Remove photos of the home on the internet

Laptop computer showing a house - remove photos of the home on the internetEvery few months I get an email asking me to remove photos of the home on the internet after a new owner closes escrow. These aren’t my listings, but they are on my website through an IDX feed, which I’ll explain below.

What’s going on with photos after closing?

Once the home sale closes, buyers sometimes expect that the listing agent remove photos of the home on the internet. Is that the case? No, not automatically, no, not even normally. This is not something like the for-sale sign coming down, and home buyers may be surprised that the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) does not facilitate this after closing.

Recently I’ve done a bit of a deep dive on this topic. Here are a few quick pointers for those of you asking a listing agent or anyone else to remove photos of the home on the internet after closing:

  • There are 3 broad categories covering where the listing images show up:
    (1) on the MLS itself
    (2) on any sites to which the MLS feed syndicates (Realtor.com and many other sites) – this is most of it
    (3) and to any other websites to which the listing agent may have uploaded the photographs directly (such as a virtual tour site, their Facebook or other social media sites, etc.).
  • After the sale is finalized and the status on the MLS is changed to “closed”, the listing agent can no longer edit anything on the MLS, including which photos are displayed. Any changes must go through the customer support department at MLS Listings.
  • NEW: WHILE closing out the sale, though, the listing agent now has the option (as of summer 2022) to make some of the photos “Agent Only” and viewable only on the MLS, not syndicated out. This is a nice option as it keeps the feeds syndicated, but can provide more privacy for the buyers. Info can be found on that here:
    https://support.mlslistings.com/s/article/Listing-Management-Hide-Photos-for-On-Market-Listings-Post-Sale
  •  The MLS will not remove photos after closing, but it will agree to turn off syndication to other sites. I just learned this recently myself – it was something I have had done in the past, but apparently it’s no longer an option. If syndication is turned off, the listing will entirely disappear (not just photos). Many listing agents and their brokerages like to showcase their sold listings, and may refuse that request.
  • The listing broker is not responsible for removing the images after the sale. And you were told. If you bought a home in California, you likely signed off on the Statewide Buyer and Seller Advisory, which includes this:  “Buyer and Seller are advised that Broker has no control over how long the information or photos concerning the Property will be available on the Internet or through social media, and Broker will not be responsible for removing any such content from the internet or MLS. Brokers do not have expertise in this area.” The local purchase agreements both alert buyers to the same reality.
  • The photos (and videos, if any) actually belong to the listing agent, who paid for them to be shot. Asking for removal is a favor and not a right.
  • Contract update on this issue: As of late December 2021, the new California Association of Realtors purchase agreement states in paragraph 21 that the media (think images, videos, floor plans) belong to the listing agent, and “are not in control of the buyer. Buyer acknowledges that such information will not be removed after Close of Escrow, and Seller and Seller’s Agent shall have no obligation to remove such items.”
  • Perhaps you aren’t worried about the pictures, but instead want to know how to remove property details from internet. In California, real estate and sales info is public information. You may be able to limit sites if the syndication is turned off (more on that below), but otherwise there’s not much you can do. The California Civil Code requires that this information be available for 3 years – that’s the law.

What can be done to remove photos of the home on the internet if the listing agent leaves them visible?

There ARE things that can be done to remove photos of the home on the internet – but not by me (if it’s not my listing). There are things you as the home owner can do, though.

First, let’s consider the MLS, since that is where the bulk of the exposure has come from. (more…)

How important is Social Media for selling a home in Silicon Valley?

Home sellers in Silicon Valley today worry about things they never had to worry about10 years ago, many of which they have little control over.  Like what? Much of it has to do with online or web marketing via websites, blogs, web portals and social media sites.   Here are a few:

  • County records on properties are now public and available online almost everywhere, including permit records, info on the structure and lot size, etc.  If the public or county records are incorrect, buyers still use them – so wrong info on home size, bedrooms, baths etc. can hurt market value, as can incomplete or missing permit files online with the city, town or county.
  • If the Google street view of the property happened on a bad day (say, the neighbors were having some sort of RV get together and the street was jammed with trucks and motorhomes or the yard happened to be in disarray), it can kill viewings.  Buyers and agents may skip that house all together if the “street view” makes it look bad.
  • Some websites that display the information on listed homes permit consumers to blog or comment about the home.  Consumer comments online  can be devastating if the remarks aren’t good!
  • If homes need good “social media exposure” to sell for top dollar, how can home owners know what constitutes good social media marketing – especially if I’m not on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn or any of those popular sites? (Do I need to be on every site?)
  • Syndicated errors: If a home’s marketing is incorrect on the MLS but corrected later, will all of the sites it was syndicated to get the correction, or will the info stay wrong and cause us harm in marketing the house or condo? (more…)

“Please remove my home from the internet” blog post on Active Rain

Normally I do not reference other Realtors’ blog posts on any of my blogs or sites, but this morning I read one worth calling out because it raises a good issue that home buyers and sellers often never consider: the ongoing exposure of sold listings’ information, videos and photos on the web will continue to be present long after the home sale is closed.

The post, by Norma Toering of ReMax Palos Verdes Realty, is entitled “Please remove my home from the internet” and can be found on the Active Rain website at the link provided above.  This conscientious Realtor sold her listing and got it closed last week.  Now the buyer, the new owner, wants all traces of the listing removed from the internet.  Many people are private and may be uncomfortable with videos and pics of their home online (even if with the last owner’s consent, decor and furnishings).  But it is nearly impossible to remove all online photos because they are syndicated or pushed to other sites where we agents have no control.

More Paperwork - artwork by Clair Handy - all rights reservedOne commenter suggested that perhaps we need another disclosure so that buyers know and understand that what’s out there on the internet cannot be removed (and for that matter, that agents don’t want to spend many hours to remove them – a challenging task for which there is no compensation).  Having photos on the web is part of marketing and once it’s done it simply cannot be undone (at least not fully and certainly not easily).  I don’t think a new disclosure is a bad idea.  Our purchase agreement forms or contracts inform buyers and sellers that there will be dissemination of information on the MLS regarding the sale status and later the closing price and terms.  It wouldn’t hurt to also warn the parties that once images are disseminated on the internet, they are very likely to remain online a long, long time.