The power of photographs

Written by Naomi Shammas, an early career Oxford graduate with business operations specialism

The relationship between images and our brain is one constantly being studied in psychology; our experiences in life show us that we’ll remember an image of something long after the contextual details have been forgotten. John Suler, at Rider University, tested our conscious and unconscious memory of images in his 'Photographic Psychology: Image and Psyche' study, finding that even when we don’t consciously realise that we’ve absorbed an image, we can remember and discuss it when prompted. Marketers use this to influence our subconscious minds; we may not remember that a brand of toothpaste was, but when we stand in the pharmacy and try to pick a new one out, the advertised brand will appeal more. However, the real estate industry has been slow to utilise this to its full potential.

Home-buying is a deeply personal experience, and understanding the psychological trends  to encourage purchase is key to real estate’s future. A National Association of Realtors (NAR) study in 2016 found that buyers rank the images of a home as the most valuable website feature; one might read the text description and look at the map location, but what they remember that evening when describing the home to their friends is the sunlight-flooded sitting room, or the warm feeling they got when they imagined curling up to read in the bedroom. I speak from experience here; after months of saying I needed to go flat-hunting for a new place, I stumbled across a RightMove advert for a 2-bedroom flat in North London. The images of the rooms stayed with me for days, and pushed me to go see the flat - where I’ve lived happily for the last 11 months. 

Rightmove announced that their best performing listings are those with 5 - 9 high-quality images; yet they are still presented with floor plans that do not excite buyers. 

This photographic need is nothing new; the same 2016 NAR study found that 82 to 90% of buyers search for a home online, and in that same year a United-States wide study by Redfin found that one in five buyers made an offer on a home sight-unseen during their search. Among buyers who used the internet during their home search. If we consider this data in terms of the world today, where COVID-19 gives home buyers significantly more free time and yet also no ability to see these homes in person, then the power that captivating images or videos can have in the home-buying process is parallel to none. Rightmove announced that their best performing listings are those with 5 - 9 high-quality images; yet they are still presented with floor plans that do not excite buyers. 

Turning to CGI renders, such as those produced at a high-quality by Gofigo, can allow the evocative personal experiences that are vital to a successful online home-selling process, without the requirement for a finished home. This allows for a smoother home-selling process, as upon the home’s completion, the buyer can straight move in, and there is no year-long gap with a prime property sitting empty. As the real estate market enters an increasingly online age, using CGI renders for photo and video tours will only grow in importance.

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