Keeping real estate photography REAL!
Let's talk about misleading or fraudulent real estate listing photos:
Professional Listing Agents strive to have their property stand out from the rest. Typically the first time a potential potential Buyer finds a home is virtually online. There are numerous sites such as: Zillow, realtor.com, Trulia. The National Association of Realtors claims 90% of home buyers start their real estate search online. A study conducted by Michael Seiler of Old Dominion University stated that buyers spend "60 percent of their time reviewing a listing looking at the photos." A Redfin survey found that homes with professionally taken photographs get an average of “61 percent” more page views and have a 47 percent higher asking price per square foot.
Agents do their best to present each home in its best condition possible. Professional photography, interior staging, professional decorating, neutralized trendy paint colors and enhanced landscaping. These practices will greatly improve the home’s visual appeal. A powerful descriptive and sexy write up can make a difference as well.
It is tempting to enhance details, use powerful verbiage to improve and accentuate the features or the condition of the house. We have all read:
Ultimately, “The challenge is striking a balance to achieve an accurate depiction with marketing appeal.” Cara Ameer, Inman, 2017.
An Australian real estate company is in “hot water” after the discovery that one of its listing photographs isn’t an accurate depiction of what the property is like. News.com.au reports reported the real estate giant Ray White listed the home shown below: a 3-bedroom brick home in Sydney, Australia. However, when viewed on GOOGLE MAPS this is really what the home looks like: (you can view the actual LINK HERE). The argument can be made that this type of photography enhancing is deceptive and misleading. Possibly to the point of being considered unethical and illegal.
Let's get REAL about this.
When it comes to posting photos of your real estate listing, what and how much editing enhancement is too much of a good thing?
Some feel editing enhancement is “is akin to distortion or even deception.” Rosemary Counter, May 2019, “Real estate photo enhancement is reaching new heights as desperate sellers look to sell imperfect homes.” The market is hot. However, truth in advertising is a murky line, a grey area based upon perception by the consumer and facts by the advertiser. “I can add an ocean view to a country house or put a sailboat in your living room if I want to,” says Rob Moroto, a master commercial photographer and virtual stager in Calgary. Moroto’s philosophy is always to shoot things as they appear, but since he’s selling a service to a client, he’ll photoshop upon a realtor’s request. As a professional photographer and a licensed real estate agent, I agree to shoot things as they appear!
The Real Estate Council of Ontario published “Deceptive or misleading advertising is prohibited by Ontario’s Real Estate and Business Brokers Act from 2002.” Publishing a “Professional Standards Manual” stating: “While editing out such items as a garbage can or an automobile parked in a driveway would be acceptable, removing nearby power lines or changing any physical characteristic of a property such that it results in a misrepresentation would not be acceptable.”
Box Brownie, an industry leader in professional photography editing: posts on their website: “Image editing is essential for effective real estate marketing and is used by everyone. It is important though to not take the editing too far, enhancing images is fine but removing important details can be considered misleading… It is perfectly fine to use image enhancement to replace sky backgrounds whenever the weather is not ideal.” They claim that the removal of occupant clutter with image editing is completely fine. “You are selling the house not the current owner's furniture inside!” In theory this sounds fine and acceptable. However, editing the state or condition of a property changes a Buyer’s perception of the reality of the property. In a market that is moving fast, photos are all some Buyers have to make a decision. That is when it gets REAL!
Turning an overcast sky to blue, retouching a patchy lawn where there is grass during the winter is one thing. However, virtual staging can easily go wrong.
(Disclaimer: It’s always best to consult your Broker In Charge, your local MLS or your local Real Estate Commission as to what is acceptable practice in your market area. Box Brownie is NOT a licensed real estate brokerage company://www.boxbrownie.com/b/avoiding-misleading-advertising-in-real-estate).
Bottom line: keep the REAL in real estate photos.
Enhance to enhance and not to mislead or misrepresent.
Eat a brownie and tell the truth!