As an agent, I can’t tell you how many times buyers show up at a property and tell me it looks different than it did online. Real estate photography trends have evolved over the years, and virtual tours have come a long way in helping buyers preview new listings. But some marketing tactics continue to frustrate buyers by setting the wrong expectations (mainly about the size of the home). Here are 5 common Photoshop and camera tactics that prove looks can be deceiving in real estate.
1. Stretching photos to make the room look bigger
This is the most common Photoshop trick I see. An easy way to tell if the listing photos have been stretched is by looking at the appliances and doors. Does the refrigerator look more square than tall? Does the door seem huge or extra wide? You know the size and proportions of standard objects, like teacups, burner grates on an oven/range, and a standard 24-inch-wide by 35-inch-tall dishwasher. So by studying common items the photo above, you can tell that the photo has been stretched to make everything look bigger than it is. Be on the lookout for inaccurate sizes, shapes and proportions.
2. The classic low-angle exterior yard shot
Buyers commonly remark that the land is smaller than it looked in the photos. The next time you look at a listing photo, just imagine that you’re laying down in the far edge of the grass, looking up toward the house. You’re seeing the widest possible shot of the yard, which can make the lot seem bigger than it really is. The other advantage of this shot angle is that it crops out the adjacent street, driveways, and nearby homes. It’s not necessarily deceptive, but there’s a strategic reason for showing you a low-angle view that implies an expansive yard. Sometimes, a quick look at Google Street View can paint a more realistic picture of the lot size. Better yet, go drive by it!
3. Tiny room tricks (fly on the wall perspective)
In the photo above, notice how the bed looks much smaller than the little dresser to the left? See how the door frame looks very wide? And see the v-lines (sharp angles) in the ceiling corners? The far wall looks so short in the frame! All of this is intentional. The wide-angle perspective has been distorted in this photo to make this tiny room appear much larger than it is. The camera is placed in a far corner, a view that only a fly on the wall could have. That gives the advantage of showing more carpet and ceiling area than humans will ever see. In general, if you can only see 2 full walls in a photo, you know it’s a small room.
4. Over-saturating photos to make dull scenes more vibrant
This one is easy to spot, and sadly it’s becoming more prevalent. Does the sky look bright blue? Are the grass and trees bright green? Are the wood tones extra deep and rich? Here in the northwest, our trees are typically dark green, the skies are often softer blues and grays, and—let’s be honest—our decks and fences tend to look more gray and weathered. I’ve even seen pictures where the color is selectively enhanced (the roof moss is desaturated, while the grass is more vibrant). It it looks unnatural, it probably is.
5. Wet surfaces look cleaner and more colorful.
See how the deck is also wet in the photo above, even though the sky is clear and blue? Rinsing the deck brings out the wood color, and looks cleaner. You’ll often see wet driveways, washed stone or brick veneer, sprayed rock walls, and shiny aggregate or concrete walkways in real estate photos. That’s because wet surfaces appear darker and more vibrant, and reflect more light—because a clean surface really sparkles.
Recognize that the goal isn’t always deception.
Photos can’t accurately convey the whole picture; sometimes you need to experience touring the home to see its potential value—as well as its drawbacks. You never know what’s just beyond the edge of a photo.
Put yourself in the seller’s shoes. If you were selling your house, you’d want to get the most money from the sale possible, right? Enticing photos help get more buyers through the door. And the more interest you create in a new listing, the better offers you get on a house. That’s why listings with professional photography sell for a higher price than similar homes with amateur photos.
Sellers want their property portrayed in its best light. When you understand the dynamics of real estate marketing, you become a more informed consumer. By learning to spot common photo manipulation tactics, you can adjust your expectations accordingly.
Ask a real estate professional for guidance.
Unfortunately, some photographers over-manipulate certain photos. And that’s understandably frustrating for buyers. But the opposite is also true; many listings have terrible-quality photos that don’t do the property justice. That’s why it’s important to hire an agent who can help you evaluate the home’s qualities, regardless of the marketing.
If you’re interested in a property in Kitsap county, text or email me the home’s address. I’d be glad to do more research on it for you. That includes things you can’t see – such as seller disclosures, potential problems, agent-only notes about the home, past sale history and prices, and what loan programs the home may be eligible for. But I can also look through the listing photos with a critical eye, so you know what to expect.