Photoshopping Property Images

Whether we are in the market to buy or not, we all like to browse property websites to see what’s for sale in our neighbourhood, or our dream location. The first thing that draws our attention is generally the photos; and most sellers these days pay for professional photography to ensure their property is showcased at its most appealing. Some owners take their own photos, sometimes the agent may take the photos.

With the advances in technology, images can be easily manipulated via various means, and this can sometimes result in crossing the line between misrepresentation, which can lead to misleading and deceptive conduct that can attract significant penalties.

It can be a grey area, but generally the below rules apply.

What’s allowed:

• Inserting virtual furniture into an empty house/apartment – this is used to show prospective buyers how the house can be styled;
• Decluttering benches/rooms – removing appliances and furniture from photo (provided the furniture is not built-in);
• Adding blue sky if photo is taken on a cloudy day;
• Enhancing greenness of grass – in a standard size block (up to 800m2), particularly where there has been a dry spell.

What’s not allowed:

• Removal of permanent fixtures such as power lines;
• Adding fixtures such as solar panels;
• Pruning or removing bushes or trees;
• Inserting flower beds;
• Upgrading existing cabinetry;
• Giving the home a paint job;
• Cleaning the roof tiles;
• Misrepresenting views;

Generally, the guiding principle is that the photo must fairly and accurately represent the property. Penalties for breaching this can be up to $220,000 for individuals, and $1.1 million for corporations under Australian consumer law. Serious consequences indeed!