May 13, 2021

A word from John...Short of instructions? Upgrade your visuals. Improve your brand.

A word from John...Short of instructions? Upgrade your visuals. Improve your brand.

“Is history repeating itself? If it is, do you want to know what happens next and what to do about it?” (John Durrant – MD DCTR and with over 50-years in property)

In 1973 the estate agency I worked for went from over 300 listings to 6in a very short space of time. House price inflation was running at an eye-watering 36% and owners were reluctant to put their homes on the market because a) there wasn’t a lot around for them to buy (everyone was waiting for prices to rise – they doubled in 3 years) and b) by the time they did find something the gap between their own sale price and the asking price was too great. It took a war in the Middle East to return the market to equilibrium.


I remember being sent out by my manager to photograph one property and by the time I’d driven from the village back to my office in Basingstoke it was already under offer! Someone had spotted me taking photos and ‘phoned all the local agents to find out who was instructed. There have been ups and downs in the property market since but nothing quite as bizarre as that until, perhaps, now.


Reading today’s estate agency press it feels as though the market might be in the process of overheating in a similar way – maybe with parallel results. Gazumping is back, agents are talking of record sales. National newspapers speak of a ‘super-boom’! All this sounds great until you realise that estate agents aren’t like retailers. You can’t order more stock from your local wholesale property warehouse – you have to give your clients great reasons to give you a bigger slice of a shrinking pie – or accept that you’re going to be on pie rations for a while.


It could take a while for this current market boom to return to an even keel. Maybe another world-event will cause a slowdown or movers will simply realise that life goes on and they just have to ‘get on with it’ and get their own homes onto the market so that any offer they make will be taken seriously.


In the meantime, you need stock. There’s not a lot of it about. From over 50 years’ observation, I can guarantee that there will be a lot of agents who won’t understand the change in the current market dynamic and even fewer who will know what positive actions to take to earn a larger share of a shrinking pie.


There are some negative actions you can take. Some agents will reduce commission rates – that’s not a great idea. You still have to cover your overheads. You can over-value properties to win instructions and create a false hope that might one day become reality when the market rises – by which time the value of whatever your vendors want to buy will have risen as well. It’s a strategy but not a very good or fair one. If your reputation is important to you, be very careful.


Here are a couple of ideas -

There is one positive action you can take now that will stand you in good stead for the long term – long after this market blip has worked its way through the system. To win those homes that are still coming onto the market, what you need is to be able to show those vendors tangible reasons for instructing you instead of someone else. With research showing the impact that great photography has on property selling prices, it’s really a no-brainer to improve your property marketing. After all, property marketing is, or should be, one of the major functions of estate agency.


1)    Bad photo vs. good photo – the difference:

Below are photos of the same house, taken by different people. One agent knew how to make great property photos and the other didn't. The result was predictable. The first agent spent a year wasting his money advertising, the second sold the house in a week.

Which agent would you instruct if you weren't an agent yourself?

"If you were selling your own house and you weren’t an agent, which agent would you want to instruct?

Evidence shows that bad photos can affect marketing time and selling prices AND experience tells me they can damage your brand as well so that you won't get invited to market the best homes in your area.


Visually sophisticated property owners want their beautiful interiors tolook... beautiful. They want their property exteriors to stand out in the beauty parades we call the portals. So, if you want to win instructions to sell or let the best homes in your area then you'll either need to pay for a professional photographer or if you’d prefer to preserve your money, you'll need to learn how to take pro-standard photos yourself and how to enhance them in Photoshop or using similar applications.


The team at DCTR can help you. Not only has John taught thousands of agents over the past 12 years to take pro-standard images, but the business has also enhanced millions of property images, taking those from zero to hero.Making your properties’ images stand out against the competition will result in a win for your clients and wins for you - and pro-standard photos are possible at comparatively low cost. Plus, as well as enhancing your day-to-day images DCTR provides over 50 other services that will most definitely give your marketing a boost and help you make your properties irresistible.


2)    Innovative solutions trump commission drops – think outside the box


A little while ago we had one agent contact us to say he won an instruction on the promise to a vendor that we could visualise the potential offered by their high-end apartment. The property had sat on the market for months with another agent with very few viewings. It was valued at over £1m+ but it had a tiny kitchen and was ripe for development. Sadly, buyers weren’t able to visualise the end result. There was a plan to show how it would look with a couple of walls knocked down and a new kitchen built in the next room, but because the agent had promised the owner that we could remodel his photos to show how it would look with all the work completed he won the instruction! We hadn’t done anything like this before, but we said ‘yes’ we could. We won’t hide our anxiety, we were brave. We didn’t really know where to start but the agent had promised the vendor that we could do it. His instruction hung in the balance. We wanted to help our customer. We threw everything we had at the project. And here’s the result.



We did the work and heard nothing more until we later met at the EAMasters. Our client tapped us on the shoulder to say ‘you earned me £12k commission!’ Amazing! But none of this would have happened except for the agent thinking outside the box.


Telling buyers there’s potential is one thing but showing them what that looks like creates provides very different results.


To help you, we offer our customers a free marketing tool in the form of a flipbook that we can brand to your business. It doesn’t mention us at all. You can use your branded version of it to reach out/email to property developers and others to show how the potential for their properties can be visualised – making it easier for buyers to see for themselves what’s possible, how a new house interior or exterior will look once finished.


Get in touch if you’d like one.


If you’re able to offer services that other agents aren’t even aware of, you’re going to benefit and make your brand stand out from the others around you. There’s nothing to lose by asking for a flipbook.



Want to know more? Email John directly at






John Durrant wrote the RICS Property Photography Guidance. He’s been featured in national newspapers and on the BBC talking about property photography/editing etc.


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