Stephen Israel, president of Buyer's Edge, a buyers-only real estate brokerage in Bethesda, Md., says, "What you see is not always what you get."
That's a cliche, but still a valid caution with respect to online photos of homes for sale. Buyers today, Israel says, need to "try very carefully to understand the scale" of a home shown in a photo since wide-angle camera lenses can distort the size and shape of a space.
"You look at a picture and it looks like a big room, but then you realize there are two small windows with two feet in between them at the end, which means that room is, probably, only nine feet wide," he says.
Buyers also need to watch out for staging techniques, which aim to camouflage a home's flaws and highlight its features.
"Take away the colorful towels, and that old bathroom with old tile in it is butt-ugly pink and black," Israel says.
Of course, some people love the retro look. The point is that professional home staging can create distractions buyers should try to see beyond.