Orange County Listing Photography is More Than a One-Shot Deal

In advertising, they call the photo that glamorizes a product its ‘hero shot.’ In the case of a real estate listing in Newport Beach, the pictures that accompany the written description can all be hero shots, if enough care is taken. 

In one Auburn University study (The Relationship between Property Price, Time-on-Market, and Photo Depictions in a Multiple Listing Service), it was found that adding a single photograph to a listing could lift the final sale price by as much as 3.9%. That’s not surprising, but what is noteworthy is that each additional listing photograph added several hundred dollars to the final selling price. In other words, it’s not just the curbside photo at the top of an Orange County listing that should be given great care—it’s all of ‘em!

Aside from the usual advice to de-clutter, use light appealingly, etc., there are some less well known tips that can help maximize the eye-appeal of an Orange County listing:

The Exterior  

The exterior photograph is considered by most professional real estate photographers to be by far the most important shot. I’m not sure I agree. Of course, it sets the stage for everything else, and has to be attractive enough to rate a second look, but those second looks of the interior and garden can differentiate the listing from the crowd. A superior exterior can often be achieved by elevating point of view (IOW, shoot from a stepladder)…or sometimes by scheduling the shot in early morning or late afternoon light (to catch the most dramatic light).

Back Against the Wall!

For the majority of your listing interiors, you’ll want wide angle shots which emphasize spaciousness. Most work better when the photograph is taken from a doorway or corner with the widest lens (that’s the one with the lowest focal length number)—as long as it doesn’t overly distort the image.

Funhouse Effect

Always ensure that your camera is completely horizontal. Correct the ‘barrel effect’ on vertical lines to ensure that all of the walls appear straight. When you’re looking through a viewfinder or small digital screen, it’s all too easy to overlook the sides by concentrating on the center of the picture. That’s an amateur mistake (and slanted walls make a room look like a carnival funhouse!)

Flash Extra 

Take at least one extra shot using the on-camera flash or strobe. True, often that will result in an unevenly lit alternative that you will discard…but now and then, the on-camera light will boost clarity and color that’s more pleasing than what natural light provides.

Great-looking Newport Beach listing shots make a significant difference in the degree of response a property draws. I always help my clients with the listing photographs—it’s one of many tools to ensure their listing gets the exposure and results it deserves!

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Charlie Chaplin, Modern Times, and Orange County Luxury Listings

Charlie Chaplin always managed to mix a good measure of insight in with the silent movie knee-slappers. It was “The Little Clown” who once said, “The saddest thing I can imagine is to get used to luxury.” One way or another, we Americans have come up with a singularly surefire way to overcome that problem: we just constantly redefine what comprises “luxury”!

Real estate website Trulia proves the point. Each year they count how frequently certain phrases appear in luxury listings—here in Orange County as well as across the nation. From year to year, their findings provide an interesting measure of what’s hot and what’s not in luxury listings.

Buyers Want A Room With A View (and A Marble Bath!)

The words that most commonly appear in luxury listings are marble bath, roof deck and oversize windows. Luxury listings were 78% more likely to contain marble bath than was true the previous year. And windows seemed a focal point in the latest luxury listings: three of the top seven phrases dealt with them in one way or another. Oversized windows were 56% more likely to appear this year, floor to ceiling windows were up 39%, and ceiling windows appeared 37% more frequently.

There seemed a general drift toward defining luxury characteristics as that which can be seen from outside the home as much as what is found inside. Orange County sellers might note that, along with great windows, roof decks and terraces were other popular draws in the luxury listings.

Luxury Cooking Facilities No Longer As Hot

At the same time, cooking and kitchen amenities seemed to have faded in importance. BBQ was the amenity that dropped the most—declining by 16%. Other big losers were stainless appliances, custom cabinets, gourmet kitchen and breakfast areas.

Yesterday’s Luxury: Today’s Necessity?

A word of caution about all this: when we are deciding the important phrasing for our own Newport Beach luxury listings, it’s worth considering that what was yesterday’s “luxury” can quickly become today’s necessity. Just as we wouldn’t think of heated indoor plumbing or refrigerator as a high end amenities, at some point they were. Amenities that were once emphasized may no longer be given prominence because buyers have simply come to take it for granted that they will be included…if they were headlined, the listing might look…well, average. As our conception of luxury redefines itself, we should expect their listing phrases will change, too.

