Protecting The Home Seller’s Confidentiality and Privacy

April 28th, 2015

ConfidentialAn unnamed long time PFRE blog reader recently pointed out the following:

Real estate agents engage their suppliers on trust, that they will behave professionally when in the home sellers home.

I know that I have shot many homes over the years where I recognised the owner as having been in the public eye, for both good and bad reasons!

I recently witnessed one of my industry peers overstep the mark and reveal clues about the owner of a property being sold.

It was a bit like a celebrity listing. In this case, the owner was prominent in business. I don’t know if the owner became aware of it, but the listing agent certainly did, and was very unhappy. Essentially, items in the home (family portraits and certificates on the office wall ) identified the owner.

I’ve run into this similar issues with listing clients that have expensive art objects that they didn’t want photographed. I think in general a good solution to the issue of confidentiality and privacy is good communication with the agent you are shooting for. The listing agent should know if there is any special confidentiality or privacy issues with the home owner. The agent should not assume the photographer is going to figure out these issues unless they are told about it.

One great way of insuring good communication with the agent is walking through the property, discussing what you are going to shoot and asking questions about what the client wants and doesn’t want and what’s special about this listing. This doesn’t have to take a long time but the photographer and the agent need to spend some time communicating about the property. This is where it’s likely to come up that the identity of this home owner needs to be confidential or that the home owner has items that should not appear in listing photos.

One could argue that it’s the agent’s responsibility to make these special circumstances known to the photographer up front but I think it is good practice for photographers to go over what they intend to shoot asking what the agent thinks is important and special, or unusual about this listing.

In situations where the agent doesn’t show up at the shoot for whatever reason it’s even more important for this communication to take place. Don’t wait for the agent to tell you, always ask and discuss what, if anything, is special about this listing.

Anyone have problems in this area?

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8 Responses to “Protecting The Home Seller’s Confidentiality and Privacy”

  • Valuable artwork can be an issue if the photographer isn’t an art expert, but there are things to definitely avoid. I do not photograph safes, alarms, safe rooms or video surveillance systems. I also to not take detail shots of the current occupant’s possessions. The room images I make will include certificates, documents and diplomas on a wall, but it’s unlikely that they will be transmitted with enough resolution to read them. I often see agent made galleries with detail photos of alarm keypads, safes and all sorts of other sensitive information. I can’t recall any professionally produced galleries with those items.

    It is very important to let the agent know up front that anything in a home may be photographed and they should convey to the occupants the importance of removing anything in plain view that shouldn’t be photographed. I can replace family portraits with public domain images or a photo of the front of the house or go through all the images blurring the contents, but I bill $50 for PS work with a one hour minimum.

  • When we sold our home, our real estate agent said it’s best if we remove all personal artwork, photos from the walls, tables, etc. so a potential home owner can picture themselves in our home instead of seeing photos of us in our home. It didn’t make sense to me, but, our home sold in 10 days.
    Neither of us are, or, have been famous.

  • I always ask when photographing home offices or office spaces how the customer feels about have computers, diplomas, documents on desk, etc shown. About half will adjust some stuff.

  • The last house I photographed had lots of valuable art and I mentioned to him I can put other art in there places. He said, “That’s OK I’ve removed the most valuable and they are now locked away”. Even so I saw may 100+ year old things I had to be very careful while moving around!

  • This is rather timely. A couple of weeks ago I went to meet a realtor and a representative of the seller at a home they wanted photographed: a large mansion in a very prestigious neighborhood of San Francisco. I had already provided the realtor with my standard usage terms and repeated those in an email to the realtor for emphasis. However, when I met with the realtor and the seller’s representative, they presented my with a non-disclosure agreement that was effectively also a work-made-for-hire contract, which the wanted me to sign on the spot and before showing me any of the house. The NDA potentially would have made me financially liable for revealing any details about the seller, the CEO of a fairly major public company. I informed them that I could not sign such an agreement without consulting an attorney and my insurance broker, and that, if were to sign the agreement and agree to undertake the assignment, my fee would be many times the already relatively high fee (by real estate photography standards) that I normally charge for photographing high-end properties. I did not get the commission and have no interest in doing any business with a realtor who would treat me with such a lack of consideration.
    In addition to scheduling time to attend the meeting, I had also scheduled several hours after the meeting to start photographing some of the property, which I had anticipated would take me about 1.5 to 2 days to shoot.

  • @ David E…

    Really?

  • @ctadin depersonalization of a home does help a buyer envision themselves living in your home and are less likely to be distracted by photos of you living in the home. It is recommended to home sellers whether they are famous or not. I think it is not something that a buyer will normally verbalize but might be in the back of their mind. By removing the personalized aspect that is one less issue to deal with. Of course I have been in houses that had entire walls plastered in photographs of a families history and that did not stop the house from selling.

  • While there are certain things I won’t photograph, like gun safes, and if they are a ‘protected address’ for judges, law enforcement and others an others, anything that would identify their name or profession. I do ask 2 question.
    1) Is there anything you DO NOT want me to photograph, and
    2) Anything you want me to give special attention to and photograph.
    The first one can give surprising issues. One family had a handicapped child, and while there was no issue with the special medical equipment, they had his name in bold letters on the wall in his bedroom that I cloned out. Another family had a family portrait above the sofa that I put a stock photo in. The hardest were Disney collectors that didn’t want their collection shown on the internet, but it was a dominate feature in every room. THe second question elicits what they are proud of, and one person immediately pointed out the breakfast nook overlooking the pool and lake, noting ‘this is what sold me on the house.’

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