When it comes to renting property, there are two things that can turn a good investment bad fastest: inadequate tenant screening and vacancy. A month without rent can easily cost $1000 or more in lost rent. Not only that, there’s also the time and money doing showings, interviews, screening and processing applications. And of course advertising your rental. At Anikio, our mission is to make renting as painless as possible when it comes to finding that tenant. One of the best tools that we have is good photos – they do help find tenants faster. In fact, that’s why we offer rental photography service in the first place! We know it makes a difference and we want the best experience not just for landlords, but also tenants trying to decide where to live.
We’ve seen it time and again with landlords that we work with. One landlord went from little to no interest over a 3-week span to having it rented in just days when we took new photos. Another thought she’d have to reduce the rent due to lack of interest at the price point. After replacing her photos with ours, she had multiple qualified applicants to choose from. But it’s one thing to have stories… we wanted hard data to quantify what we were seeing. We wanted to have an unbiased, data-backed answer for your question: Do good photos find tenants faster? How much faster?
The Experiment – One Property, Two Sets of Photos
So how to get this data? The key to any experiment is to isolate the variable, in this case, the quality of the photos, while keep everything else the same. So, we need to list the exact same property at the same time with the only difference being the photos. Thanks to our advanced searching capabilities, it’s too likely that on Anikio both properties would show up side by side (which might spoil the experiment). So we used an online listing site notorious for re-posts and burying listings quickly. One listing used photos taken by us. The other listing used photos that are typical of what we see in the marketplace today, taken by cell phone.
In the interest of full disclosure, we did also have to vary the title enough to ensure people wouldn’t know it was the same listing with a different photo (and thus choose not to open the second listing they saw). But to minimize the impact of that variable, we used the same words in both titles, just in a different order. Stonebridge Townhouse – 3 Bedroom vs. 3-Bed Townhouse in Stonebridge. Both posts were made the same day only a couple hours apart from different accounts to also minimize any variation for timing by day of week or week of year. Here is the day-by-day comparison with screenshots and analysis. Or if you don’t have time, you can skip right to the conclusion.
Day 1: Anikio Photos Take An Early Lead
Less than 24 hours in, we’re already several pages deep – a problem common to traditional listing sites. But the professional photos are off to a good start with almost twice as many views. Do good photos find tenants faster? So far, yes they sure do! It’s also worth noting that the ad directs users to Anikio to take a virtual tour and contact the landlord there, so we can count these replies as people that haven’t read the ad before reaching out. As well, a low number of replies may speak to other factors beyond the photos, so for those two reasons we’re not focused on that as a metric for the photography here.
One other note. We almost always advocate not to use the exterior photo as the feature photo (or thumbnail). Especially for apartments. We made an exception with this property for a couple reasons: First of all, the exterior photo is gorgeous. From the little Christmas tree to the dusk sky and warm lighting, the exterior does more than just show a building, it shows a home. The warm lighting and night sky trigger an innate response to our need for shelter. Secondly, we digitally staged an interior photo showing the living and dining room and kitchen, which would be our first choice for the feature photo. But it didn’t feel like a fair comparison to put up a fully staged AND professional photo against the landlord photo here. It would be a second variable.
Rest assured, we’ll be testing the difference of using an exterior vs interior photo soon. And the difference digital staging makes (about 73% according to one study). Oh, we’re going to have fun!
Photo Comparison Results – Day 1
Day 2: Results Stabilizing
The Anikio photos continue to maintain a healthy lead for professional photos but of course as the listings continue to get buried deeper down (already on page 19!) there are fewer views every day. Where the professional photo listing had a 97% lead in Day 1, that difference has averaged down to 75%. Somewhere between 2/3 – 3/4 is what we would have guessed as a difference the photos make, so it is nice to have our intuition validated.
On the other hand, while the purpose of this test is to talk about photos, we can’t help but point out that thanks to how fast the listings are buried, on Day 2 we only see 38-43% as many views as on Day 1. We’ll keep track of this also going forward.
Photo Comparison Results – Day 2
Day 3: Differential Growing Again in Favour of Professional Photos
While we expected the drop from Day 1’s 97% increase in views for professional photos, what we didn’t expect is a bounce back upwards. But day 3, we did see movement as the professional Anikio photos took an 81% increase in views over the three days. On the views standpoint, that’s only 9 more views for the professional photos and 3 more for the standard ones, so the difference is more pronounced but the numbers are small. We only have 8-13% of the views we got on Day 1.
Day 4: Back to the 90’s
Again the differential is creeping back up towards the differential we saw on day 1. As we dive into the numbers, it’s worth stepping back for a second. Consider how significant a 90% increase in views can be for a landlord. Almost twice as many people. Almost twice as many chances that you not only find a tenant but find a good tenant that will want to stay for a long time. Less risk of choosing someone your gut says no to because you don’t want to miss out on another month’s rent. And less pressure psychologically to reduce the rent unnecessarily. As for views, we’re 4 days in and on page 25 now.
