With the advent of digital cameras and picture imaging software, the question of how much is too much is being raised. Most touch ups are no more than any good listing agent would do – brightening up a dark photo, for example, and cropping a picture to remove extraneous details, such as adjoining properties. However, when the touch-ups extend to removing or adding details, the line gets fuzzy.
Many people see nothing wrong with “removing” clutter or questionable art using image software. The practice of “tidying up” photos is rarely called into question. One might wonder, however, since people will eventually (hopefully) be touring the home, why the owners did not clean and stage the home so such alterations are unnecessary.
It is when permanent structures of or around the home are altered to give a false impression of the home’s permanent features that the line has definitely been crossed. This is where things go directly against Article 12 of the REALTORS® Code of Ethics, which states: “REALTORS® shall be honest and truthful in their real estate communications and shall present a true picture in their advertising, marketing, and other representations.
Yes, it would be nice if you could remove that ghastly tree drooping in one corner of the yard or erase the signs of hard usage on the grounds. But it’s false misrepresentation and could possibly land you in a lawsuit, especially in the case of a house bought over the Internet. If you’re a REALTOR®, this could also land you in hot water with the NAR, as they take a dim view of altering photos to suit artistic feelings.
Artificially “staging” an empty room with cut and pasted furniture and accessories is a growing trend that is somewhat borderline. The listing agent is not actually adding permanent structures, but is creating a weird image of the home and the seller by pasting in tables, chairs, beds and flowers – all obviously “cut” from another picture. While this may not be strictly illegal, the results are so hideous in most cases that it should be!
Adobe Systems, creators of Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Creative Suite, are developing photo-authentication tools that will enable the testing of a photo to see if it has been altered. These tools may make it harder for people to pass off forgeries on places like the MLS and other property listing websites on the Internet.
So touch up your photos as yes you may, but draw the line at adding or subtracting things to suit your fancy or make the property look better. Good repairs and a thorough cleaning are much more likely to sell a house than a makeover by Adobe Photoshop.