This is t the latest is a series of occasional articles on “Professional Standards” from Rick Snyder, NSDCAR Professional Standards Committee 2018 chairman.
By Rick Snyder
Technology is more important than ever in our real estate sales business. In our digital age, high-quality photos can help consumers personally tailor their home search. Indeed, listing photographs can be the most important part of the home sale listing. It’s true that buyers are relying increasingly on images of listed properties to make informed decisions and determine whether they are really interested in the home. Plus, photos can help REALTORS® save time so they give more attention to only their most serious buyers.
However, with a variety of today’s sophisticated photo-editing and enhancing software on the market today, ranging from the popular Adobe Photoshop to such others as Phase One Capture One, Serif Affinity, Cyberlink PhotoDirector and MacPhun Luminar, photos can be easily altered to portray a property as more attractive than it actually is. Retouching may seem innocent, but it can have a profound effect on the real estate business. REALTORS® should be warned that problems exist when you try to remove a tree, cracks on walls, utility lines, fire hydrants and satellite dishes that exist on the property, as well as enhance the landscaping.
This practice of REALTORS® altering photographs of properties with post-production techniques must be undertaken with care. There’s a difference between enhancing the quality of the visual images of the properties and altering the photographs that may result in a misrepresentation of the condition of the property. Photographs should accurately represent a property’s condition. The condition of the property is a material fact that affects the value and desirability of the property. The concept of misrepresentation must be understood and recognized by REALTORS® in the presentation of information relating to the listed property.
In fact, doctoring photos may be a violation of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Standard of Practice. Using Photoshop software can land you in hot water with an ethics violation on your record.
I recently attended a NAR Professional Standards Committee meeting. We approved amendments to strengthen Article 12-10 utilizing the following language:
REALTORS’ obligation to present a true picture in their advertising and representations to the public includes Internet content, images, and the URLs and domain names they use, and prohibits REALTORS® from:
1) engaging in deceptive or unauthorized framing of real estate brokerage websites;
2) manipulating (e.g., presenting content developed by others) listing and other content in any way that produces a deceptive or misleading result;
3) deceptively using metatags, keywords or other devices/methods to direct, drive, or divert Internet traffic; or
4) presenting content developed by others without either attribution or without permission, or
5) otherwise misleading consumers, including use of misleading images.
Photo altering not only misleads consumers who rely on photos in the MSL or on websites, but damages the credibility and integrity of REALTORS® and our industry. REALTORS® have an obligation to present a true picture of the condition of property in their advertising and representations to the public. If the public loses confidence in the ability of real estate photos to tell the truth of a listing in an honest, straight-forward way, then we’re all discredited.