Updated: Jul 29
Put simply, even when Matterport photography is employed no listing will ever have pictures covering every surface, whether you're looking under a sink, in a crawl space, in an attic, at a label to see the model number and other information (my most common picture in showings), whether there is some sort of change since the original photos, video a dripping pipe to send to a listing agent that likely doesn't know about it, look at an area not possible to view with your eye directly due to a difficult space (i.e. window above eye level on a locked shed w/ no key present), etc. In addition, I often work with buyers on sight-unseen purchases & sometimes represent buyers who waive a home inspection where time is of the essence in a relatively brief showing.
For a more detailed explanation, see below:
Most common pictures if allowed:
Most often neither I or buyers will want to take any pictures of a property except if taking a picture of a label of an HVAC, water heater, or AC unit where the year built or efficiency is unclear &/or the buyer wants to make a quick note of it to save time vs pulling the year and other details in showing.
(pic above taken from my own home)
(pic above taken from my own home)
We can use the label in order to further research information on the unit even if the pictures online include a picture of the unit. While I keep a running list of how to quickly look up some information on the units by serial # and brand, there are some brands that are more complex than others, and some showings are severely limited by time (i.e. showings where the listing agent is only providing a maximum 15 minutes and makes an offer contingent on home inspection, or where a showing is only 30 minutes but the buyer wants to make an offer not contingent on home inspection - for those, even an hr makes things tight, where every bit of time savings helps).
Here's a public water heater quick identification tool I've made, while I have private tools in spreadsheet form for items like HVACs & AC units.
Most common use of video
The most common use of video is if 1 or more buyers are not present. I have hundreds of gigabytes of footage downloaded onto Google drive-in a private format that is not visible to the public. When allowed, I sometimes provide direct pictures/video via text, attachments via email, or specific links to specific properties that are given to the buyers that request them who have requested a showing at that location who either join me in looking at a property or request that I video the property and/or take pictures while they are in a remote location such as another state/country.
Additional examples of when pictures are helpful
The 2nd most common example is when something potentially significant is not present in pictures, and again, even with Matterport, there are always items not present, including most commonly the internal condition of attics with scuttle access, the internal condition of kitchen and bathroom cabinets, inside fuse boxes, inside crawl spaces, and every angle of the home that the photographer did not reach, with no photographer ever reaching every angle. Never are all aspects of a home visible in images online, even when Matterport footage is available, and pictures and videos have been quite helpful in my past experience. Even when a buyer is physically present, sometimes they are unwilling or unable to go into the places that I look. An older person may not want to bend down to look into a crawlspace or enter into an attic up a ladder. I have my own ladder available at all showings to help entry into scuttle access attics.
If a property is near the top of a buyer's list of potential properties to buy, it increases the likelihood of them wanting to take pictures of items not clearly visible in online photos especially. Another example is when there is something different about the property than when pictures were originally taken. Another example is when identifying something in an offer is helpful (such as to identify a dead tree that is positioned partially above a house in an offer where, without pictures, it would be difficult to properly identify their location so the offer’s inclusion of tree removal wouldn’t be clear) Another example is when something isn’t visible to the naked eye, but would be visible via video/pictures, such as if looking through a window above eye level but within reach in a locked shed with no key present, or looking at a label that is in between an appliance and a wall with no space for someone’s head & not visible if not looking in between. Another example is if a buyer is considering an offer on a property that is not contingent on home inspection & wants to use pictures or video to share privately with others (i.e. trusted family, a contractor, etc.) before making a decision.
Additional examples of when videos are helpful
If a showing is only 15 minutes Adam will often suggest to buyers that they do video even while seeing it physically in order to be able to more thoroughly review things after the showing.
Another example of when a video request is beneficial is if a buyer wants to show video to a trusted family member or significant other, like a 1st-time buyer showing a property to his parents for their input. I have received such requests prior to showings as well as not until we are at the property, so it helps to know in advance because even if I can reach the listing agent, they may be unable to reach the occupant, and doing the request at the time of showing takes time away from the showing.
