It is the plight of many single folks these days, particularly those who venture into the online dating world. You show up for the first "in-person" meeting and what you saw online is not what you now see. I believe the phrase "catfish" came out of this but have no idea (nor the inclination to research) what that actually means. Suffice it to say, nobody likes being duped.

Today we're going to touch on the "touching up" of photos in your real estate listing. There's an appropriate amount of "nip and tuck" you are allowed to do before it becomes nefarious and sneaky. (Oooh the scandal!) Let's dig in.

One of the safer and appropriate ways you can enhance your photos is with light touches to the lawn and landscaping. Covering brown patches in the lawn and even hiding an unsightly pile of leaves is perfectly fine. You are not adding landscaping where there is just a pile of dirt. The general feel here is you are representing how the home "could" be without a major overhaul or remodel. In this case, it literally would only take a sprinkling of grass seed and a run-through with a rake to make the yard match the images.

Photo editing software is incredibly powerful. Chances are the limitations on what you can do with your photos is aligned with your own skill-set with the software. One "safe" example is toning down the sky (and overall lighting) to present the exterior in a more pleasing and "soft" light. This can allow the home's colors to come through a bit more and remove any unwanted glare.

One "terrible" example that I found online was an agent adding a sunset (no, seriously!) behind the house. The reality was the sun would never set there and you can imagine the owners would be a bit put-off once they looked at a compass!

Knowing my aversion to clutter, you can safely assume I have been tempted (and convinced!) to remove clutter from bookshelves and countertops in pictures of a client's home. Again, since we're not altering anything that could not happen by simply removing the items "for real", there is no issue with this. In fact, as long as the item(s) you are removing are not physically attached to the property, I think you're safe. Once you start removing kitchen islands, heating units and other fixtures, you have jumped across "the line".

The obvious question of "damage" comes to mind while we're talking about removing things. "Holes in walls and even broken windows can be 'fixed' with photo-editing software without guilt," notes Badger Realty agent Kathleen Sullivan Head. "Not only can these be disclosed before the showing, but they are items that can very easily be remedied before closing or even with some included contingencies," she continued.

Kathleen is right. If something can be easily fixed (like our dead grass from above) there's no harm in "fixing" it in the photos to simply show the home in its best possible condition.

Perspective and reality have to be in play when you are staging your photos. One sneaky trick I have seen is placing a very large piece of furniture into a "too small" space. So a quick glance at the picture shows that a four-person couch, recliner and loveseat can all fit into the pictured room when, in reality, those items were shrunk down and placed in that room in order to make it appear huge. I think it's tolerable to place (or remove) furniture in a room, but make sure the furniture you are using truly is appropriately sized for that space.

Another useful tactic is highlighting what is visible outside the room from inside. Very often our interior pictures don't do justice to the view outside. The lighting tends to blanche out anything external to the home. As long as you are not putting photos of the Vegas strip being seen from the master bedroom of your Conway home, I think you are safe. You can get good photos from outside and then add them to the images later. Again, the lesson here is it's OK to enhance the view in the picture itself, just ensure that you are being honest about what the eye will actually see during the walk-through.

Lastly, even if there is a renovation in the works or scheduled, don't put up pictures of what the room or home WILL look like without some sort of disclaimer. I think it's fine to show an "artist's rendition" of the renovation, but if you put those images up there without disclosure, I think you have stepped over that line. Of course, disclosure is the safest bet in any of the above examples. The more you inform the potential buyers, the less you have to worry about explaining later. Honesty really is the best policy.

Enhance your photos and show your listing in the best light possible. Just keep your ideas (and your software prowess) rooted in reality. Happy editing.

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