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9 January 2018

Avoiding Misleading Advertising In Real Estate

Real estate photo editing is not a new thing and is a regular practice in property marketing, but there is a fine line between what is right and wrong when editing photos for advertising.

If considering photo editing or retouching, it is up to the agent to ensure the property images are not misleading to avoid penalties and fines. All Realtors want great photos, but there are some things you just should not do.

Photographic Representation

You should not use photographs that give the wrong impression of a property. These include photographs that are:

  • Accompanied by comments or other photographs that suggest a property has views or is close to amenities such as parks, beaches, schools or transport when in reality it isn't.
  • Digitally enhanced to hide undesirable features or promote other features.

Image: Aerial markers are great for showing the location of a property.

Agents must ensure that any claims made about property or land characteristics in any photographic representations and advertising are accurate and do not give prospective buyers the wrong impression.

If there is room for doubt that images may be considered misleading, labeling can be used to accurately portray what is in the photograph.

What Should Not Be Edited From Photos

We always recommend our clients to err on the side of caution when choosing what to edit in their photos. If it is considered misleading to the buyers, then it shouldn’t be removed, it is the responsibility of the agent to correctly display all features of the property. It is well known that great property images are essential to effective real estate marketing, but you do not want to go so far as to make them deceiving.

Here are a few things that we recommend not doing in your photos:

  • Removing permanent fixtures- These include; power-lines, neighboring buildings, air conditioning units etc.
  • Changing the color of things - If the front of the house is not going to be white when sold, do not edit it to be white! The way you present the house in advertising needs to be the same as when the buyer views it in person.
  • Trick angles - Taking photos of the property at angles that hide unappealing features is a big no-no, just check out this article! It is important that any photos represent the property accurately.
  • Location shots - If photos taken from the surrounding area (eg, beach views, pretty park), it needs to be clearly tagged as a ‘location shot’, so that buyers are not misled into thinking it was taken at the property.

Reasons for Using Image Editing for Real Estate

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.

Changing The Sky

Sometimes the weather is not great, or the only time professional photos can be scheduled is when it is overcast and cloudy. It is also common knowledge in real estate the dusk shots and sunny days present the best in advertisements.

It is perfectly fine to use image enhancement to replace sky backgrounds whenever the weather is not ideal.

Image: Before & after day to dusk sky replacement

Creating Unobstructed Views

It is not always possible to get a photo of the front of a house without cars, bins, agent’s signboard in the way. These are items that can be removed from property photos with image editing to reduce clutter and unwanted items blocking the ability to display the properties features.

The same editing can be done for inside the house. Removing occupant clutter, but leaving fittings and fixtures (lights, blinds etc) with image editing is completely fine. You are selling the house not the current owner's furniture inside!

Image: Before & after item removal. A color change was also complete as the house will be painted grey when sold.

Updating Furniture

Spaces that are empty or have unappealing furniture, can be replaced to make the listing more appealing. Remember it is ok to replace furniture, even virtually, as it is not something being sold with the property.

Virtual renovations are particularly important with commercial spaces, as buyers are generally looking at the potential of the space. Commercial spaces are generally sold completely empty, with key feature like power points, light fittings etc completely hidden. Editing photos, or Virtually Renovating, them is a common practice of highlighting the features of the space. It is always important to include a disclaimer or an image showing what the space currently looks like.

The main thing to remember when virtually renovating or staging a property is to include a disclaimer and/or the ‘before’ photos. Full disclosure is the best thing to do it you’re ever unsure if an image can be considered deceiving.

Image: Virtual Staging before and after. Providing perspective on the size of a space.

Renovations Taking Place After Photography

There are times when professional photos cannot be taken after planned renovations and landscaping has taken place. In instances like this, it is ok to use image enhancement and editing to show what the finished home or garden will look like. We recommend that any agents doing this include a disclaimer that some of the features are digitally included to represent the final outcome.

Image: Virtual Renovations, demonstrating what a viewer will see once a listing is completed.

Unkempt Listings

It is particularly common for rental properties to be neglected, with dirty pools, unmowed lawns and paint missing. Getting these areas digitally enhanced and retouched is fine, as they are things that can easily be updated in real life and are generally well presented at the time of a viewing.

The intention of image retouching and enhancement is to provide the most appealing and realistic representation of a property. Often photos distort the real color or darken a home, and this is where retouching images is a great tool.

Photo editing is also a solution when you have tight deadlines and cannot arrange for photos to be taken when the property looks its best. If you are ever in doubt as to whether an image you are using could be considered deceiving, always include a disclaimer or even the original photos.

Images: Item Removal, great for cleaning up a cluttered listing.

Edits That Help Enhance Your Listing Ethically

We have provided detailed information on what you cannot edit in your real estate photography, so here is a simple list of popular edits that are ok for property marketing:

  • Sky Replacement -If photos, where taken during a cloudy or rainy day, editing them to be blue or taken at dusk, is considered ok.
  • Item Removal - Removing unwanted furniture or clutter from a home is fine. As long as not permanent fixtures are taken out. This can be done with pool blankets and cleaners as well.
  • Perspective Corrections - Sometimes cameras can distort images, making straight lines look curved or a room seem smaller. Editing can be done to correct this, and reflect what can actually be seen.
  • Virtual Staging - This is where furniture is edited into an image. This is the same as traditional staging as the furniture is not sold with the property. It is just important to remember that light fittings and window hangings cannot be edited.
  • Brightness and Contrast Adjustments - Often camera setting can distort images and make them dull or distort colors. It is perfectly fine to edit photos to improve colors and brightness to accurately portray a property.
  • Lawn Enhancement - Enhancing patchy lawn and making it a consistent green is considered an acceptable edit.

If you are ever in doubt that your real estate marketing could be considered misleading always include additional information or descriptions. Basic Image Enhancement is a great starting point for improving your listings.