Taking pictures when viewing homes

NorthlutFebruary 19, 2012

What are peoples' thoughts on potential buyers taking pictures of a home when touring it? I am tempted to do it, because otherwise it's hard to keep track of various details of different houses, and sometimes the things that stand out aren't represented in the listing pictures. But it also feels inappropriate to be taking pictures inside someone else's house. If it's unoccupied, I'd feel less weird about it, but it definitely seems iffy when the peoples' stuff is everywhere. So I've held off so far. But there have already been several cases where it would be really helpful to have a photo to refer back to on a few places we looked at.

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I always take digital pictures if I have any interest in a house at all. Bear in mind that these houses are listed in MLS and do have photos posted. However, MLS limits the number of photos so I will take a picture from a different angle for example. Before I have the house under contract I typically don't take that many photos -- mostly things that I want to remember that aren't in the online pics. Once I have a house under contract I will take very extensive photos (have done this for the last several houses that I bought). Basically I feel that photos of any of the public areas of the house that you can see during a showing are OK to photograph. I would not, however, open a drawer in furniture and take pictures of the sellers' stuff that is inside the drawer, for example. But taking a picture of the house itself is, I think, fine.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2012 at 2:01AM
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I have taken photos of some houses. It was when my husband could not make a viewing appointment. And it was only if I thought the house was something we would be interested in putting an offer on. NancyLouise

    Bookmark   February 19, 2012 at 8:46AM
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I don't think it's a problem, but don't go posting those pictures online or even in a public web album.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2012 at 10:05AM
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I would ask first and put it just the way you put it here, that this is your private reference to aid in your decision making. I don't think most people would have a problem.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2012 at 10:56AM
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I think if you have a house on the market, then you can expect people to take pictures and possibly publicly share them with others. I wouldn't go through someones personal furniture that is leaving the house when they move, but I do open closets and cabinets to see if they there is enough storage and to also check out the condition of the house.

If people leave personal stuff laying around when they sell a house, they are asking for trouble. I wouldn't steal from them, but someone else might. I clean out and remove any medicines, financial information, valuables, etc., when I put the house on the market. By packing this stuff away in advance, I also don't have to deal with movers stealing important things either.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2012 at 10:59AM
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You should always get permission first, and always use the photos only for your own references.

There are large scale personal valuable items cannot be put away, such as fine antique furniture, collectibles items, paintings, fixtures, high end equipments and gears..Etc.

It is unthinkable to take photos in someone's house without asking first, let alone sharing these photos publically.

Some houses, especially higher priced ones would stay on the market for a while; you don't want to let these photos become road maps for burglars. I do believe it is buyers' and agents' responsibilities to respect sellers' privacy and safeguard their security.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2012 at 4:47PM
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We only take pictures of empty homes. I would never take pictures of a lived-in home. I wouldn't allow it if I were a seller either.

My husband took some pics of a room in a lived-in home. When we viewed the room (library/office) on the computer, he noticed there were many books on drug/alcoholism. There were photos of children and family on the shelves.

Maybe someone in the family is a counselor but doubt it as there were numerous cook-books mixed in with the 'dependence' books.

This was a house we were interested in and visited it 3 times. We never noticed these books or paid any attention to the photos. But when you view photos, you find things you would not have noticed.

After this incident, we both agreed that photos of a home was inappropriate and should not be done.


1 Like    Bookmark   February 19, 2012 at 6:18PM
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When we were looking I always brought a camera to take pictures. We were looking at so many places we couldn't recall all the details. Some listings had very few pictures. I would take notes, but a pic is worth a thousand words.

I always asked permission first. Especially if the house wasn't empty. In those cases I made sure the owner/agent were present and took care not to take shots of anything revealing or embarrassing, etc.

The outside wasn't as much an issue but I followed the same line regarding privacy. No license plate numbers, etc.

Now that we have finally purchased, we take pics of the outside. There is an area across the street where I like to stand so I can compare how the place looks in all 4 seasons from the same spot. Same with the back yard. We do this every other month or so.