Day 5: Standard Photos Finally Get As Many Views as Professional Photos Had Day 1
The title says it all. Day 5, the standard photo listing views has just crossed the number of views we saw Day 1 with the Anikio photos. Wow! While we’re seeing twice as many views, we’re seeing if, for example, viewer number 65 was the future tenant in both listings, we got to her 5 days sooner with better photos. Do good photos find tenants faster? Five days later, the answer is an even more responding yes.We’re going to skip Day 6 here and go right to Day 7 – one week in – for our conclusion.
You may not be surprised to find that more people looked at the property with nice photos. However, you may be surprised – as we were – to see how much of a difference it made. Nearly twice as many views over the course of a week! Do good photos find tenants faster? Yes, about twice as fast by that metric. Here’s another metric – it took 5 days for the standard photos to have as many views as we got day 1 with the professional photos. Looking at things that way, it could be argued that good photos find a tenant about 5 times faster.
What About Replies?
I said earlier that we aren’t using replies as a way to measure results. The quantity of replies may have more to do with non-photo factors such as the price vs. offering, market conditions, etc. Also, since we also wanted this test to benefit our landlord (this is a real, live property), we directed users on the listing with the professional photos to take the virtual tour and contact the landlord via Anikio. Since the standard photos didn’t show the property in its best light (literally), we didn’t include that message on that listing but decided to handle any replies personally. So quantity of replies, not relevant.
But the difference in quantity between the two? Absolutely relevant since regardless of those other factors, the only real difference between the two listings is the photos. Especially since we redirected the professional photo inquiries elsewhere, skewing the results in favour of standard photos. This test showed 5 times more responses in the same amount of time. We still ended up with 5 replies for professional (plus an untold more that went on to contact the landlord via Anikio) vs. 1 reply for the standard photos. And the only reply for the standard photos was from someone interested in using the home as a cannabis grow-op. Really!
Why More Replies with Professional Photos?
Photos affect the perceived value of the property and also the landlord’s pride of ownership. $1800 is a fair price for this rental regardless of photos. But more people felt the property with good photos looked worth $1800 rent. And THAT is how photos can also make a difference in how much a property rents for. If, as is the case here, nobody serious contacts the landlord with the standard photos, they may unnecessarily reduce their rent to attract more interest. Let’s say after one more week, putting us at Dec 2, the landlord with the standard photos lowers the rent $100 to get some interest. They also missed getting a tenant for November, which costs them $1800. So total cost for using poor photos assuming a one-year tenancy? $3000! Plus $1200/year every year after that it rents at the reduced rate. Total cost for photos on this property? $180. The photos paid for themselves in less than 2 months.
Don’t Just Take Our Word For It
Besides this test, we have plenty of experience seeing the difference that good photos make. There’s also plenty of evidence from the world of real estate sales to lean on. Analysis from VHT Studios found that in the real estate world, homes with high quality photography sell 32 percent faster thanks to not only getting more attention but also to higher perceived value reducing haggling and pressure on the home owner to reduce price due to lack of interest. We had a more dramatic result, because decisions on renting are made much faster than purchasing. Not only that, but homes with more photos sell faster, too. A home with one photo spends almost twice as long on the market as a home with 20 photos. And here’s maybe the most important one to consider: homes that include high-quality photography in their listings sell for $3,000-$11,000 more.
The Same Home with Better Photos Sells for More???
Think about that. The same home with better photos sells for a higher price. Doesn’t seem logical, does it? After all, you don’t live in the photos once you purchase the place! But the same is true for rental property, just at a different scale. The same home with better photos rents for a higher price. Why?
- The perceived value from the tenant is higher. So the property attracts people willing or able to pay a higher amount for their housing out of the gate.
- Less pressure on the landlord. A property with lots of interest is less likely to have the asking rent reduced or rental incentives added
We’ve all been there, especially with the high vacancy rates of the past few years. When it’s hard to find tenants, the first question landlords ask themselves is: “Should I lower the rent?” Dropping the rent $100/month unnecessarily costs $1200 in lost revenue assuming a one-year tenancy – more for a longer term tenant. On the other hand, hiring Anikio or another professional to take great photos generally costs about 10x less than that! And when the tenant moves out, you can use those photos again, compunding your savings.
Book Your Photos Now
Professional photos are an investment in the success of your property. Like any investment, it’s important to ask what the return is. This testing shows that there is a high likelihood that your property will generate more interest.
You will find a tenant faster by simple virtue of being seen by more potential candidates in a shorter amount of time. We had to wait 5 days to get as many views with the standard photos as we got in 1 day with professional photos. We got at least 5x more replies. That gives a better chance of minimizing vacancy.
Thanks to more interest, you’ll be under less pressure to accept an under-qualified applicant. You may save a month or more of vacancy and be less likely to unnecessarily lower the rent. And you can use the photos again and again until you make a significant change to the property, so these advantages go forward year after year.