Perspective Is Everything!


3 minute read

February 1, 2013

“A picture paints a thousand words.”

Really, eh? Then what can a photo-shopped, doctored, edited photo do for a prospective real estate buyer?

If a tree falls in the woods, and there’s nobody around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Alright, I’ll save you the rhetoric…

Every day, I see the most ridiculous photos come onto MLS.

I’m not talking about the poor quality photos – those that are taken with the listing agent’s Blackberry because they’re too cheap to pay for professional photos.  That’s pretty bad, but I’m talking about the photos themselves – what they are, what they show, and the impression that they leave.

Consider that on MLS, you’re only allowed nine photos, so you have to choose wisely!  I’m alway shocked when I see Realtors who only put five, for example, but then again – some don’t put any photos at all.

Quite often, the perspective the photos give can make all the difference; good or bad.

Take this series for example.

A friend sent me this and said, “Look it over very slowly!  Scroll down very slowly!” And so, I did…


Did it fool you?

It sure fooled me!

All silliness aside, the difference between the first photo and the last photo could be quantified at around $100,000.  I’m not just talking about the cost of the pool, which could be, say $50,000.  I’m talking about the overall impression of the house and the property as a whole.

The first photo made the property look majestic.

The last photo made the property look cheap and pathetic.

So let’s pretend for a moment that this was an actual listing on MLS.  What do you think would happen?

Well, buyers would probably look at the first photo and believe the house has a beautiful, inground pool, and that it’s an upscale, classy house.

Then once the buyers get to the property, they’d be disappointed.

That’s right – by altering the perspective of a property, you’re just setting up buyers for disappointment.

I don’t know why Realtors do this, but they do, every day in our market.

A property came out last week that looked decent at first glance.  Have a look:

But if you did a search on Google maps, or pulled up the history of the property and saw when it was listed last, you’d know that the above photo is misleading.

That’s right, the property looks nothing like it is shown above.

Here is what it really looks like:

We’re led to believe, from the first photo, that this townhouse is about 25-feet wide, when in fact, it’s about 18-feet wide.

This happens all the time, and I believe that not only does it not help the property sell, as it’s intended, but it actually holds the sale back.

I believe that when buyers are expecting one thing, and they get another, they end up souring and they’ll hate the property no matter what.

I see a lot of this in areas like Leaside, Lawrence Park, Cricket Club, and other areas of North Toronto where new-builds are present.  In many of these areas, there are somewhat “standard” lot sizes.  Leaside, for example, has a slew of 27-28 foot lots, and then a slew of 35-36 footers.  There’s a good number of each, with few in between, and thus many listing agents and/or builders try to make a 28-foot house look like it’s 35-feet.

It’s not hard to do.

Here’s a regular house on a 28-foot lot after it’s been stretched horizontally:

And here is what the house really looks like:

It’s a classic bait-and-switch, and I don’t understand the purpose.

If an interested buyer looks at the first photo, likes the house, and believes that it has potential, they’re just going to be disappointed when they show up and it’s nothing like what was promised.

I suppose that listing agents who modify photos believe, “It’s all about getting them into the property.  Once they arrive, they’ll love the house!”

Maybe there’s some logic in that, and I understand that you have to get people through the door, otherwise you have no chance of selling the house.

But it’s like these people who are into online dating, use a photo of a model or something.  They convince themselves, “Once he/she meets me, they’ll be so enamoured with my personality, sense of humor, and ambition, that they won’t care that I used a photo of Gisele.”

I disagree.

I think that if you list a house with 4-bedrooms, and people show up only to find out that there are just three, they’ll be upset, and they won’t consider the property as an option.

I think that altering photos reeks of desperation, and that people are not so easily fooled.

And what will consumers think of the person who actually did the alteration, bait & switch, or misleading description?  Consumers will think this person is pathetic, but they’ll also believe them to be untrustworthy.

Honesty is the best policy.

And in an up-and-down industry like the real estate market, that’s one thing that will never change…

Written By David Fleming

David Fleming is the author of Toronto Realty Blog, founded in 2007. He combined his passion for writing and real estate to create a space for honest information and two-way communication in a complex and dynamic market. David is a licensed Broker and the Broker of Record for Bosley – Toronto Realty Group

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  1. ABB

    at 7:27 am

    Does the MLS image uploader widget do this re-proportioning on photos?

