10 Things That Real Estate Pros Will Change About Your House in Photoshop

published Jun 7, 2021
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Have you ever noticed that the grass is always greener in real estate listing photos? The sky is probably a brighter shade of blue, too. Oh, and the next-door neighbor’s car that’s been broken down and parked in the driveway for months is *poof* deleted! 

As it turns out, real estate pros work some Photoshop magic on listing photos, which explains why lawns look uniformly lush in the dead of winter. (This is something that Tyler Forte, the founder of Nashville-based Felix Homes tipped me off to when I was querying real estate pros about their front lawn pet peeves). 

Just look at these before-and-after photos that show the touch-ups:

This got me to thinking: What else are real estate pros changing in listing photos? The answer is a bit controversial, almost like using Facetune on your dating profile pics. But in this case, going too far can lead to legal trouble. Legally, an agent is not allowed to change anything about the home itself as it would be a misrepresentation, says Patty Matus, a real estate salesperson with CENTURY 21 Alliance Realty Group.

In addition to lush lawns and invisible cars, here are 10 more common Photoshop fixes and tricks you might notice when browsing listings.

1. Fireplaces are roaring.

“The fire in fireplaces is almost always Photoshopped in, and often on fireplaces that don’t even work,” says Tyler Whitman, an agent at Triplemint and a cast member on “Million Dollar Listing NY.”

The same goes for backyard fire pits, says Stephanie Casper,  a vice president at LendingHome. “To do this, colors are enhanced and lighting is warmed up, brightened or dimmed, all to make the home look more inviting,” she says.

2. The TV is ‘on.’

The next time you’re browsing listings, zoom in on the TV screen. Oftentimes, agents add a picture to the screen to give the home that extra sense of completion, says Alex Yu, an agent with FirstTeam Real Estate in Irvine, California. 

3. Wrinkles are removed.

Nothing germane to the property should be Photoshopped, says Aaron Seawood, founder of Team Carte Blanche and licensed associate real estate broker at Triplemint. But sometimes smoothing out, say, a wrinkled bedspread lends a cleaner presentation, Seawood says.

4. Spaces are decluttered.

In some cases, agents will remove items like a toilet bowl brush in the bathroom, Yu says. Other agents have had cars in the driveway photoshopped out. To help make a listing look more aesthetically pleasing, random lamp cords and media cables might be virtually eliminated, Seawood says. 

5. Pools are a prettier shade of blue.

A pool (or a fountain) can be a good Photoshop opportunity, says Ajay Pondicherry, co-founder and CEO of Block Party, a mobile app for real estate agents. “If you ever see the most crystal-clear Bali-blue water in a run-of-the-mill backyard pool, there is likely a little filter added in post-production,” Pondicherry says.

Credit: felixhomes.com

6. Stains and cracks on walls and floors vanish.

Stains, cracks, and other imperfections can be easily removed with Photoshop, or even with just a different exposure setting or lens speed,” says Emile L’Eplattenier, managing editor and chief real estate analyst at theclose.com. Most agents won’t try to cover up major damage, but a lightly scratched floor or water-stained plaster wall can be spruced up to look less shabby online.

7. Lighting and temperature settings are switched.

To make colors look true to life, you really need natural light, Forte says. It’s much more flattering than light from a lamp or from ceiling lights that cast yellow tones and create shadow, he explains. “It’s best to take photos on a sunny or partially cloudy day and open as many curtains and blinds as you can,” Forte says. “Shadows and tones can be adjusted in Photoshop, but this takes time and doesn’t always look as genuine.” 

A few edits he typically makes to home interior shots relate to brightness and temperature levels, because even with natural light, photos look more vibrant when lightened a bit. In addition, if there’s wooden furniture or wood flooring in the room, the photo can look too cold. “So, I adjust the temperature settings a bit to make it feel warmer and make the features pop,” he says.

8. Furniture colors are changed.

Too many colors in a room can make it look instantly cluttered, so altering the colors of non-permanent furniture to blend in can bring more cohesion to the space, says Jared Bauman, editor in chief of Photography for Real Estate.

9. Wide angle lenses are used.

This lens setting helps capture more of the room, says Matus. “This helps the viewer get a better sense of the overall layout of a room, and in some cases, the home, when they can see doorways or peeks of the adjoining room,” she says. But if any photos of the home are shot using a wide angle lens, it should be noted as per local MLS, or Multiple Listing Service, rules, she says. 

10. Virtual staging fills up an empty room.

When a home is vacant or has little or no furniture in it, it may be “virtually” staged, where furniture and decor is Photoshopped in, Matus says. Again, if a listing has been virtually staged, she says, it should be noted.