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Dressing HMOs on the Cheap

I’m often asked about furnishing and dressing HMOs. Especially, how to save money when doing it. Quite often, by the time you come to furnishing and dressing the property, the money can be running out, so here are some tips on how to save money at this stage of the project. First let’s talk about furnishing and then move on to dressing. These tips have come from my own experience as a HMO landlord but also from what I have seen my property photography clients successfully do.

The specialist landlord furniture companies usually provide high quality fully-erected furniture. They even take the packaging away. These companies can be a great solution, but of course, it comes at a price. I recently saved over £1,500 furnishing just 4 rooms in a HMO when comparing what I paid versus the price from a landlord furniture specialist. However, you do need to make a further investment, your time to erect it all! But if you are a bit handy, cash poor, time rich, and don’t get too frustrated, it can be a big money-saver.

A top tip, when erecting the furniture is to use PVA glue on all the joints (use the packaging to protect the carpets from splashed glue), along with the fixings provided. This makes the furniture more robust. It’s always worth investing some of your time to shop around for the furniture. I was impressed with onbuy.com,  where I have bought furniture sets for £150, 3 seater sofas for £95 and desks for a little over £50. I know some people who have done well furnishing and dressing properties from charity shops, however, this not something I’ve tried. Discount shops like B&M Stores can be good for both furnishing and dressing your properties, especially when they have a sale on. I don’t think I have bought a lampshade from anywhere other than B&M Stores in a very long time!

One golden rule of furnishing an HMO room is: Do Not Skimp On The Mattresses.  This is a false economy. However, you don’t have to buy the most expensive either. I quite like the Fogarty mattresses from Dunelm Mill. They balance price and a good night’s sleep.

Once your room has the furniture, then you can start to think about the dressing. Firstly, don’t go overboard with the dressing, less is often more! You can use things you already own and just move them around. I usually use plain white bedding sets and then add the colour with throws and cushions. I usually use the cheapest bedding sets from Argos (not great to sleep in but look fine in the photos). The pillows can be a bit thin but you can just buy some more cheap Argos pillows and put 2 in each pillow case. The stores I like for dressing items are B&M, Dunelm, Argos and Ikea. Another option is the big supermarkets such as ASDA or Sainsbury’s where most of the furnishing and dressing has high design qualities, but with much lower price than elsewhere. If you know you have a project coming up and the shops have a sale on, it can be worth stocking up!

A cheap and effective way to create artwork is to buy cheap frames from places like B&M and then fill them with off cuts of wallpaper or create your own artwork with famous quotes or the property postcode for example. Some people love them and others hate them, but I often use Ikea artificial plants in my dressing – certainly a lot less messy than the real thing and they add a lot to a photo. If you have desks in your properties, perhaps use notebooks and pens or use your own laptop just for the staging of the photos.

For kitchens, tea towels and oven gloves can be a cheap way to add colour. If you have your own cook books, why not use some of them. Set the table with plates, cutlery and glasses. Bottles of wine work well in the dressing (plus gives you a well-deserved reward at the end of the project!).

How many rooms do you need to dress? You will probably not need a full dressing kit for every room as you may be able to move the kits between rooms for photographs, perhaps using different variation of cushions and soft furnishing each time. If you are using a professional property photographer or Virtual Tour specialist, ask them for advice. All of the Landlord Photography offices would be happy to talk this through with you.

I hope you have found these tips useful and you have got some ideas on how to save some money on your next project.

Property Photography

Property Photography: How Our HMO Landlord Client Lost Over £5,000

The Cost of Poorly Presented Properties

Despite my best efforts to spread the word that quality property photographs of well-dressed rooms will more than pay for themselves, there are still Landlords who just don’t get it. This case study is of a Landlord Photography client. This actually happened and unfortunately, isn’t that uncommon.

We work with a number of Estate Agents and Letting Agents. One of our Letting Agency clients came to us as they had a 5 Bed HMO that had sat empty for over 2 months with very little interest and certainly no tenants moving in. The monthly rent on that property when full is around £2,000. As the property was empty for over 2 months, the Landlord had already lost over £4,000 in rent. However, the Landlord was still paying the mortgage, council tax, gas, electricity, water and broadband. This pushed the total cost and lost revenue to well over £5,000.

