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Listing Photos Should Be Removed from Real Estate Sites after Sale!

August 27th, 2018

Brian Balduf, CEO of VHT.com has recently pointed out that:

A small “ask for help” type article in a small local paper about listing photographs being used after the sale, got picked up by Realtor Magazine.

Stories like this definitely help in our argument that it’s not just an issue for photographers; it’s a consumer issue as well.

Yes, Zillow.com leaving listing photos up is an issue that has always irritated me. This is a property that we owned as a rental from about 2001 to 2009. Zillow still has my rental photos and the listing photos that were used in a sale of the property after we sold it.

Zillow isn’t consistent about keeping listing photos though. Other properties we have owned in the Seattle area (same MLS as Snoqualmie) before and since the above property in Snoqualmie no longer have listing photos on Zillow. Also, the properties we own in Oregon do not have the listing photos on Zillow.

I think it should be up to all MLSs to make sure that no listing photos are ever retained by listing sites they feed.

Update Aug 29: As @Michael Allen points out in the comments this is a relevant article relating to this subject: https://national.wfgnationaltitle.com/2018/08/28/zillows-epic-listing-photo-battle-with-vht-enters-its-final-phase/

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15 Responses to “Listing Photos Should Be Removed from Real Estate Sites after Sale!”

  • As far as I can tell the only way to have photos removed from Zillow (and Redfin) is to log in as the owner and remove them manually.

  • I would love more information on how to delete the photos after the sale

  • @Malia – Yes, I know that you used to be able to login to Zillow as the listing agent and “claim the listing” and delete or change the photos. I did that when we owned the Snoqualmie property I spoke of in the post but I think Zillow also has a way to allow brokerages to tell Zillow to say never keep any listing photos for XYZ brokerage. Not sure about this though.

  • I’m in two minds. It’s handy for scouting if I am asked to photograph a property and I want to have some idea about what it looks like, views, etc. There is also the matter of privacy for the new owner to not have the layout of their home online since that can be used to plan a burglary or other crime.

    Overall, I lean towards wanting to have sites remove all the photos excepting the front exterior which can often be seen on Google Street View anyway. They know when a property goes off the market so it’s not that hard for them.

  • Yes, as the listing agent you can log on and remove photos but it is not limited to Zillow as you have to log onto every syndicated site individually and do it. Don’t count on agents doing it for any. My experience has been on the opposite side. Back when the local MLS limited it to 12 photos and they (their brokerage as a benefit) paid for enhanced listing on Realtor.com which had unlimited photos, I would encourage them to log on log on and upload additional photos, rearrange the order to their pleasing, and even delete and re-upload cleaner (not MLS degraded) and higher resolution versions of the same photo. Virtually no Realtor followed up and did it…but it sounded good like I was looking out for their best interest in a value added way that cost me nothing. Speaking of Realtor.com, I noticed they remove the listing when it goes “Pending” sale, so there is continuing update from MLS on status. Likewise as son closes on his first home in two days, while I can still access it on the original Redfin link he sent me, they have updated to show under contract.

    Recently, I have noticed that some Realtors, particularly on higher price listings, remove the photos from MLS, leaving the mandatory first “front view” photo which may or may not be the house. I don’t know if these changes are re-syndicated or not as I never checked the syndicated sites. I have kind of mixed feeling about this with MLS in it’s more basic form being a closed system to members it adversely impacts the ability to make adjustments to comps when pricing a listing, or worse, appraisers are also members with access to MLS and knot knowing the condition and other adjustment criteria for referenced property can adversely impact the sale dependent on the mortgage.

  • I don’t believe that Zillow is being feed by the MLS anymore. They are a direct competitor to Realtor.com which has ties to NAR. Instead, I believe that Zillow is feed through the agency corporate sites and the individual agents.

  • Most agents use older listings to prepare comparables for their new listings. It is a pretty invaluable tool for pricing. Having photos for past listings helps communicate to the potential seller the difference between multiple homes and their own. Realtors may not be happy to have the photos removed

  • Another danger to this practice of leaving old images up on Zillow is if a home is listed by an agent and that agent gets fired for whatever, the images remain.

    Now with the images remaining of the seller takes the listing to a FSBO status on Zillow… guess what the copyright images that you provided and licensed only to the Realtor (but in compliance with MLS practices of circulation) are still there.

    Now the FSBO does nothing and gains the advantage of those professional images.

    Yes this is a fact because it happened to me. After doing painstaking research on this I provided the information to the new FSBO person and made them pay. It took a while but I acted as if I was helping them. Of course the FSBO paid more than the original agent or the images and they paid cash at my request. Yes I still claimed it on my taxes.

  • Zillow told me two days ago that they still use MLS feeds to populate their site. They said they are working on a way for photographers who are Zillow certified to be able to upload higher resolution photos in the future, along with videos.

  • @Kelvin – But, the key question is will this new feature for Zillow certified photographers will allow removal of photos? I’ll bet it won’t allow removal.

  • In the big scheme of things, this issue is near the bottom of what I care about. I can not control the net and I won’t waste my time trying.

    Anything on the net, stays on the net and there is no way to scrub it clean. Should sites be more respectful of others, sure, but look at Google, Face Book, etc., they are using their power to control what you see and hear and no one is doing anything about that.

    As things are moving with these giants of tech, I just see a pathetic congress just trying to keep up.

  • I agree with Ken on the issue of being able to look up a property to see what it looks like. This has been very useful for us. I also like posting previous listings we shot in our Twitter page so people can see our work.

    We rarely stumble across our listing photos being used again. I recall this happened once where we worked out a deal with the homeowner who paid us for reusing the photos. So that worked out well.

    At this point I would have to say that I agree with Jerry Miller’s analysis.

  • Relevant article covering the recent appeal of the Zillow Group and VHT copyright infringement case in Seattle:

    http://national.wfgnationaltitle.com/2018/08/28/zillows-epic-listing-photo-battle-with-vht-enters-its-final-phase/

    I learned new terms (or new meanings for): “evergreen” and “deciduous.”

  • This is a very real problem.
    I recently had an agent point out a listing where the images she licensed were being used by someone who didn’t bother. My watermark had been cropped from each image, and he ended up paying full price after I contacted him. (an email prior to listing them would have saved him about half!)

  • I’m not a Zillow fan by any stretch, but when I started shooting real estate, business was slow. Realtors didn’t see the value in what I did, and didn’t want to spend the money. The vehicle that drove me to more business in the early years was consumers seeing professional re photos on the internet, and knowing to ask for better photos from their agent.

    Even today, I think that a part of my value to agents is the ability to tell their clients that part of their marketing plan is hiring a professional photographer to create images like they see on Realtor.com and Zillow.

    So all of those listing pics that are sitting out there are reinforcing the idea that my product is necessary, and I certainly can’t complain about that.

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