Buyer’s agent unexpectedly turns a buyer service into new listings

I recently had a conversation with a well-respected agent regarding property photos. She mentioned that when she works with buyers, she photographs the properties (after asking permission from the listing agents) and creates showing “albums” on the photo sharing site Flickr for her buyers to reference. This practice makes her buyers happy in that they can review what they have seen as well as helping her to better represent her buyers if there is some sort of question regarding a change in condition of the property prior to closing.

In creating these online albums of properties, something unexpected has happened. Sellers who Google their addresses are finding this agent’s pictures in the top search engines for their properties. The agent can attribute three recent listings to sellers who found her photos of their property online. The former listing agents didn’t have a clue as they never did much advertising online.

I mentioned this story in an office meeting last week and received a variety of comments from agents. Some felt that the practice of putting photos of a listing that is not yours online is unethical and could be a security hazard for a seller. Others felt that if the buyer’s agent has the listing agent’s permission, all is fair and she is representing her buyer. It’s not the buyer’s agent’s fault that the listing agent is “technologically illiterate”.

What is your opinion?

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17 Responses to Buyer’s agent unexpectedly turns a buyer service into new listings

  1. Matt Wilkins says:

    I commend this agent for being able to do this but will say doing this the technically right way won’t work in all markets.

    In my local market which is still heavily short sales and REOs, contacting some listings agents is hard enough just for basic tasks and obtaining permission to photograph would be almost impossible. Also as much as I hate to say it is being able to find photos of the property via google search going to convince most asset managers to switch their accounts to you as a listing agent?

  2. Arnel Tanyag says:

    Tina,

    I appreciate you sharing your experience. I am not suprise on how great ideas come from people implementing now and perfecting along the way. Once again, thank you for sharing.

  3. Tina,

    My opinion is no surprise… If the listing agent was doing their job, it wouldn’t put the buyer agent in the position of needing to take additional photos for her buyers.

    There’s nothing unethical about it. She had permission… Typically the first agent who throws out “it’s unethical” when it really isn’t, is the one who realizes they aren’t capable of doing that particular act.

    If agents don’t wish to use the tools that are getting exposure to the home, the should start representing buyers and leave the marketing to those who can do so.

  4. Jim Duncan says:

    First, I think the buyers agents are doing their clients a tremendous service, and I still wish there was a way to report listing agents for shirking their responsibilities by not posting photos online … that said …

    A different tack –

    1 – Can the listing agents give permission to the buyers agents to take photos of occupied properties? Is this an invasion of the sellers’ privacy? I know that some sellers take down personal photos for the initial photography but return said photos after the pictures are taken. Just because these sellers may have crappy listing agents doesn’t mean they relinquish their rights to privacy.

    2 – Are the buyers agents in fact “marketing” the homes by posting the addresses online with the photos?

    Full disclosure – I do this too, but do it for my clients’ eyes only – on password-protected sites – as I typically use video.

  5. Renae says:

    I also practice this service for my buyers. I usually preview homes for my out of area buyers and take multiple photos and email them in a pdf to my buyers before they even look at the property.

    I do see both sides of the argument but I am seeing many agent or some agents have gotten lazy or complacent by thinking putting up a few photos on MLS will garner a quick sale. Buyers are much more sophisticated than in years past so I look at it as value added.

  6. I think intent has something to do with it as well. This agent does not intend to market said listing at the time of taking the pictures. Nor is said agent’s intent to go behind the sign. I agree that if the listing agent was doing their job then they could provide more pictures themselves. We have been doing it for years now, previewing homes for buyers and taking pictures and then sending them to buyer clients. This agent only posted them on line so that the buyer client would not have to down load the pictures on their own computer. Also when working the buyers market it is not uncommon to work several buyers in the same price range with the similar criteria. Having pictures like this allows an agent to keep all the buyers they are working in this price range informed of what is on the market the most effective way. Also allows the buyer to come back to the pictures time and again to review which could save time in going back for second showings. This also allows for buyer clients to share the pictures with friends and families. Does this violate sellers privacy? I think listing agents should be having this conversation with their sellers at the listing appointment. I know I do. Asking the listing agent permission to take pictures is perfectly acceptable. I am not sure that this is something that would work with REO’s in particular however.

  7. Jeremy Hart says:

    Back to Jim’s point – “Are the buyers agents in fact “marketing” the homes by posting the addresses online with the photos?”

    I think that they are in fact marketing the home by posting the address, or at least implying that they are marketing the home. Perhaps a solution for that would be that in either the set description, or in the description of each photo. to be above-board there should be a snippet of “Listed by ABC Brokerage” there – that would satisfy that requirement, I think.

    Other than that, I love the idea. Like Tina, I had the same conversation with this agent and found it to be eye-opening. “I’m already taking photos for the buyers, why not make those photos public?” Kudos for taking it a step further, and for making it work!

  8. Brigitte Powell says:

    I have always understood that the listing agent is not allowed to give permission to anyone allowing them to take pictures unless he/she has the Seller’s signed approval. Montague Miller and Co. has a form the Seller signs and the picture taking question is on that form.

  9. Jeff Secrest says:

    You need to be careful.

    If listing agents were doing their job well we’d have more and better photos (in most cases).

    I don’t see anything wrong with taking and posting exterior photos, but interior shots are a different matter. You could be posting photos which may make the home a target for thieves (i.e. gun cabinets, or other valuables). Without the permission of the homeowner this could be risky.

  10. Candy Lynn says:

    I love the photo album for buyer clients & have done so myself. I too have used Flickr for posting but without using the address of the listing. I also put a disclaimer something along the lines of “Photos taken for use of BUYER Clients. Property is not listed by Valley of Virginia Real Estate.”

  11. Kathy Carson says:

    I think the comments are very interesting.

    However; for the last few months it’s all I can do to get the appointments, get the data on the houses the buyers are interested in, answer their questions, return the emails and then do the offers. There is no way I have time to take pictures and post for each house my buyers are looking at on any given day. And then if you have 2 or 3 buyers in one day how in the world do you have time to get on the computer and post the pictures for all of the houses each has seen?

    We have a developement in this area that has quite a few of the condos on the market and it’s the ones with the pictures that are getting shown – I am so sick of nothing but pictures of the outside & lake. Listing Agents do your job – take lots of pictures it’s a Buyers Market!!

    Just my thoughts!

  12. Jeremy Hart says:

    Kathy, I understand the time concern, and it’s a valid one. I think what this agent is doing is making the time – whether it be in the evening, early morning, etc. – to plug the camera in, download and then upload to Flickr. Certainly I don’t have to be sitting in front of the computer while all of that’s going on, and my involvement is minimal once the process(es) have started. But it will take a commitment of some extra time to go that extra mile.

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  14. Brigitte Powell says:

    Welllll, maybe not technically legally :-) but why not have the Seller’s permission to let people take pictures…no sense asking for trouble. :-)
    I wouldn’t want to find myself in court defending the legality of it all, spending my hard earned money in such a foolish way.

  15. I agree with Jim. I don’t think the seller/listing agent can provide permission for buyer’s agent to take photos.

    I have beaucoup photos of my rental listings on my website taken when they are vacant. I feature them vacant and do not show any tenants’ furnishings in any photos. I suspect the renter’s insurance carrier or the sellers’ homeowners insurance carrier would have a problem if there was a break-in or worse – a Craigslist SCAM.

  16. Brigitte Powell says:

    I don’t think Jim said that….

  17. I agree with many of the comments here. You have to be careful to make sure you aren’t stepping over any legal boundaries and you have to make the time in your day for this process. Otherwise, you won’t be able to make it work.

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