New home­own­ers face dif­fi­cul­ties when re­mov­ing pho­tos from on­line list­ings

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - HOMES -

In our case, the seller’s agent re­fused our im­me­di­ate re­quest to re­move the list­ing with pho­tos af­ter clos­ing. Other real es­tate com­pa­nies claim the pho­tos are nec­es­sary, as they serve as com­pa­ra­bles for their clients.

Is there any re­course for con­sumers re­gard­ing this mat­ter?

—Deb­o­rah, of Chicago

A: My first move was to turn to Lau­ren John­son, a 14-year real es­tate vet­eran cur­rently with Kale Re­alty in Chicago, to help me un­cover some an­swers for Deb­o­rah.

I also re­ceived some ad­vice from Lesley Mu­chow, deputy gen­eral coun­sel for the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Real­tors.

Ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion John­son re­ceived from the Mul­ti­ple List­ing Ser­vice (the huge re­gional database that lists prop­er­ties for sale and can be searched by price, neigh­bor­hood and fea­tures), sec­ondary pho­tos can be sup­pressed from an MLS list­ing only at the re­quest of the list­ing or man­ag­ing bro­ker.

Sec­ondary pho­tos con­sist of in­te­rior shots and any ad­di­tional exterior shots the list­ing bro­ker wishes to in­clude. The pri­mary photo al­ways is an exterior shot of the prop­erty. Per the MLS: “Pho­tos sub­mit­ted to the MLS may not be re­moved from the Ser­vice with the ex­cep­tion of (1) re­plac­ing pho­tos to re­flect a change in the sea­sons, (2) re­flect­ing im­prove­ments to the home; or (3) sub­sti­tut­ing a higher qual­ity photo of the same im­age.

“While sec­ondary pho­tos may not be re­moved from the Ser­vice, a list­ing bro­ker may in­struct the Ser­vice to sup­press off mar­ket sec­ondary pho­tos (but not pri­mary pho­tos) from the Ser­vice’s data feed to third par­ties (such as Zil­,Re­al­, Tru­ and the list­ing agent’s own bro­ker­age site). Unau­tho­rized re­moval of pho­tos shall re­sult in a $250 fine and the pho­tos will be re­stored to the list­ing.”

Which is all to say that nei­ther the buyer’s agent nor any other non-list­ing agent can re­move in­te­rior pho­tos from an MLS real es­tate list­ing. Only the seller’s agent can do that.

John­son ad­di­tion­ally shared with me that each real es­tate site linked to the MLS is re­quired to re­fresh down­loads from the database at least once ev­ery 12 hours in or­der to pull in new data and ex­clude old data that has been re­moved.

For all in­tents and pur­poses, list­ing pho­tos loaded to the MLS are the “prop­erty” of the MLS. Any re­quest to sup­press them from pub­lic view is con­sid­ered an ex­cep­tion.

The MLS ar­gues that any in­for­ma­tion used to mar­ket a prop­erty via its database must stay with the list­ing be­cause the data is used for both com­par­a­tive mar­ket analysis and home ap­praisals.

John­son rec­om­mended Deb­o­rah reach out to the list­ing bro­ker’s of­fice man­ager to re­quest the re­moval of pho­tos of her new home if she is un­able to get the list­ing agent’s co­op­er­a­tion.

A real es­tate of­fice’s man­ag­ing bro­ker typ­i­cally is au­tho­rized to edit all of the of­fice’s real es­tate post­ings.

Mu­chow cau­tioned that for those real es­tate sites that are not di­rectly pop­u­lated by the MLS, there is lit­tle con­trol over how of­ten in­for­ma­tion gets up­dated and moved.

But a home­owner should feel free to re­quest that the third­party site re­move un­wanted pho­tos. If the re­quest falls on deaf ears, a home­owner should en­list the as­sis­tance of his/her bro­ker to get this ac­com­plished, Mu­chow said.


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