Do You Ever Need a Property Release When Shooting Real Estate?

April 4th, 2017

Craig in Virginia asks:

I just wanted to pose another scenario based on your topic a week or so ago. This has not happened to me, but I can see its possibility.

On that recent subject, you wrote about the problem that someone who has just bought a home is now demanding that all photos be removed for the sake of their privacy. The several resolutions to that problem seemed fairly cut and dry.

Most of us often shoot condos and town homes that are physically attached to another unit, What if the neighbor comes out and demands that you cease and desist from photographing any part of his/her home? I can see that we can argue that the front facade is already publicly visible from the street, but it is not so simple when we start to shoot from the rear and the neighbor’s garden/courtyard may be seen in photos.

Moreover, what if the subject home is in a private, gated community? Does this give the neighbor more control over the situation?

Certainly, you can crop the neighbor’s home out, but this is decidedly less appealing and can cause some very odd photo dimensions.

The general rule is that if you have permission from the owner or manager of the property documented in a property release (see Carolyn Wright’s article on on this subject) then you have permission to photograph the subject property. Sure, in some situations you will necessarily include some part of an adjoining property but my guess is that if the main and obvious object of the photo is the property for sale, then you are not going to have a problem.

My non-professional opinion is that the listing agent’s listing agreement with the property owner and the fact that you are working for the listing agent is all the documentation of your permission to shoot the property that is required. I’ve never heard of anyone getting a property release to shoot real estate although if you expect problems from neighbors or have a sensitive situation, it can’t hurt to have a property release.

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4 Responses to “Do You Ever Need a Property Release When Shooting Real Estate?”

  • Law allows you to photograph any property or people on any property if you are shooting from public property.

  • Being in a gated community isn’t going to give the neighbor any more say, but the homeowner’s association might have rules prohibiting photographing neighboring properties. If the neighbors back garden is visible from the property you are shooting from, they shouldn’t have any expectation of absolute privacy. I’m unsure how things might change if you are using a pole or drone.

    The best thing to do with the neighbor that tries to make you go away is calmly explain that you are photographing the home for the RE agent as part of the marketing. If that’s not good enough for them, give them the agent’s contact info or have them bring in somebody from the association board that has a copy of the rules. A gated community is private property, but the common areas are held jointly among all of the owners. Any one owner can’t dictate policy contrary to the CC&R’s (the rules). I would find it odd if there was a rule against photographing a home/neighborhood for the purposes of selling. I’ve found that there is always at least one person in these communities that has nothing better to do than hassle people and quote rules at them. Nothing much you can do about it but be polite and get the job done quickly.

  • I should add that you can always lie and tell the neighbor that you’d be happy to blur out their home in Photoshop if they would like. I doubt that they’ll ever see the listing.

  • When a property is listed, (almost) any Joe Q Public can inspect the listing and see what’s around. How is the neighbor going to block Joe seeing his/her back yard?

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