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When is Key in Decision in Whether to Buy a Home in Orange County

Spring signals the traditional start of real estate’s busy selling season, and while that’s all well and fine, when it comes to making your own momentous personal real estate decision—whether to buy a home or to sell your own—trying to decide exactly when to make the move is easier said than done.

It is true that this year national observers are unusually unanimous in expecting that last year’s sales upswing will continue. But if you are deciding whether now is the right time to buy a Orange County home (or list yours for sale), the reasons behind the quickening sales activity might be an eye-opener. Here are five of the headline reasons why so many will decide to buy a home in Newport Beach in 2014:

A Third Cheaper Than Renting

Web giant Trulia’s national averages show that it is still 35% less expensive to own than to rent. In the 100 largest metropolitan areas, even after mortgage rates rose from 3.75 to 4.50%, the home ownership advantage continued.

Protection Against Rising Rents

Renters are finding it more of a hassle even to find an apartment. In the third quarter of 2013, the U.S. apartment vacancy rate fell to its lowest level in over a decade (4.2%) even as the average effective rent in the U.S. rose by 3%, year over year. With supply of rental accommodation tight and unemployment falling, experts expect even higher rents in 2014.

House Prices Are Still Relatively Low

Again according to Trulia, house prices are still below benchmark value levels. In 91% of the largest metropolitan markets, analysts estimate that homes were 7% undervalued in 2013…and headed up.

It’s Becoming Easier to Qualify for a Mortgage

As interest rates rise, mortgage lender refinance business will suffer. Consequently, lenders will need to compete harder for new home buyers. That’s expected to lead to loosening of lending strictures, effectively increasing the number of prospective buyers.

House Prices Are Expected To Rise

House prices increased by 2% in the third quarter of last year, according to Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) figures. If consensus predictions hold true, house prices will continue to rise by 3% in 2014….making sooner rather than later the optimal way to participate in that upward trajectory.

Whether you are hoping to buy a home in Newport Beach this year or beginning to think it’s time to explore selling, the signs are certainly there. Call me anytime this week—or drop by the office to chat!

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Will Home Values Fall if Orange County Mortgage Rates Rise Further?

Right now, mortgage rates in Orange County (as in the rest of the nation) are higher than they’ve been for 15 months—a trend that’s likely to continue. We have to wonder about the impact higher Newport Beach mortgage rates will have on Southern California home sales in the coming year.

First, some perspective. If mortgage rates do increase in 2014, it’s no ‘done deal’ that home buyers will be put off—nor that a wave of foreclosures will follow. The reason? By past  standards, interest rates will still be low, even at the 5½% predicted by the N.A.R. Any hike in mortgage interest rates are coming off the historical 3.52% set in the spring of last year. Consider: most of us were paying mortgage rates between 7 – 8% throughout the 1990’s! 5½% looks like a fire sale compared with those.

Factor Two: surprisingly, a projected rise in interest rates is not predicted to dampen the enthusiasm for acquiring property. The Mortgage Bankers Association predicts that home sales will increase nationally by 10% in 2014. I have no doubt that some Southern California first time home-buyers could be waylaid by rising interest rates—after all, a 1% increase in mortgage rates equates to approximately a 10% rise in monthly payments. But overall, buyers who can meet the current lending standards should still be able to afford to own. Given the cost of the renting alternative, they may decide they can’t afford to pass up the right house at the right price.

Additionally, there is a strong argument that the principal effect of rising interest rates is less likely to be on Newport Beach home sales than on refis. The Mortgage Bankers Association predicts that refinancing demand will drop by half in 2014 (when you chart that kind of number, it looks like a cliff!). Many homeowners will already have locked in last year’s interest, so they certainly won’t be interested.

Any drying up of the refinancing business may have yet another effect. There could be a follow-on effect as lenders start loosening their lending criteria to attract new business. First time buyers that have been locked out of the market until then may (we are now two after-effects later, so this has to be a ‘may’) find themselves suddenly eligible for a home loan.

Given the healthier economy and falling unemployment, the outlook for the Newport Beach housing market in 2014 has reason to look positive. Thinking of selling your home this spring?  Now’s the time to call me to discuss timing!

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