Photos of Trashed Listings. Is This a Good Idea?

Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX United Real Estate

Everyone knows that the home buying consumer loves photos.  They look at them constantly on the Internet.  I doesn't matter if they're the still photos the Realtor took, a Virtaul Tour a professional put together or something done with one of those cute little Flip things.

I've been seeing a lot in the Blogosphere and Twittersphere about how listing agents are really falling down on the job if they don't provide lots of interior and exterior photos. I'm guessing most people mean "regular" houses. I wrote about a different type of house in a piece called: "Are Photos of Homes in Disrepair OK on the Internet".

Here's the gist: Am I doing my Seller client a service by showing his or her trashed out home on the Internet.  It doesn't matter if it's a foreclosure, short sale or "plain vanilla".  It the place looks horrible. It looks horrible. Gutted kitchens, Holes in the wall, Destroyed hardwood floors, broken windows, plumbing and electrical issues galore.

Would it be ok if I just added a frank but written descritpiton of the property with the requisite front exterior photo? Or should I just go ahead and take all the pictures and throw them up on the Internet for all to see...forever!

Comments (21)

Lisa Schmitt
Coldwell Banker Honig-Bell - Plainfield, IL

Ken, I think it's a double-edged sword. Many buyers won't even consider looking at a property if there are no photos online. On the other hand, there is a growing number of buyers who claim to want only foreclosures. You would think that those buyers would know what they are getting into and therefore 'trashy' photos wouldn't be a problem.

Feb 04, 2010 01:26 PM
Mike Jaquish
Realty Arts - Cary, NC
919-880-2769 Cary, NC, Real Estate

If the price is in harmony with the photos, why not post the photos?

Feb 04, 2010 01:27 PM
Suzanne McLaughlin
Sabinske & Associates, Inc. (Albertville, St. Michael) - Saint Michael, MN
Sabinske & Associates, Realtor

The home should be in presentable and safe condition to sell.  If not, then advise in agent notes.  But, I wouldn't add the photos that detract.  If it's a bank-owned, they normally have it "trashed-out".  If it's a short-sale, then get the owner to take care of the issues or take them on yourself at your own expense, but be advised that the bank likely won't reimburse you even if you present a bill for the expense.  Don't place photos of disrepair, damage, etc. unless you don't want a sale, IMHO. 

Feb 04, 2010 01:30 PM
Smart Phone Tour - Yardley, PA

This is a great question. In many ways, its a "Glass half full, half empty" perspective.

Half Empty: Negative outlook towards the home and neighborhood where people will click right off because they don't want to deal with such a property in disrepair.

Half Full: You are being realistic with the actual condition of the property and not wasting your time or other prospects time showing it to people who are not prepared for the condition.

After thinking about it, i tend to come down on the "Show The Pictures" You are being real, and looking for buyers who want this type of deal. Great question that will need more thought...but thats my simple take for now.

Feb 04, 2010 01:31 PM
Elizabeth Bolton
RE/MAX Destiny Real Estate Cambridge, MA - Cambridge, MA
Cambridge MA Realtor

Hi Ken ~ I think I would opt for a description and an exterior shot.  We're not in the business of shock and awe / titillation IMO - and that's what I think of when I think about showing the photos of the destruction - they become more of a conversation piece than a sales tool.


Feb 04, 2010 01:53 PM
Gayle Causey
formerly with Keller Williams Realty Parishwide Partners - Monroe, LA

My vote: pictures, of course!  And, if you are working with REO, be sure to update the pictures after the property is trashed out. Buyers and their agents need to know what they are walking into when they tour.

On another note, I hate it when listing agents use pictures from earlier listings. That's false advertising in my book.

Feb 04, 2010 01:53 PM
Kay Van Kampen
RE/MAX Broker, RE/MAX - Springfield, MO
Realtor®, Springfield Mo Real Estate

Homes in disrepair and messy usually bring less than a repaired home that has been staged. 

Feb 04, 2010 01:56 PM
Jim & Maria Hart
Brand Name Real Estate - Charleston, SC
Charleston, SC Real Estate

I think that you should have the photos.  Some people are looking for that kind of property and some are not.  By showing what the interior looks like, you'll weed out the people who were hoping that the home looked better than it actually does.  And you'll set up your seller for realistic showings and feedback. 

Feb 04, 2010 02:50 PM
Bob Dunn
Sutton Group West Coast Realty - Abbotsford, BC

Feedback I get from people is that if there no pictures or not enough they drop the site immediately. So ... any picture is better than no picture.

Feb 04, 2010 04:22 PM
Ken Montville
RE/MAX United Real Estate - College Park, MD
The MD Suburbs of DC

Thanks to all the feedback!  It looks like the trend is toward showing some photos.  I'm going to give it a shot.  The pricing will be good.  I'm a little concerned that people will come in to "low ball" the house even with the price discounted for the condition - which will be a waste of time for seller/buyer anyway.

Feb 04, 2010 09:01 PM
Dr. Stacey-Ann Baugh
Century 21 New Millennium - Upper Marlboro, MD
A doctor who makes house calls.