As you can probably imagine, the Landlord was getting desperate to get the property filled. The Letting Agent was not too pleased either. They had an unhappy client and a property sat on their books making them no money.

Reduce the Rental Price

The marketing of the property had two very obvious issues: undressed rooms and photographs that needed improving. Therefore, when the property appeared in searches on the portals, prospective tenants were skipping straight over the property as the photos were not strong enough to get a click through. At this point, many Agents and Landlords would consider reducing the price of the property. Even if they had reduced the rooms by as little as £25 (which may not have been enough to get the property filled), that would result in £1,500 of lost rent per year!!!

The Power of Properly Presented Properties

Fortunately for this Landlord, the Agent had worked with Landlord Photography before and gave us a call to help. The Landlord had the foresight to agree to engaging us. Let’s face it, it can feel counterintuitive, you have a ‘problem’ property that is costing a load of money sat empty, so the last thing you want to do is spend more money on it.  With the Agent and Landlords agreement, Landlord Photography went in and dressed a couple of rooms and we took professional photographs of the whole house.

Did it make a difference to the property marketing? YES!!!

Remember, this 5 Bed HMO had sat empty for over 2 months with very little interest. Once the new photographs went live the property was full within a week.

Therefore, if that Landlord or Agent had called us just as the property was coming to the market, rather than waiting over two months, we could have saved the Landlord his over £5,000 loss. However, it is not just the financial cost to both the Landlord and Agent (yes, the agent loses out too – there is no management fee on an empty house…) but the unnecessary stress that it causes as well. However, it could have been worse, many Agents and Landlords would have reduced the price of the rooms rather than call us, I don’t even want to think about how much that would have cost over time! Our fee for dressing the property and taking professional photographs was a tiny percentage of the Landlord’s loss.

If this doesn’t show how good quality photographs of well-presented rooms can make both Landlord and Agents more money, then I am not sure what would!

Here is the bit you have probably been waiting for, the before and after shots:

BEFORE:

Property Photographer

AFTER:

Property Photographer

Put yourself in the shoes of a prospective tenant. You have done a search on one of the portals and have loads of properties appear in your search. Out of the two photos above, which one are you more likely to click on?

The Market Has Changed

Let’s face it, a few years ago, you may have gotten away with photos like the before shots above. However, the market across the UK has shifted dramatically, especially in the HMO market. With all the focus that HMOs have got in recent years for being a high cash flowing property strategy, it is hardly surprising that in many areas supply is outstripping demand. This means, to keep properties tenanted and voids as low as possible, the Landlords and Agents need to make sure that their marketing stands out in a crowded market. Great quality photos are one of the tools that the smart Landlords and Agents are using to make their product really stand out.

Contact the Author

This article was written by Paul Darvell, the Founder of Landlord Photography, the specialist Property Photography company. Paul can be reached at info@landlordphotography.co.uk

Property Photography

Property Photography: Serviced Accommodation – It’s All About Occupancy Rates

Occupancy rates is one number that as a serviced accommodation provider it is easy to get obsessed about and lay awake at night worrying about.

Whether you own the property or are R2R’ing the property, your success is defined by your occupancy rates. Every day a property is empty, it is costing you money and wrecking your occupancy rates.

No matter where you are advertising, Airbnb, Booking.com or any of the other portals, great photos get more clicks!

Property Photographer

Hopefully, you know you need photos when you are advertising your property, although, I still see adverts for properties without photographs.

With all the property training companies pushing serviced accommodation as the next gold rush for investors (it was HMOs a few years ago), it is no surprise that this sector is getting more competitive.

Property Photographs for Landlords

Property Photographs for Airbnb & Booking.com

On most of the portals you are competing against hotels that have dressed their professional photos to perfection. Badly lit photos of bare mattresses just don’t cut it.

Take a look at the two photos below. If you were looking for a holiday property on Airbnb or Booking.com, which one are you more likely to click on?

Property Photographs for Estate Agents

The photograph on the left is not too bad, I have seen a lot worse being used to advertise properties. However, let’s face it, you are more likely to click on the one on the right.

It is time to take action and get your occupancy rates to where they should be. Take the first step and refresh your adverts on Airbnb and Booking.com with some great photos.

Property Photographer

If you have the skills and equipment, dress your properties and take the photographs yourself. If not, hire a pro. Let’s put it into perspective, for most of the serviced accommodation properties I photograph, just one extra night’s booking covers the cost of professional photos.