Even if the agent allows for 30 minutes or more, in some cases showings running together can delay arrival time and traffic such as from traffic accidents can interrupt things as well. For instance, I recall a scenario where buyers were around 45 minutes late to a showing due to a combination of poor planning on their part, typical traffic for the time, and a bridge opening at the James River Bridge. I was on time, but the buyers were definitely not. If the seller had showings immediately after a 45 minute window for our showing, and if we hadn't had permission in advance for video or been able to reach the listing agent & the listing agent the occupant, the property might not have been shown at all.
In one case, I had a buyer that was going to a distant showing that had the wrong time in their mind despite our time being arranged by text with the right time and me sending them a calendar invitation for the right time a few days prior. While they were unable to make the in-person showing in time, because I had prior received video permission from the agent, there was no need to make a new request for video for the 8 AM showing the morning of when I found out they had the wrong time in their mind around 30 minutes prior. They likely didn't have a working calendar and were looking at low-value homes.
Why ask in advance? Buyers in many cases don't request pictures prior.
I & buyers don't always take pictures/video at properties, but I always like to ask in advance just in case it would be helpful due to the sizable percentage of times when it is. If I were to ask a listing agent during a showing with a prospective buyer if pictures/video weren't known to be important in advance, rather than asking in advance, it decreases the likelihood that I would be able to answer them in time. It also takes away precious time from the showing, especially if the buyers were late, the last people to show the property immediately prior ran late, or the showing window is short.
How pictures/video by me/buyers can benefit sellers/listing agents
A. Helping buyers make offers not contingent on home inspection As mentioned before, a prime example of how pictures can be beneficial for sellers/listing agents is if I am in a situation where time is of the essence on a brief showing and my buyer is able to use pictures/video to expand their showing in some capacity in order to be better able to comfortably make an offer with no home inspection contingency. Most buyers I work with use home inspection contingencies, but when they don't, it's very beneficial for buyers I work with to be able to see imagery in areas that they have difficulty accessing that I am able to access, such as in crawlspaces, in areas of attics that are hard to get to, in sheds/detached garages that are locked with the only window present above eye level, etc. B. Helping buyers be less likely to pull out of a home purchase contract during the home inspection by knowing more potential negatives prior to an offer. I've also worked with buyers who didn't see the home in person or via video prior to contract ratification, and have seen a higher chance of contract fall through when that occurs due to later home inspection & viewing by the buyer. I've seen where an attic had scuttle access, the buyers were unwilling to climb my ladder to peek in, and where the pictures I've shown them have dissuaded them from making an offer on a home that had at least a few contract fall throughs prior to our showing where I highly suspect that it was due to the other buyers not seeing the attic & being dissuaded by it after seeing pictures of it & reports on it at time of inspection since the condition of the attic was significantly inferior to the living space & exterior of the home. C. Increasing the number of positive elements in a home that I can point out that don't appear in the listing itself and which wouldn't be clear without the use of videography/photography. For instance, if the home has a new HVAC in the garage, and the agent hasn't mentioned it, if the label isn't visible to the naked eye due to the label being in a very tight space, but is visible to my borescope, if photography & videography of all kinds wasn't allowed, I wouldn't be able to know that or share it. Likewise, if a home's attic, accessible only by scuttle, looks excellent, but my client is unwilling or unable to climb my ladder to see it themselves, without the use of photography/videography, they'll need to take my word for it, which is often less compelling. D. Increasing the chances of a showing & an offer vs a completely sight unseen property by a buyer looking from out of state. In cases where no video is allowed at a property, often that property will be automatically ruled out by the prospective buyer if they never plan to perform in person searches. I've been helping buyers purchase sight unseen via video since my first year in the business. E. Helping sellers/listing agents with feedback/pictures/video on areas that are unknown to them but problematic, especially when actively deteriorating the property, like dripping pipes. I've shared pictures/video of dripping pipes to listing agents on at least a few occasions. On one such occasion, I only shared the location initially (under the kitchen sink), the listing agent had someone come to find it, and they didn't see it by not looking hard enough. When I went back to the property, I took video and shared it with them, and they had a plumber come out to fix the leaky pipe. In some cases, when permission is granted for pics/video, I take pics/video of a problem that the listing agent is unaware of, in requesting feedback from me I respond by telling them about the issues, and share with them pictures of the issue that they haven't seen themselves (i.e. problems in a new construction attic like vents not terminating to the exterior of the home, missing insulation in places, etc.).
