When pho­to­graphs de­ceive

When it comes to show­cas­ing your prop­erty in the best pos­si­ble light, pho­to­shop­ping can be a handy tool, but it must ac­cu­rately por­tray the home to avoid le­gal trou­ble

The Courier-Mail - Property - - REALESTATE MARKET OUTLOOK -

PHO­TO­SHOP­PING real es­tate mar­ket­ing images can be a help­ful tool that showcases the prop­erty and shows off its nat­u­ral as­sets, but it can eas­ily go too far and cross the line into mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion and po­ten­tially, mis­lead­ing and de­cep­tive con­duct that can at­tract huge penal­ties.

So what is al­lowed and what is pro­hib­ited?

Well, for those who are look­ing for a black and white an­swer, the dis­ap­point­ing news is that it’s very grey.

Some ar­eas are clear, but there is much that has been left open to in­ter­pre­ta­tion. This can be very stress­ful, be­cause if the real es­tate agent gets it wrong, it can mean fines of up to $220,000 for in­di­vid­u­als and $1.1 mil­lion for cor­po­ra­tions, un­der Aus­tralian con­sumer law.

In some cases, even where the ven­dor (seller) has per­son­ally pre­pared the pho­to­graphs for the agent to use, if the pur­chaser buys the prop­erty re­ly­ing on the pho­to­graph’s rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the prop­erty and finds it to be an un­truth­ful rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the prop­erty – this is par­tic­u­larly rel­e­vant when a buyer pur­chases the prop­erty un­seen – they may take le­gal ac­tion against the ven­dor as well as the agent.

So it’s im­por­tant to get it right.

The guid­ing prin­ci­ple is that the photo must fairly and ac­cu­rately rep­re­sent the prop­erty.

This means your mar­ket­ing pho­to­graphs must be true to the cur­rent con­di­tion of the home, its char­ac­ter­is­tics and its sur­round­ings.

You can’t give the home a paint job to cover peel­ing and cracked paint, you can’t add a deck at the back, you can’t “clean” the roof tiles or add so­lar pan­els.

You can’t take out power lines or edit the ex­te­rior sig­nif­i­cantly – no added land­scap­ing, no prun­ing of bushes and trees. No new flower beds.

You can’t up­grade the cab­i­netry in the kitchen or the bath­room. So what can you do? In typ­i­cal res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties – typ­i­cal block size up to 800sq m – you are prob­a­bly safe to make the grass a lit­tle bit greener (this is par­tic­u­larly handy if there has been a dry spell and you haven’t wa­tered the lawn). How­ever, if it’s an acreage you can’t sud­denly cover the hectares of dirt with rolling green turf – that’s go­ing too far. But if it’s a typ­i­cal sub­ur­ban yard, adding some green is likely to be ac­cept­able.

If the pho­tos are taken on an over­cast day, you can also add a blue sky, no prob­lem.

As a gen­eral rule, houses are sold with­out fur­ni­ture in­cluded. So, adding some fur­ni­ture to an un­fur­nished home is ac­cept­able as it’s sim­ply show­ing prospec­tive buy­ers how the house can be styled. You can also de-clut­ter the benches and edit out ap­pli­ances left out on the day the pho­tog­ra­pher vis­ited. You can also re­move fur­ni­ture from pho­tos if it doesn’t show­case the room to its best. This is pro­vided the fur­ni­ture is not built in.

The guid­ing prin­ci­ple is that you must ac­cu­rately and fairly rep­re­sent the home in its cur­rent con­di­tion. Avoid any pho­to­shop­ping tricks can that trig­ger le­gal risks and you and your agent will be fine.

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