Property Photographer

More Than Just Corner To Corner Shots

For serviced accommodation and I believe any property you need to do more than just show the property, you need to show the lifestyle as well.

Room shots are great for showing the property but you need to be selling more than just that. Take some lifestyle photos as well. Here are a few examples:

Property Photographer
Property Photographer
Property Photographer
Property Photographer

Further Help

If this article has provided more questions than answers for you. Please take a look at my property photography training at https://landlordphotography.co.uk/property-photography-training/

Or if you would rather leave it to a pro, book me at: https://landlordphotography.co.uk/

Property Photography

Property Photography: Holding a Camera Like a Pro

The way that we hold the camera is important to minimise camera shake and therefore, to improve the property photographs that we take. Holding the camera like a pro is easy.

Let’s jump start into it.

Hold the camera with your left hand so that the weight of the camera is balanced in your hand without you having to hold it.

Property Photography

Next, wrap your left-hand fingers around the lens and your right hand around the right side of the camera, so that your forefinger rests on the shutter release button.

Property Photography

Now raise the camera so that your right eye is looking into the viewfinder. Keep your elbows tucked in tightly against your body. Make sure your feet are apart giving you a stable standing position.

Property Photography

It may feel weird at first, especially if you have already gotten into a habit of holding the camera a different way. However, if you persevere you may find that you get better shots with less camera shake.

Now take some photographs. When you are taking a photograph, try half pressing the shutter release button before fully pressing it to take the photograph. This will allow the auto focus function to focus the camera before you take the photograph.

Further Help

If this article has provided more questions than answers for you. Please take a look at my property photography training at https://landlordphotography.co.uk/property-photography-training/

Or if you would rather leave it to a pro, book me at: https://landlordphotography.co.uk/

Property Photography

Property Photography: Preparing For The Photo Shoot

Getting good quality photographs are key to the successful marketing of your property. Great photos can generate more interest quickly, which ultimately can result in more money for you! This article explains what you can do to get your property ready for the photographs to be taken.

Getting Ready

The following is good preparation for making sure you get great property photographs:

  1. Clean and tidy the property throughout
  2. Declutter (inside & out)
  3. Clear and wipe off all surfaces
  4. Clean windows (in/out), mirrors, screens etc
  5. Remove cobwebs
  6. Hide dish soaps, sponges, carrier bags and paper towels.
  7. Set up the kitchen or dining table with nice set of dishes.
  8. Remove everything from the top and doors of the fridge. This includes magnets, business cards, photos, etc.
  9. Hide any toiletries that are in the shower or bath, as well as on the counter.
  10. Toilet seats and lids down
  11. Move furniture that affects the ‘flow’ of the room. Careful of moving tables etc as they may leave marks
  12. Move/hide cables
  13. Open curtains and blinds
  14. Turn TVs/monitors etc off
  15. Remove pets and evidence of pets
  16. Cut the grass
  17. Weed the garden
  18. Move bins (inside & out)
  19. Move vehicles from driveways
  20. Dress the rooms, inject some colour
  21. A bowl of fruit or bouquet of flowers can be a nice touch.

After you (or someone else) have prepared the property, walk around the property making sure you are really looking at the rooms, change anything that you don’t like for the photographs. As it can be difficult to see the ‘obvious’ issues in our own homes, perhaps ask a friend to help.

I hope the above has helped you to get great property photographs.

Further Help

If this article has provided more questions than answers for you. Please take a look at my property photography training at https://landlordphotography.co.uk/property-photography-training/

Or if you would rather leave it to a pro, book me at: https://landlordphotography.co.uk/

Property Photography

Property Photography: Navigating your camera

As a result of an earlier article that I wrote on which camera to buy, I got a lot of feedback. I kept hearing things like – “OK Paul, we have bought a DSLR like you suggested but we have no clue what all the buttons do”. If you were one of those people, this article is for you

There are many makes and models of Digital SLR cameras on the market but fundamentally, they all do the same thing. In this section I will explain the key features of most cameras.  I suggest you get your camera out and locate each of these features. As boring as it is to read your camera’s user manual, this is the best way to get to grips with the functions and features of your specific camera.  However, you may want to go through this article first so that you understand a lot of the terminology that will be used in the user manual.