This is a tough one.  I think probably show the pictures, especially if the condition of the house has been explained in the remarks.  I would probably try to show the best of the worst pictures though and not necessarily every gory detail.

Feb 04, 2010 11:05 PM
Cindy Jones
Integrity Real Estate Group - Woodbridge, VA
Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News

I'd rather see a photo with holes in the wall with none at all.  Let's face many agents attempt to put "lipstick on a pig" when they describe a home.  Then you get there and find it will not be suitable for your clients.  It is a waste of time for buyers agents and buyers. 

Feb 04, 2010 11:11 PM
Kate Allen
Allen Realty Group llc - Lexington, KY

When I was actively selling Real Estate I found it personally of great help and often would not show properties that didnt have pictures. You see, I always previewed homes before I showed them to my clients and, as only I know what my clients want and don't want (ie fixer upper vs. fine finished), pictures saved me days of time of sorting through what may work for my buyer. So please, even if they are bad, post pics.

Feb 05, 2010 04:00 AM
Ken Montville
RE/MAX United Real Estate - College Park, MD
The MD Suburbs of DC

Dr. Stacey-Ann, Cindy and Ai -- looks like the trend is still moving toward pix.  As soon as I can get out of my soon to be snow bound home, I'll get on it.  Of course, the other challenge is that since this is a vacant property who's gonna shovel the driveway/walkway at the house?  The fun never stops.

Feb 05, 2010 09:41 AM
Tim D. Wilson - The Horseman's Agent ™ @ Rector-Hayden: Lexington, Kentucky - Lexington, KY

Hi Ken,

Wow... this is a really good question.  And like many good questions, there probably isn't just one "right answer".

On a "plain vanilla" listing, I really only like photos that add to the enticement of trying to get feet through the front door.  Attractive photos only.  Keep shooting until I get a nice handful of attractive photos.  No "documentary film making".  I am not Ken Burns.

But this listing is different, and probably slides a little more to where the idea of "documentary film making" is potentially acceptable.  Post #6 and Post #9 each make such valid points, it is hard to choose between them!

Ultimately, I would probably go with the exterior shot, plus maybe one or two of the best interior "documentary" shots that I could get.  Not every gory detail.  And I would be frank and honest in the description.  No "lipstick".  That isn't going to work at all in this case, anyway.

Good luck, Ken!  
Search homes for sale in Lexington with equine horse farm and foreclosures at in Kentucky

Feb 05, 2010 11:40 AM
Marcie Purcell
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Cassidon Realty - Quakertown, PA
Realtor, Bucks & Montgomery Co PA

If the home is a fixer upper there is no hiding it. Being up front is good not to waste time. If the place gets cleaned up and the junk is removed just update the pictures. You can't hide the fact that there are holes in the wall. I showed a home with no heater. The bank was up front that they weren't putting one in but they didn't want to come down either.  They made it clear from the beginning so my clients didn't waste too much time.

Feb 06, 2010 06:12 AM
Robin Rogers
Robin Rogers, Silverbridge Realty, San Antonio, Texas - San Antonio, TX
CRS, TRC, MRP - Real Estate Investment Adviser

Buyers will lowball the price anyway. If the house is vacant, though, I would pay somebody to come clear it out and get it broom-clean. If not, I would get a few photos of the best rooms and cover the condition thoroughly in the remarks. It's not right to waste buyers' (and agents') time by having them schedule a showing of a house just to see what it's like inside.

I have a multi-family property listed for sale with this same issue.



Feb 06, 2010 09:51 AM
Kate Allen
Allen Realty Group llc - Lexington, KY

Be carefull about those slippery sidewalks etc. You don't want to leave any liability issues open.

Feb 10, 2010 01:26 AM
Ken Montville
RE/MAX United Real Estate - College Park, MD
The MD Suburbs of DC

Tim - I only wish there were some "enticing " photos for this house.  Maybe the rear left corner of the living room.  :-)

Marcie - Not wasting time of Realtors and clients seems to be the trend.

Robin - There was a time that Realtors (and home buyers) would read something like "as is" or "fixer upper" or "investor/handyman special" and know that the home needed some serious work.  Now we have to show them pictures.

Ai - This particular house probably has about 2.5 feet of snow in front of it.  No one is going to be looking at it for awhile.  I need to get a crew out there to shovel a path for some access.

Feb 11, 2010 02:51 AM
Debbie Cook
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc - Silver Spring, MD
Silver Spring and Takoma Park Maryland Real Estate

What bugs me and buyers is when the agent doesn't bother with a new MLS exterior photo at all and uses the old MLS photo from 2005 or 2006 (when the house looked great).  At least a current exterior photo would help!  How hard is it to take a photo of the front and the back as it looks now?

I probably would skip interior photos if the place looked as bad as that, most foreclosure listings don't have interior pictures - Buyers are looking only because of the low price and should expect less than good condition. 
BTW, That's not a body with pajamas and pink fluffy bedroom slippers on (on the floor in front of the smaller couch) is it ?????

Jan 28, 2011 04:41 AM