-As a home inspector I see this happen often and even I get fooled by these techniques. A client calls me looking for a home inspection on a home they are potentially buying. I look up the address online and look through the photos and think “oh what a nice house”. Come inspection day I arrive at the house and after looking at the outside and inside I’m left wondering if I’m at the right place. The online photos look completely different from the house in person. What’s the deal?

Professional real estate photographers are hired by the listing agent or seller to come in and take photos for the online Zillow/Realtor/MLS listing. These photographers are good, they have many techniques they use to make a house look bigger or nicer than it actually is to get people interested in the house so they schedule a showing. Hook, Line, and Sinker.

Here are some scenarios of what they do:

Scenario #1: The Wide Angle Shot
This is where even I get tricked. With this technique the photographer uses a wide angle lens on their camera to take photos of a room to make the room appear much bigger in the photo than it actually is in real life. The photographer squeezes in the corner of the room as much as they can and snaps a shot with the wide angle lens. Buyers like to see big and spacious rooms so this is a good technique to get the potential buyer interested when they are browsing photos of the listing online.

Scenario #2: The Lighting
Who doesn’t like rooms with lots of light and natural light? Photographers know people love this and they use that knowledge to light rooms up just right, whether its on site or in post editing. I’m all for photographers opening curtains to allow natural light in but some of them take it to the next level but bringing in lights and reflectors to make a room appear to have more natural light than it actually does. Bringing in more fake light also makes the room pop more and that can trick online listing lookers into scheduling a showing.

Scenario #3: The Photoshopped Sky
This is a weird one and I can notice this even before arriving at the house. The exterior photo shows the house and the background shows a blue sky with perfectly white clouds in the background. Not only does the sky look out of place but the lighting on the house in the photo doesn’t match the lighting in the sky so it’s an obvious edit job that even a novice can spot. The problem I have with these types of real estate photography tricks is when they replace the sky and background to hide things like trees, power poles/lines, tall buildings or house behind the house being shot, etc. This is misleading for the potential buyer who may think that backyard is a clear oasis.

Scenario #4: The HDR
This setting on cameras or filter in photoshop makes textures and grain pop. I see this technique used commonly for older homes with wood floors. It makes the grain in the wood really stand out. It’s a very good trick nowadays with the wood floor craze but the problem is once you get to the house to see it in person the floors are plain and the grain is not as vibrant or noticeable as the pictures made it out to be. HDR is used for other things as well, but the floors is what I see it used a lot with.

There are many other techniques but these are just a few I notice when looking at a listing online vs showing up in person to inspect the house. Be on the look out for these techniques when shopping for houses online and don’t be fooled! This is why it is always smart to get a home inspection, home inspectors see beyond the pretty stuff.

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