I also like to take before and after pics of contractor work. I did this when we had our basement waterproofed. Old sump pump one day, bright and shiny new one the next. Did the same thing when we had roofing work done and a chimney recapped.

I asked the guy to take my camera up there and get shots from different angles since I wasn't going to go up there myself! He said it was the first time anyone asked him to do this. He was nice about it. :)

Who knows? It might be useful down the road in case we need to file a claim, etc. Or, a future buyer might like to see what improvements have been done by previous owners.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2012 at 8:03PM
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Pretty much anyone is allowed to take a photo of anything they can see from anyplace they are allowed to legally be. If people don't want pictures taken of their stuff, they can put it away to move it out of the house when selling.

BTW sellers - if you think you can forbid this - good luck. Buyers will be taking pictures, opening up cabinets, testing out your furniture, opening closets and cabinets etc. If you have anything you don't want made public, get it out of the house before you start showing it.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 8:51AM
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I basically agree with billl on this. As a seller I always assumed that a buyer might take photos. I didn't have anything in the house that I wouldn't have been OK with someone seeing.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 1:29PM
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I took pictures of the houses that I was interested in, and I don't think it's something you need to ask permission to do. I used them primarily as an aid to memory and I also sent some of them to family members when I made offers--they wanted to see what might turn out to be my new home. I don't see a problem with it, despite what some other posters feel. It helped me make decisions after I went home and it seems a perfectly reasonable thing to do. My agent didn't bat an eye, so I'm quite sure that I was no different from her other clients.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2012 at 1:53PM
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I believe asking permission before taking photos at someone's house, or even at any business establishment, is common sense, basic courtesy and good manner.

As a buyer, we never allow us to be so casual at any seller's place regardless it is occupied or not.

I did a quick search, found a few articles regarding Open House Etiquette. Photo taking is only a part of the discussions.

1. A Buyer's Guide to Open House Etiquette
http://www.openhouse.com/article/A-Buyers-Guide-to-Open House-Etiquette.

"Ask before you take pictures or record video. Remember, in many cases, the home is still someone's private residence so before you snap a photo or pull out the camcorder, ask permission."

2. Open house etiquette for buyers, sellers

Ask permission before taking photos or videos

"Homeowners, especially those with expensive homes, may get offended, or have privacy and safety concerns," says Khera. For instance, they may not appreciate if an expensive piece of art or furniture or a child is captured in a picture taken with a camera or cellphone. Ask first.

3. Attending Open Houses

...And don't be afraid to take pictures, but ask the hosting real estate agent first if it's okay.

4. A Guide to Open House Etiquette

Respect the Homeowners Property

Remember you are in someone's home, so be sure to respect their property. Ask permission before taking pictures or videos and remember to look, not rummage, through closets or pantries. This is someone's house, not a bargain department store, so rummaging through their personal stuff is poor etiquette.

5. Boston Real Estate Homebuyer Etiquette: Taking Pictures of Potential Homes

If you're interested in purchasing Boston condos or Boston real estate, you may have had the idea of taking pictures of the prospective homes your tour. Is this a good idea?

Sometimes sellers are not comfortable with having potential buyers photograph their home, especially if they are still living in it. Here are a few reasons why:

1. If the seller still lives in their home it is still full of their personal items, which they probably feel are private.

2. Sellers often worry about how photos will be used and whether or not they will be posted on the internet.

3. There is always the concern by sellers that you may be casing their home and plan to rob them.

If you've been through the house selling process, you may be able to relate to these concerns. It is important that you ASK before taking pictures, even if you just want to snap a quick picture or two with your blackberry or iphone. If the seller agrees, try not to take too many. Even if he or she agreed, it doesn't mean they won't be offended if you begin taking pictures of every corner of their home. However, if a home is empty and being shown, you may want to ask the realtor showing the house. It probably won't be an issue, but it's never a bad idea to ask permission. Also, consider the fact that most Boston real estate listings online feature quite a number of photos of every room as well as the exterior. You may not even need to waste time taking your own photos if a seller's agent has already gone to the trouble of taking some nice, clear photos!

