Is it real? Or retouched?

Real Estate Agent with Price & Company Realty

Real estate agents are in the middle of an ethical debate surrounding their use of creative license in their MLS listings. Property sellers and real estate agents looking for that elusive "edge" are skirting the ethical boundaries of the law by airbrushing property photographs before posting them on the local MLS or their websites.

The National Association of Realtors says that 83% of home buyers search the internet before buying. Given that most of these net-savvy buyers can look at a huge number of listings very quickly, they can just as quickly rule out many properties based on what they see in the pictures. And as internet users continues to increase, airbrushed or retouched photos are becoming ubiquitous.

Home photos for real estate listings are taken by agents or professional photographers. Some agents rely solely on photographing the best angle. Other agents upload photos into a software program such as Photoshop, where they can crop, edit and visually enhance the images. It's still a gray area about how much "Photoshopping" is too much. The National Association of Realtors' code of ethics requires agents to provide a true picture, although some touching up is allowed. So it's up to each agent to decide what the limitations are.

For now, it's best that you ask your Realtor up front. Sellers should confirm whether their Realtor will doctor photographs; buyers should ask their Realtor to confirm with listing agents the absense of (or the identity of) any doctored photographs.

For the record, Price & Company Realty does not permit the publication of any altered photographs in any of our listings.


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Ann Heitland
Retired from RE/MAX Peak Properties - Flagstaff, AZ
Retired from Flagstaff Real Estate Sales

There is a difference between fixing the photo so that it looks nice and truly represents the property and blocking out a powerline in the photo -- either could be called "doctoring" - -one is ethical and one is not

Jul 15, 2007 11:20 AM #1
Dave Sulvetta
Dave Sulvetta, ReMax Connection, Gloucester County Realtor - Sewell, NJ
There is nothing better than actually going and spending time at the property. Photoshop can do more than just touch up, so i always take my clients and spend time at the property.
Jul 15, 2007 11:26 AM #2
Wendy Swanson

I think you raise a terrific point! There seems to be a balance between strategic marketing and ethical integrity! As a Real Estate Virtual Assistant to Mike Russer of Online Dominance ( I realize that there is a huge difference between showing one's product (property) in the best possible light and manufacturing a total lie! Honesty is always the best policy (not to sound trite). Thanks again for the great post!

Wendy Swanson

May 12, 2010 09:34 AM #3
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