Is Photoshopping the Weather In Real Estate Listings Misleading?

published Feb 2, 2018
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Samara Vise)

Whether they’re calling a coffin-sized condo “cozy” or listing it with color-saturated fisheye lens photography, realtors have all kinds of tricks up their sleeves to downplay a home’s fatal flaws and make it look more appealing. But in famously rainy Seattle, some agents have gone so far as to try and change the actual weather in their listings.

Or at least, the appearance of weather: They’re using photo editing software to change dreary grey or wet skies to a sparkling, sunny blue.

An amazing listing photo shared on Reddit shows clear blue skies in the background of a lovely Craftsman style house — even though the eaves and siding of the home are clearly getting pelted by raindrops.

It’s hardly an isolated example. “Photo editing, including enhancing light and removing clouds, is now more common than not,” broker Michael Doyle told Curbed. Real estate marketing company Planomatic even includes free blue sky touch-ups with its photography packages.

“The result isn’t an artificial photo,” said Doyle, managing broker at Windermere Midtown. “It’s one that shows the property in the best light… literally.”

As someone who’s pretty handy with Photoshop’s clone stamp tool, my big question is where they’re borrowing their blue skies from. Are those wispy clouds actually floating high over San Diego?

In a way, the practice feels pretty harmless — it’s not misrepresenting anything about the house itself, after all, just the conditions outside at the time of a photo. It’s not like the sun never shines in Seattle. (I definitely saw the sun for like four straight hours when I visited one August.) And where do we draw the line between bumping up the contrast, saturation, or brightness of a photo, and changing a grey sky to blue?

But, as when you hear about anyone tampering with the weather — from China’s “government rain” to Mr. Burns’s diabolical plan to blot out his nemesis, the sun — it also just feels kind of… wrong. Maybe even fiendish, to quote Waylon Smithers.

More to the point, you have to wonder if it’s even necessary. Seattle was the hottest housing market in the country last year; you don’t need tricks to sell a home when nine out of ten listings end up in a bidding war. But house hunting is an aspirational and emotional process, and maybe even the false promise of sunshine is enough make home buyers feel a little better about forking over for those double-digit price increases.

Do you think it’s okay to Photoshop the sky in a home listing? What do you think will be the next frontier in real estate truth-bending?