Staging Homes for Sale: Buyer Beware!
Strike a Pose
While we all try to look our best for photos, real estate listing photos are not only accentuating property but are incorporating computer-generated imagery. Although at one time real estate was staged so that the properties looked decluttered and presentable, photos are more important than ever.
It is reported that home searches begin online and many deals, especially investors seeking to purchase and sell real estate, are done on-line. Redfin Corp, a discount on-line real estate broker said that 20% of 1,463 recent home buyers it surveyed in May purchased homes they never visited. In fact, investors are putting photos through their own algorithms to price homes.
Such photos not only change stage furniture, or green browned lawns, but the technology allows for full style makeovers with a click of a mouse. Don’t like a wall between the kitchen and hall? Click! The wall is now not shown on the photo—-even though the wall exists in real life.
Sounds Like the Movies
Some of the computer-generated images are marked as such. But, issues arise when humans have difficulty detecting whether the images are real. Some photo editing companies urge Realtors, who show property, to provide a true side by side with the “enhanced”
photos and the actual property. Issues arise when a purchaser relies on solely the enhanced photo, purchases the property online, later visit the property, and feel misled.
As a result, Federal rule makers are considering opening more of the home appraisal business to computers that generate property values by scraping on-line listing photos to better gauge a true depiction of the property. House Canary Inc. uses algorithms to value homes for investors; however, its computers can not differentiate between real interiors from fakes.
The use of enhanced photos may not have a proper disclosure indicating that the real estate property is an accurate depiction of the residential listing. While computer generated photos are an evolving technology, guidelines for altered images are needed especially since many listing services do not allow for an image’s disclaimer to be watermarked.
Purchasers therefore need to evaluate their real estate purchases with the guidance of real estate professionals, especially real estate attorneys who can review the real estate contract and review the online real estate transaction.
From the trenches,
Roy D. Oppenheim