Proposal to Have MLS Standards For Photos

April 14th, 2010

My friend Sabrina Huang in San Jose, CA, sent me a link yesterday to an article in that proposes that MLSs start setting standards for MLS photos. In the article Lani Rosales proposes four minimum standards that she is promoting that MLSs start enforcing and asks for suggestions for more standards.

My biggest complaint is that MLSs routinely allow a listing to be published without photos. If you don’t supply photos many MLSs put the “too new for photos” photo on the listing. This is absurd, it enables agents to be sloppy if they choose. Now days I see fewer listing with no photos than several years ago, but the idea of even allowing a listing to be activated without photos is beyond my comprehension. New rule: no photos, no active listing!

One example of the bad design of some MLS systems is that the system used by the NWMLS in the Seattle area requires that the listing is activated before you can add photos. When I create a listing I’m always concerned about getting the photos loaded before the process runs that sends the new listings to all the local broker sites and other regional sites. No one tells you what the schedule is but you can guess that it’s some late night background process. It would be nice to know when the listing syndication is scheduled.

I don’t know if Lani’s proposal will ever catch on but I applaud the the concept. There is much that can be done in the design of how MLSs work to encourage and enforce common sense good photo practice.

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11 Responses to “Proposal to Have MLS Standards For Photos”

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Larry Lohrman. Larry Lohrman said: Proposal to Have MLS Standards For Photos […]

  • I’m a little torn on the notion of standards for MLS systems. On the one hand I get what the author of that article and you are driving at. On the other hand I think that the lack of standards is the sort of thing that drives differentiation. It seems to me that many brokers don’t make various requirements of their agents in all areas of the business precisely because they are looking for the motivated individuals who can cut it. They’d rather let the less successful or less motivated agents fall by the wayside. Plus, one size does not fill all when it comes to the needs and wants of buyers and sellers.

    If an agent doesn’t want to post pictures or doesn’t want to obtain quality pictures or doesn’t get photos of X, Y, and Z rooms, that is between the homeowner and the agent. As an investor in real estate, I know there is a gap and price advantage to be found by taking the time to investigate homes with poor or no photos, because so many homebuyers will bypass that home. As such, I can find a quality investment because the price will drop due to lack of traffic.

    That being said, as a photographer, having minimum standards might lead to increased use of professionals, but I doubt it. I think the agents who “get it”, will continue to use professionals to shoot their listings. Those who don’t “get it” can continue using their iPhones or less expensive point and shoot cameras.

  • As a Realtor, photgrapher and member of our local MLS committee, I can see this from many sides. About 3 months ago, we approved a minimum requirement of I exterior photo. This requirement must be met within 3 days of the listing going live. This requirement included all active listings. Even those active prior to the new regulation So far, it has not met too much resistance. During the discussions prior to the vote, someone suggested this should be a broker thing and part of the survival process. If an agent does not want to do the job the client contracted for, soon said agent will be history. I tend to agree.

  • Southern California , SOCAL MLS board, has a newer rule. 24 hours to get a photo up, or $100. a day fine to the “broker” and all the agents under the broker license. Now it is a big pressure to us photographers from agents, must have photos same day? I sometimes give them “one exterior shot” same day so they can get the listing posted, the rest of the images to follow.

    Rusty @ MLS Photo Pros dot com

  • I’m a Realtor and photographer. Here in Minneapolis, our Board requires a photo to be included with a listing or the broker/agent gets fined. As an agent, I can say that it is very helpful to see multiple photos of a home when completing a market analysis for a seller. It’s impossible to see every listing (unless one is focusing on a very small geographic area). There is tremendous variety of condition and decor in homes these days. Photos do help get a sense of the space, condition, decor, updating, etc. I always use the maximum number of photos allowed for every listing, no matter the size or condition.

  • @Russel: CARETS, of which SoCal MLS is a member, has a rule that there must be at least one photo for each listing within 5 calendar days of the listing entry date. At least one photo must be of the exterior of the structure (except for land). The fine for a violation is a warning for the first offense (which must be corrected), a $250 fine or attendance at an MLS rules class for the second offense, and a $500 fine for third and subsequent violations. All members of CARETS (California Real Esate Technology Services) have agreed to follow the same MLS rules. The class in lieu of a fine can only be taken once per 12 month period.

    The problem of no photo often is the result of an out of area agent listing a property – often a foreclosure – and either not taking the photo themself or hiring a photographer to do it for them.

  • NWMLS isn’t the only MLS that requires the listing be activated before uploading photos. MRIS (Washington DC metro area) is exactly the same – the listing must be submitted before you can get to the photo upload option. There are very few requirements for the photos – only that, if any photos are uploaded, one of them must be an exterior shot (but it doesn’t have to be the main photo). One of the options available to agents is to select the “No photos per seller” option. I guess there are some sellers who are concerned about privacy issues, but I’ve rarely seen this stated in listings. I think most of the listings without photos are the result of lazy agents.

  • Perhaps a more important aspect of some MLS’s is the fact they make Agents sign an agreement stating they own the copyright to the photos they submit. And then they slap a “copyright XXX Association of Realtors” on the photo. A group of us photogs has been battling this for the past 2 years. While that would be OK if you transferred copyright to the Agent, if you only grant a license of use to the agent and retain copyright and ownership, the local associations cannot copyright your work, as they do not own it!


  • As a Realtor I think if you don’t have photos when you listing goes live, you need to leave the business. Seriously, this shouldn’t be an MLS enforced rule, it should just be done by good agents. If your listing is pulled up in a search without a photo it will be skipped over instantly by the consumer. Its a huge selling point for my listing presentation that I use high quality professional photography in all my listings *when* they go live. Not having this as a rule in our MLS allows me and my prospective clients to easily weed out the lazy Realtors who are just not serious about listing the home. I have heard of agents fired for things like this, and I love it. That much more work for me!

  • I already noticed some has responded and mentioned Carets.
    I am a member of the CVAR Board MLS Committee for the last 3 years and we are members of the umbrella organization Carets with 30 Boards and about 115,000 members.
    Carets let us download up to 25 pictures per listing. Some Boards even more.
    Beside being a Realtor I also work as a professional photographer for Realtors and doing both I still do not understand why most Realtors download crappy pictures. I market my photography by taking the pictures for the agents in our office for free.
    Our office broker market all our listings on as many websites and blogs as possible. To give you an idea.
    I have a small rental home, just 1 bedroom and 1 bath, but I placed 18 pictures of this home in the MLS.
    In 4 days I received 8 emails, even from out of state. I sent these people an email with questions about the marketing of this rental and they all told me they were interested because of the pictures.

  • I think realtors should be required to update pictures if they are not current. If it is 2010 and the date on the pictures states 2008, then obviously the pictures are outdated esp if the occupants have moved. I think it is false advertising if the house doesn’t look somewhat like the pictures. I am all for staging but for leaving a picture up of a kitchen that needs no work and when you get to the house and it needs alot of work, then something is wrong with that picture.

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