Airbrushed photos are becoming more common as prospective
home buyers turn to the Web as the first point in their house hunts.
Two years ago, Jonathan J. Miller, a Manhattan-based
real estate appraiser, bought his own house outside of New York City. Shortly
after the sale, he went to the Web site of the seller's agent to see the listing
and noticed something unusual: The utility lines running over his house were nowhere
to be seen in the listing photo. They had been entirely airbrushed out of the
While he would have bought the house anyway, Miller
says he was annoyed by the falsified photo.
"We physically saw the property, and therefore
the utility lines, before buying, but did they really need to modify
the photo that much? It didn't really seem right, either legally
posed this question on his real estate blog, Matrix,
and it immediately
became his most-read posting. Multiple real estate agents and graphic designers
across the country debated the issue about the best way to show photos of homes
to their best advantage. Some saw no problem with it, others said it crossed a
line. "I was really surprised by the debate," says Miller. "But
it seems like what happened to me was one of the least harmful examples."
|Sprucing up digitally
Internet driving the trend
According to the National Association of Realtors, or NAR, 83 percent
of home buyers check home-listing photos on the Internet before
they visit a house, and they outrank video tours by a margin of
two to one.
"It is more and more critical to have a presence
online, both to generate interest in the agent and present properties
in the best light to interest buyers," says Chris McElroy,
an agent with real estate firm The Group in Fort Collins, Colo.
Only 45 percent of real estate agents currently use
the Web for their businesses, the NAR says, but that number will
grow as the market increasingly favors buyers. And agents, under
the gun to close a deal, will feel more pressure to make their properties
look as ideal as possible.
Home photos for real estate listings are taken either
by the agent or a professional photographer. Some agents just rely
on photographing the best angle. McElroy says his firm has its own
staff photographer who takes multiple photos of every room and exterior
from different angles so the agent can pick the one that shows off
the room in its best light. Other agents rely on technology for
that by uploading photos into a software program such as Photoshop,
where they can crop, edit and visually enhance them. Sometimes the
agent does it himself; other times the agent requests a graphic
designer to make the changes.