Homebuyer Beware: Misleading Real Estate Photography Tricks

published Jun 21, 2017
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(Image credit: PlusONE)

An online listing for a house is a lot like an online dating profile. You wouldn’t ever lie — better to set honest expectations — but you sure as hell are going to make your situation look as good as possible. That means flattering angles, ruthless editing and, yep, maybe a little Photoshop.

If you’re browsing home listings to find your dream home, here are a few things to be wary of when it comes to real estate photography.

Maybe it’s curb appeal, maybe it’s Photoshop.

Photo editing software makes it easy to give home exterior shots a little extra oomph. A simple retouching can make lawns look fuller and greener if there is brown or patchy grass. If the photos were taken on an overcast day, Photoshop can retouch the sky to look like it’s bright and sunny out. The colors on the outside of the house can be brightened as well, making the property appear more attractive overall. There’s nothing terribly misleading about this practice — you’re essentially just making the home look like it does on the best, brightest day — but it can certainly be jarring when you finally see the home in person on a less than stellar day.

Perspective is everything.

Out of sight, out of mind, right? A talented photographer can erase some major home blemishes by just climbing a stepladder, laying down on the ground or just turning around a bit to take the photo. In Australia last year, a listing for a house features a photo taken from a super low angle, which completely masked a huge water tower looming directly behind the home. Then there’s this home in japan, which thankfully included two photos of its pool — one where it looks sprawling and spacious, and other (more realistic) photo of the kiddie-sized above-ground setup. If you suspect that photo angles are hiding something in the listing, you can visit the home or, in some cases, just pull the address up in Google Street View.

(Image credit: Alexandre Rotenberg)

The camera adds square feet.

This is probably the most common photography trick you’ll spot in real estate listings: Interior photos taken with a wide-angle lens can make a room look far larger than it really seems. That’s because the image from a wide angle lens is able to capture a larger field of vision than the human eye can see. A wider lens captures more of the room, making the whole space seem larger. The good news: It’s pretty easy to spot truly egregious examples in normal homes. When objects close to the lens look especially large — and distant objects appear abnormally small and far away — chances are the room you’re looking at will be way smaller in person than it appears on film.