Would you be comfortable allowing potential buyers to photograph your home?

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 3:41AM
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I was selling and had one buyer take video. It was the one time the house was NOT show ready because I was running late for work that day and there was no advance notice of the showing. It was the worst the house looked for any showings and they video . EEK. They bought another home a block away.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 7:12AM
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"Would you be comfortable allowing potential buyers to photograph your home?

Yes. We encouraged it. Heck, I even took some pictures for a guy who forgot his camera and emailed them to his wife.

Selling a house is a business transaction. Anyone trying to make it personal is just asking for a bad experience.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 8:22AM
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Sure I'm comfortable with buyers taking photos. I assumed that anyone seriously interested would take photos.

I am actually sort of puzzled by the ask the seller before taking photos. Where I am, the seller isn't at showings and neither is the seller's agent. The buyer's agent is showing the house. In the entire time I was selling my house I certainly didn't have anyone call my agent and say they were going to show my house (or where in the process of doing it) and the buyer wanted to take pictures...I would have thought that strange.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2012 at 10:56PM
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I find photos helpful for remembering the house, and most people are fine with it, but I had a bad experience with a nut job once. I asked permission, received permission, and then the lady wigged out. She said we had pictures of her private home. Huh? She was selling it and said it was OK, then got paranoid. She demanded our full names, addresses, and when we didn't give them because the realtor had all that info, she followed us to the car and wrote down our license plates. So I don't do it any more.

My advice? Be aware of nuts.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2012 at 5:31PM
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Take photos!!!
DS had the fridge switched out, but he couldn't prove it. It was the only house they didn't bring me to see (with my camera).
Momma knows best!
Kathy G in MI

    Bookmark   February 25, 2012 at 6:24PM
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"Pretty much anyone is allowed to take a photo of anything they can see from anyplace they are allowed to legally be."

Houses are not public spaces.

Ask first.

If anyone failed to ask I would escort them out the door VERY quickly.

It is private property, and the owner gets to set the rules.

1 Like    Bookmark   February 25, 2012 at 6:49PM
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I don't, and won't, view a property with the owner present. So it's unclear to me how the logistics of asking permission is supposed to work.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2012 at 7:33PM
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Yes We encouraged it. Heck, I even took some pictures for a guy who forgot his camera and emailed them to his wife.
Selling a house is a business transaction. Anyone trying to make it personal is just asking for a bad experience.

I agree with Billl, when you decide to sell, your home becomes a commodity, it is no longer your private domain.
It is just a house for sale, keep your emotions out of it.
I also wonder how does one get permission to shoot when the owner is not available.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2012 at 9:15PM
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"It is private property, and the owner gets to set the rules. "

Yep. It is private property. However, when you invite anyone onto your private property, you give up certain privacy rights. You have the right to ask them to leave, but you couldn't legally take their camera etc. You don't get to dictate behavior on your property, just access. Unless your state has specific rules about recording sound or images without permission, it is legal and should be anticipated.

As a practical matter, you are never going to know if people are taking pictures of your house. You should assume that EVERYTHING visible will be inspected. If you have ANYTHING that you don't want on display, put it in storage.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 9:04AM
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"You don't get to dictate behavior on your property, just access."

No, you do get to dictate behavior on your property, and anyone that does not behave as YOU want them to can be ejected.

If you want to take pictures have your RE agent ask the listing agent fro permission.

Recording images is allowed in public places.

The inside of a home is not a public space at any time, for sale or not.

Any property owner can prohibit it from on or in their property.

You can take pictures of the outside from a public space for non-commercial use.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 4:44PM
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I took pictures, starting with a shot of the house numbers, then all through the house ... good and bad features, as well as the electric panels and any problem areas.

It's the only way to keep things straight.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 9:02PM
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