiously, Becki Saltzman says the first open house for residential property was in 1947 in Levittown, New York. The picture of the flyer that accompanies the story shows drawings of the select homes, which cost about $13,000 each in that year.
It wasn’t until the early 1970s when Century 21 began to offer franchises to brokers that agents began to hone their marketing skills, and those skills began to include photography. Using the multiple listing system also known as MLS, black and white pictures of residences began to show up on flyers and in newspapers. The technology of the times did not lend itself to high quality photos, but none-the-less the addition of photos to real estate marketing was revolutionary.
In the 1980s some communities began distributing monthly listings in a magazine style format, or “listing book”. These publications were distributed at various businesses and were also available from local agents. Some of the early magazines were very rudimentary and done in black and white newsprint. The only photographs were of the exterior and did not give potential homebuyers much information about the interior of the residence, mostly due to space considerations.
As technology improved, so did the quality of these listing books and the photos within them. Many were similar to glossy magazines and included full color photographs. Though photos certainly helped, the real estate agents’ best tools continued to be salesmanship and taking prospective buyers on property tours.
It was not until the late 90s that quality photographs became important to real estate agents. That was when the Internet became a common source for information on available properties. Agents had a new marketing tool and unlimited space to showcase residences, land and commercial property. Real estate agents began to consider having a website with listings and photos a necessary marketing tool, not a luxury.
How did the Internet lead to the rise of real estate photography? First, agents could add more pictures to a listing online. The addition of interior shots gave potential buyers a better feel for the residence and helped them make better decisions when choosing what homes they wanted to pursue.
Second, the quality of the photographs improved with technology. Some pictures made on mobile phones produce a better picture than those made on professional cameras from the last century. This put the power of photography in the hands of any agent who wanted to pursue it.
Third, professional real estate photographers who could use lighting and other techniques to enhance the features of a residence began to show up. These people learned from principles used in architectural photography and began to apply these techniques to residential real estate. A new industry was born.
The business of real estate marketing and photography has come a long way now from the days of drawings in newspapers and on flyers!