Sure, you can trust online photos of for-sale houses — most of the time

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Most homebuyers start their search for a home they like online. But can you trust the photos of for-sale homes you see on websites?

Maybe.

Most of the photos are actual depictions, but others have been digitally manipulated to portray properties in their best light. What you see online might not be the same as what you find when you show up at the house in person.

It’s unethical for realty agents to misrepresent a for-sale property, but there’s no national standard or set of guidelines as to what’s considered misrepresentation in photos.

Instead, what’s altered and what’s not comes down to the individual agent’s professional ethics, says Brian Balduf, co-founder and CEO of VHT Studios, a national network of real estate photographers in Rosemont, Illinois.

Making the grass greener or sky bluer or removing the seller’s garbage cans, holiday decorations, personal photographs or cat toys is OK, Balduf says. Editing out a fire hydrant or telephone pole or digitally fixing cracked concrete or damage to a home’s roof isn’t, in his opinion.

“We wouldn’t want to misrepresent a product we were photographing,” he says. “If buyers will see it when they come to the home, then you have to leave it in.”

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