Unfortunately, none of the camera manufacturers use all the same names for each function. Therefore, if I have listed a function below and you can’t find it on your camera, it is worth Googling it to seem what it is called by your camera. For example, some manufacturers call ISO Sensitivity.

Camera Body: The main part of the camera that contains the camera controls.

Power Switch: This is how you turn the camera on and off.

Shutter Release Button: This is the button you press to take the photograph.

Battery Compartment: This is where the battery goes in the camera.

Memory Card Slot: This is where the memory card goes in the camera.

Flash Connector/Hot Shoe: This is where you attach an external flash. It is normally on the top of the camera.

Tripod Socket: This is where you attach a tripod. It is normally on the bottom of the camera.

Terminals: Often under a little cover, this is where you can attach wired connectors, microphones, wired remote switches etc.

Mode Dial: This is used to select different camera modes such as Manual, Shutter Priority and Aperture Priority.

Dial (Canon call this ‘Main Dial’, Nikon call this ‘Sub Control Dial’): This is used to adjust settings such as Aperture and Shutter Speed.

Lens Cover: A removable cover on the end of your lens.

Lens: The optical lens attached to the camera body. Different lenses can be attached to the camera body.

Lens Release: The button that is used to release the lens from the camera body.

Lens Hood: Commonly used with wide angled lens to block light from causing flare on a photograph.

Lens Stabilisation: Used to reduce camera shake when hand holding a camera at slow shutter speeds.  Useful for still and slow moving subjects.  Switch it off when mounting the camera on a tripod or photographing fast moving subject.

Zoom Ring: The ring on the lens nearest the camera body used to control the zoom on a zoom lens.

Focus Ring: The ring on the lens furthest from the camera body used to control the manual focus when the lens is in manual focus mode.

Sensor: This is the digital equivalent of film. The sensor is made up of millions of light sensitive pixels that capture light and convert them into the photograph. The more pixels on your sensor the better the quality of the image. A pixel is a single unit of light that when put together with all of the other units of light make up a photograph.

Display: The screen where settings and photographs can be viewed.

Live View: The button to press to see the scene the camera is pointing at on the display rather than through the viewfinder.

Magnifying Buttons: Buttons used to zoom in and out when the camera is in Live View mode.

Direction Buttons: Used to control the selection of the magnified area when the camera is in Live View mode.

Manual / Auto Focus: A switch on the lens to set either manual or auto focus.

Auto Focus: The camera focuses the lens automatically.

Manual Focus: You have to focus the camera lens yourself when taking a photograph.

Auto Focus (AF) Modes: This tells the camera how to focus when you half press the shutter release button.  ‘One shot’ is for still subjects and will focus only once. ‘Al Servo’ is for moving subjects, the camera will continue to refocus all the time you half press the shutter release. ‘Al Focus’ combines ‘one shot’ and ‘al servo’.  It will sense when a still subject starts to move and automatically switch between modes.

Auto Focus Points: Seen in the viewfinder to tell the camera where to focus (focal point).

Info: A button to view information about camera settings or a picture.  This is the button used to find a photographs histogram.

Histogram: This is a chart of the luminosity (brightness) of each pixel in an individual photograph.  It is measured on a range of 0 to 256 with the darkest being on the left (0) and the brightest being on the right (256). The chart measures the number of pixels at each point in the range from 0 to 256. If there is a concentration of pixels on the far left or right of the histogram this may suggest that detail has been clipped (lost) and you may wish to adjust the exposure. However, some pictures will have clipping, for example where shot against a bright white background. There is no perfect shape of a histogram and at this stage in your photography journey, I recommend that you do not get too hung up on histograms.   Just be aware what they are and it may be something to revisit later in your photography journey.

Menu: A button to view the main menu of camera settings.

Drive Modes: With drive modes you can set the camera to take single shots, continuous shots, remote controlled or self-timer shots. More on this later.

Playback: This is where you can view the photographs that you have captured.

Trash: Use this button to delete photographs. Be careful, with some cameras you can delete all photographs on the card with this button.

Further Help

If this article has provided more questions than answers for you. Please take a look at my property photography training at https://landlordphotography.co.uk/property-photography-training/

Or if you would rather leave it to a pro, book me at: https://landlordphotography.co.uk/

Property Photography

Property Photography: The Right Gear

Any job is easier if you have the right tools. They don’t have to be the best or the most expensive but they do need to be fit for purpose.

