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…)