    To me, this looks like an artifact of the image upload tool, not a deliberate photoshopping of the image dimensions.

    1. IanC

      at 9:44 am

      I think that’s what it is most of the time – You see other mistakes in the ads. Some listing agents are out to lunch. But I still wonder why you never see a reverse fish lens nor a picture horizontally compressed! (perhaps the default widget uses a default frame size that favours this)

  2. Dan Dickinson

    at 8:24 am

    I agree with ABB. I’d say the uploading agents didn’t know how to crop/resize their photos to accommodate for MLS.

    But the pool? Yeah. Fooled me too, and I’d be pretty mad if it had suckered me into seeing the house.

  3. Robot

    at 9:30 am

    There really should be some standards on for photos in a listing. I would be pretty pissed if my listing agent didn’t take the time to get some nice photos up of my place. Heck, I’d be quite displeased if the photos that are uploaded was stretched like that…the realtor and his photographer/admin team should know better.

    On the other hand… sometimes you’ll find some great deals by calling up listings with no photos, little description and horrible spelling.

    1. CraigB

      at 10:07 am

      That works for online dating too! 😉

      1. Robot

        at 10:45 am

        Yup… except online dating is way scarier when there’s no pic and no info… 🙂

        1. Kyle

          at 1:34 pm

          Haha, I can already imagine someone from Google reading this post and selling the idea of creating the equivalent of Street view for online daters without pics.

  4. Dave

    at 11:51 am

    That is a resizing issue within the upload app within MLS. The agent probably isn’t sizing the images correctly so the app is trying to size accordingly to the image window size. This happens in all kinds of apps like WordPress.

  5. LJ

    at 2:28 pm

    What about the wide-angle lenses being used to make rooms look much bigger than they are? That seems to have become the standard these days when it comes to professional real estate photos. I think that is just as deceptive.

    Although, I do believe that many buyers are savvy enough to realize that MLS photos can be deceiving. Those stretched photos above are quite obviously altered.

    1. SpottedPL

      at 11:23 pm

      I use a wide angle lens, but try my best not to distort the size of the room. The height and angle of which the photo is taken is key – also, on post-production, the lens distortion can be fixed to a certain extent. MLS uploaded images are so frustrating… quality sucks and I can’t seem to get an accurate answer on the optimal upload dimensions.

  6. bubba

    at 4:45 pm

    Speaking of bad pictures, the best this week has to be a condo in the Bay/Wellesley area, where the listing agent choose to include not just one, but two pictures that feature two random guys in the living room looking out the window. Not only that, he choose to use it as the cover photo! I wish I could attach it here, it’s so ridiculous. You have to wonder what some of these agents are thinking!

    1. David Fleming

      at 12:09 am

      @ bubba

      Can you email me the address???? I’d LOVE to see that!

    2. IanC

      at 9:51 am

      @ bubba

      Did you click the realtor’s website for that listing. Woa!

      He also REPEATED the picture, and it’s the first picture, so that it’s the preview-main photo (i.e. easy to find).

      And it looks like it’s from a SIMILAR unit – but not the same unit as the listing!

  7. ABB

    at 7:58 pm

    The laziness of some realtors is astounding. I have noticed on numerous times that MLS displays out of date photos of common areas, ie, I know that a lobby or gym of a nearby building has recently been renovated, but they continue to show the old photos. You would think that for the commissions being earned, realtors would actually make the small effort to properly portray their customer’s building!

  8. The BeesKnees

    at 9:35 pm

    I ran into a problem with a house I listed last year, it had some challenges in real life but the (professional) photography I had done was gorgeous! No stretching, no fooling around going on but I did find that because it showed so well online that it created a sense of disappointment in person!

  9. lui

    at 10:49 am

    Same as the listing that uses the model suite of the building instead of the actual suite for sale or crops out the view from the balcony of the huge condo complex only 5 meters from your condo sliding door.Buyers arent that stupid besides those paying $650 sqft studio loft now thinking they can sell it for $750 sqft next year…

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