Let’s start by looking at cameras.

The Camera & Lens

You might have heard that you need something called a ‘Full Frame’ camera or a ‘Professional Camera’ to take great property photographs. It just is not true. A ‘Full Frame’ camera will have a high megapixels number which means you can blow up the photos to be very large. This is usually unnecessary for property photographs. The other thing that a ‘Full Frame’ camera gives you is a larger sensor. This means that the photograph will cover a larger area making the property look more spacious. See the image below:

Property Photography

The blue lines represent different sensor types and the size of the image they may capture. Please note, this image is just to explain the point, the sizes may not be exact.

If you don’t have a ‘Full Frame’  camera, a way to mitigate this is to use a wide-angle lens. For example, I use a 10mm – 18mm lens for most of my property photographs.

The 10mm setting of the lens will give a wide-angle effect making the room look as large as possible.

Full Frame’ and ‘APS’ are both types of Digital Single Lens Reflex camera. The ‘Full Frame’ camera has a large sensor but an ‘APS’ camera with a lens that goes down to 10mm will do a good enough job for most people. An ‘APS’ camera is a lot cheaper than a ‘Full Frame’  camera and I believe an acceptable compromise. You can pick up a refurbished mid-range ‘APS’ camera for just a few hundred pounds. A 10mm-18mm even brand new will probably be less than a couple of hundred.

Let There Be Light

Once you have the camera and the lens. The other equipment to consider is a speedlite flash and a tripod. The key to great property photographs is to make them look bright and colourful. You want to get as much light into the shot as possible. speedlite flashes are great for this and can be picked up very cheaply. Even these cheap speedlite flashes can take a light reading from the camera and automatically set the strength of the flash. Personally, I prefer to use the speedlite flash in manual mode as I believe you get better results. The Neewar speedlite flashes do the job and are very cheap.

A word of caution when using a flash, make sure you don’t ‘blow out’ the windows. If you are taking a photo of a conservatory or lounge with beautiful views or a nice garden, you want to see them in the photo. However, the mistake that a lot of people make is that they don’t get the flash setting right and ‘blow out’ the windows so that you can’t see through them. The way to avoid this is to set the camera exposure for the window in the room before turning your flash on. Once you have the exposure right for the windows, add the flash to light up the room. Bounce the flash light and make sure it won’t reflect in windows and shiny surfaces. A diffuser over the flash or a light stand and umbrella can help.

Post Processing

Post processing software is not strictly ‘camera gear’ but as we are talking about bright and colourful photographs, I have to mention it. Most people have heard of Photoshop. It is a powerful tool but not the one I would use for editing property photographs. I use its sister, Lightroom. The editing capabilities of lightroom are not as good as Photoshop. However, in Photoshop you work on one photo at a time. In lightroom you load all of the photos at once and can work through them a lot quicker. If you need big edits done, like cars removed from a driveway, that would need to be done in Photoshop. However, even I would not do that myself, due to the time it would take me. I would send that photo to an editing agency who will do it for just a few pounds. If you are going to post process the images, make sure you take the photographs in RAW format.

Tripods

The other bit of equipment to consider is a tripod. I will be honest, I try to avoid using one as they slow you down. However, sometimes the only way to get enough light into a shot is to use a slow exposure. If you hand hold the camera with a slow exposure you are guaranteed camera shake. Tripods can be picked up very cheaply. Here is an example of a photo where I had no choice and had to use a tripod:

Professional Commercial Property Photographs

More on Cameras

I just want to go back to cameras. Hopefully I have persuaded you to go with an ‘APS’ DSLR camera. If so you can ignore this paragraph. However, if you are still looking at other types of camera, read on. You need a camera that gives you a depth of field of at least f11. Many Bridge camera only go as high as f9. I take most property photographs in Manual mode but as a minimum you will want to be able to prioritise the shutter speed and aperture. So make sure your camera has those settings. A camera that allows you to adjust the white balance is really important for the internal photographs, if you want to get the colours right. The photo below shows the difference between getting the white balance right or wrong.

Property Photographs for Estate Agents

Further Help

If this article has provided more questions than answers for you. Please take a look at my property photography training at https://landlordphotography.co.uk/property-photography-training/

Or if you would rather leave it to a pro, book me at: https://landlordphotography.co.uk/

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