How pictures/video by me/buyers can benefit buyers & me
For sight-unseen properties, most buyers I work with won't make offers without an on-property video, even if the home has a Matterport virtual tour. When I have made offers with buyers who haven't seen a property via video, it drastically increases the probability of them later wanting to cancel the contract upon the home inspection findings. That wastes my time, the time of the buyer, the funds of the buyer for inspections, and makes it a lot harder during that time to make an offer on another property since an offer on another property would be weakened by a contingency to acquire a release for the first contract.
Sometimes buyers I work with want to share video of the property with those in their family or otherwise that they trust, or contractors that might provide estimates for work in advance. If the buyers wait until after the home is under contract for those same people to see things, such as after the inspection, it also increases the probability of the buyers and I wasting time and money.
Sometimes buyers want to see in locations that they can't access, but that I can access. For instance, most people in their 80's & women wearing high heels don't like to climb ladders to see into attics, but with video/pictures, I can show them things in advance of a purchase to help inform them about whether or not they would like to make an offer. If they don't see an issue for themselves until the inspector points it out, it increases the probability that they'll want to pull out of the contract, again, wasting their time and money.
If a buyer was planning on making it to a showing themselves but runs into an emergency, or if there is an accident on a bridge right in front of them, sometimes me being able to video a property means that a buyer can see and make an offer prior to an impending deadline that they wouldn't be able to see prior if we didn't have video authorization.
Picture request for private use
All pictures and videos of homes of sellers that I do not represent are for personal reference for myself and buyers to help determine various factors regarding a potential home purchase and will never be posted publicly without express permission from the seller for something to be posted publicly, which occurs less than 1% of the time as of 1/20/23. An example where I requested public pictures (after the initial request for private pictures was granted) was after seeing something in a house with the seller present that was very interesting that I had never seen before, where I asked specifically for their permission for posting a picture of that singular item on social media. They explicitly said that I could post it publicly. In most cases, I exclusively ask for pictures for personal reference, not to be posted publicly. Prior to any picture being posted publicly, I would explicitly request to do so. Most requests for pictures are for private use only.
Some sellers in the past have denied the use of photography and videography despite the personal reference nature of my request. If that is the case, please let me know, and I can inform the buyers.
If the sellers are fine with pictures of perceived conveying items but don't want any non-conveying personal items photographed, that's an option as well, especially since the most common time when pictures are helpful being for labels of major systems.
Why I’m asking rather than just doing it
See the following section in the Virginia Realtors Exclusive Right to Represent Buyer Agreement that some agents haven’t noticed:
While not all listing agents in REIN use the REIN Standard Listing Agreement & some listing agents aren't part of REIN MLS, here is what the listing agreement states on the subject:
To clarify things further with sellers I represent, I have added the following language in other provisions: “Seller permits buyers, buyer's agents, and contractors to use photography or videography for personal reference. Public posts are permitted as long as photos/videos are not posted with a negative slant that could hurt the sale.” While my requests for buyers I work with include no allowance for social media or public posting, when I represent sellers, I wouldn’t want to keep the sellers I work with from allowing the home to get additional positive exposure.
Why the detailed explanation
Some agents and some sellers have policies against any additional photos/video, which can hinder even an in-person showing as listed in examples above. Long, detailed explanations with additional resources hyperlinked are common with my dealings with buyers and sellers, such as the high volume of content present on my website. This article is one of the rare cases (related other example) where I’ve brought that into my dealings with agents.