Q: We recently
purchased a property and, like many other consumers, we want the
listing photos removed for both privacy and security reasons.
However, as you
may know, this is a huge problem.
The real estate
and property appraisal industry claims that it’s bad for business,
which trumps individuals’ privacy or security concerns. It’s a
no-win battle that needs to be addressed.
There needs to
be a provision for home buyers to opt out of keeping the photos online
indefinitely. A program like the "Do Not Call" list to get
listings removed upon request is tantamount to personal security,
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?
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
I also received
some advice from Lesley Muchow, deputy general counsel for the
National Association of Realtors.
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
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:
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.
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 Zillow.com, Realtor.com, Trulia.com 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.
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.
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.
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 third-party 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